Assertions, Facts and CNN

Photo by frankieleon | CC BY 2.0

CNN is running a house commercial that on its face is a plea for respect for demonstrable facts. “This is an apple,” a voice says over an image of a bright red apple. “Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream, “Banana, banana, banana,” over and over and over again. They might put “BANANA” in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This … is an apple.”

The commercial closes with the text “Facts First” and the CNN logo. CNN has aired several variations of this commercial, all with the theme that someone is trying to make you think an apple is not an apple. In one commercial we’re told that whether we view the apple from the right or left, it’s still an apple.

Well, sure: apples are apples; we should respect demonstrable facts and be wary of those who tell us to doubt our own eyes. We might point out, of course, that what CNN shows us on the television screen might or might not really an apple. I can’t pick it up, smell it, or cut into it. It could be a sculpture or a painting or a computer-generated image. CNN implicitly asks us to trust its word on this. Has it earned that trust?

But let’s leave that difficulty aside and take CNN’s word that it is a real apple.

So what?

If the commercial is alluding to Donald Trump’s prodigious capacity to evade demonstrable facts, like the size of inauguration crowds or electoral-college margins,…

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