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Writing

Lowercase truths

Bret Stephens, in a column on the New York Times’s 1619 Project:

Journalists are, most often, in the business of writing the first rough draft of history, not trying to have the last word on it. We are best when we try to tell truths with a lowercase t, following evidence in directions unseen, not the capital-T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded. And we’re supposed to report and comment on the political and cultural issues of the day, not become the issue itself.

“The last word” is a specious concept that doesn’t exist except in fiction. (Besides, what if we’re wrong?) Everyone—not just journalists—ought to befriend lowercase truths, even when it’s hard. Or as Relient K puts it in “The Truth”:

I’ll put the emphasis on the evidence
Begging for the proof
Sometimes the hardest thing to believe is the truth

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True These

“What is truth?” — Pontius Pilate

“Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Truth is Dif­fi­cult. Dif­fi­cult to at­tain, and dif­fi­cult to de­liver. Truth is dif­fi­cult to attain because the world is com­pli­cat­ed; the further you go, the weirder it gets. Un­will­ful untruth is just ig­no­rance and is to be overcome, like a river in one’s path or a sore muscle. Willful untruth is the telling of lies; it should be fought with passion and without mercy, ripped flesh from bones and left to rot in the cold light of day.” — Tim Bray

“All wisdom ends in paradox.” — Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides