In this age of political polarization, "fact checkers" promise to help voters sort out the fact from the fiction. Can the fact checkers themselves be trusted? Are some questions too complicated for "right" or "wrong" answers? Will voters create their own realities whatever the "facts" might be? Also, the Taliban strikes a deal with Qatar to open a peace office. On Reporter’s Notebook, should a new violin really play second fiddle to a Stradivarius or a Guarnerius?
FROM THIS EPISODE
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until the US-led NATO campaign of 2001, but it's been fighting back ever since. It says it won't negotiate with the Karzai Administration until foreign troops have withdrawn. But today it announced the opening of an office in Qatar, specifically to begin talks with the United States. Ernesto Londoño is based in Kabul for the Washington Post.
Nobody should be surprised when politicians distort the facts or tell outright lies. In 2007, the St. Petersburg Times introduced a feature called PolitiFact. It's complete with a "Truth-O-Meter," and a range from "True" through "Mostly True" to "Mostly False," "False" and finally, "Pants on Fire." PolitiFact joined the Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck.org. The Washington Post now has a regular feature called The Fact Checker. While such checkers promise to give voters the truth, they themselves are critiqued from the Right and the Left, accused of choosing the facts they check according to hidden agendas. Does one side lie more than the other? Do the media add to the confusion by trying to find "balance" between the two or are "facts" really what voters want to know? If so, why do they sometimes cling to beliefs in proven falsehoods?
Violins made centuries ago by Stradivari or Guarneri del Gesu can bring millions of dollars but do they really sound all that much better than instruments being made today? Claudia Fritz, a French expert on the acoustics of violins, persuaded musicians at an international competition in Indianapolis to play six classic and modern instruments while wearing goggles, so they couldn't see which was which. Then she asked them which they'd most like to take home. We hear more from Fritz, and from Nicholas Wade, author of The Faith Instinct, about the evolution of religious behavior, is a science reporter for the New York Times.