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John T. Harding: Reflections

Alternative Truth


When you have the law on your side, argue the law.

When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts.

When you have neither, pound the table.

– Law school gossip

“I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that ... “

Lawyers argue the meanings of words, so whoever has the better argument wins the debate. That doesn’t mean what the lawyer says is more truthful; only that it’s a more skilled argument.

Words can have many definitions, or variations of meaning. That doesn’t mean one is good and all others are bad. It only means that one lawyer had a better presentation. Sometimes a “better argument” wins support for a bad idea.

Example: The Dred Scott case, in which a man escaped slavery and ran to a state where he could be free. But lawyers for the former slave owner argued that escaping was bad and therefore the escapee should be returned. They did not claim that slavery was good.

Just as lawyers argue the meanings of words, politicians present “alternative facts.” They cannot debate truth, although lawyers often use the term “true facts,” which makes a linguist wonder if there are such things as “false facts.”

Lawyers can and do argue about the implications – a fact implies this or that – but they cannot argue truth.

Or can they?

All this comes to mind as lawyers try to defend those who were seen on international television forcing their way into the U.S. Capitol building, damaging House and Senate chambers and threatening the lives of senior government officials.

Or was it only an act, set up by the “fake news media” as a way of damaging the otherwise standup reputation of a president who by all counts lost his bid for reelection?

Oh, sorry. That too was “fake news.” All the American TV networks and several European networks, as well as the many print reporters and photographers present in Washington that day, all got together weeks earlier to present an alternative view of reality in a conspiratorial way to discredit the leader who really did win reelection.

Don’t believe me? Ask him. He was there. Others only know what they saw on television that day and every day since, as well as what they read in published accounts.

But as the leader’s devotees insist, it was and remains an international conspiracy to block the “alternative truth.”

John T. Harding of Doylestown writes frequently on a variety of topics, in addition to novels about Celtic mythology.