There Are many opinions, but only one fact

On Radio 4 this morning, the former editor of the Daily Telegraph Charles Moore went full Kellyanne Conway.

The hot topic was Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey. Moore was responding to a contributor, who said Meghan gave the facts about a comment from a member of the Royal Family regarding their future child’s possible skin colour. Moore said these were not ‘facts’, but instead were a ‘version of the facts’.

It sounds plausible and this line of argument is one reason Donald Trump’s mendacity is so difficult to counter. Facts are not the same as opinions. You can get facts wrong, but only because facts are, by definition true and therefore constant. There is perspective, but I would argue that this does not call facts into question. It merely allows for a different attitude towards them. Whatever Kellyanne might claim, there are no such things as ‘alternative facts’.

The ‘fact’ as presented by Meghan Markle is that a member of the Royal Family made a reference to their child’s potential skin colour. If this happened, it’s a fact. If it didn’t, it’s a lie. There is no third way when it comes to facts.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. Charles Moore wasn’t there either. I doubt he has been told by anyone in a position to know that this didn’t happen, although a denial from a Palace insider in this highly partisan episode should be treated with some skepticism. Another Trump rule: a denial does not mean the thing didn’t happen.

Moore was speculating, either because he didn’t believe anyone in the Royal Family would say such a thing, or he was making a purely tribal defence. He didn’t accuse Meghan of lying because he had no basis to do so. There was even less basis for calling his fellow contributor a liar; she was simply presenting what she heard, assuming Meghan to be telling the truth.

So the only way Moore could disagree was to attack the status of the ‘fact’, as if in this straightforward case there were multiple realities. That the BBC presenter allowed the comment to pass unchallenged suggested there were.

The last word goes to the American politician and diplomat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said: ‘You are entitled to your opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.’

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.