Friday, September 08, 2006

Congress and the Truth

The Washington Post recently ran an interesting article on research showing that -- prepare to be shocked -- Congressional debates often involve only half-truths and misleading statements. I know. It's hard to believe...

In fact, the research shows that about 75% of "factual" statements made during a debate are inaccurate. It is unclear whether members of Congress know that what they are saying isn't correct -- often they are relying on information provided to them from often biased sources. In addition, there is the issue of half-truths. During debate, members of Congress may tell only half the story, basically picking and choosing the pieces of information that help them make their point.

Many people will be shocked and horrified by this information, but I'm not sure why. The point of any legislative debate is to win, right? Why would our elected officials be any different than any other organization or business trying to get their message across? Does Coca-cola say "oh, by the way, too much caffiene and sugar can be bad for you." They don't want you to make an "informed decision." They want you to buy their product.

We may wish that Congress and other deliberative organizations were different, but the reality is they aren't. And as long as there are human beings involved (and winners and losers) it's going to be pretty much the same. That's why it's critical for citizens and interested organizations to get as much of the correct information out there as they can.

I just hope they didn't try to measure the accuracy of statements like "I have great respect for the gentleman from [insert name of state here]." I think those are probably true even less of the time...

To see the article, go to

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