I’ve spent virtually my entire life working in journalism, and that has certainly had an affect on me: I don’t believe everything I’m told, especially large, international media.
Now I’m not one of those “fake news” people, so let me explain. A few years ago, for example, former U.S. president Barack Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize and, if like me, you wondered what he did to deserve the peace prize, journalists told us that “he was given the prize because he’s probably going to do something important in his presidency.” Mind you, they gave Yasser Arafat the peace prize, and this is a man who blew up women and children.
Not only am I skeptical of things like that, I am very skeptical of what is referred to as a “testimonial,” or “anecdotal evidence.” Essentially, both of these things are a recounting of a personal experience, or a personal opinion. As I’ve noted above, the personal opinion that Obama or Arafat earned the Nobel Peace Prize could very easily be refuted. Lots of other anecdotes and testimonials could be just as easily refuted.
A good example of what I’m talking about occurred while I was working in Fort Macleod about 25 years ago. I was at the office plunking away on my keyboard when a friend of mine in the RCMP dropped by. He asked if I was busy, and I said no, not really. He asked if I could come with him to a motor vehicle collision on Hwy. #3 and take statements for him.
He told me there were no other RCMP available to help and he wanted to speak to everyone as quickly as possible while their memories were fresh. I said yes, of course I would help.
When we got to the collision scene, pieces and chunks of a holiday trailer were strewn across the highway, a pick-up truck was parked on the right-hand side of the highway with damage to both sides of its body and the back bumper and end gate area twisted like licorice and there were a few vehicles on the left-hand shoulder that suffered some minor body damage.
There were also a few undamaged vehicles parked further back, eyewitnesses who were behind the collision and witnessed it.
My police friend spoke to the pick-up truck driver, who’d been hauling a trailer, along with two other vehicle owners, which the pick-up truck had struck. It seems the pick-up started to vibrate strangely, then the hitch twisted and the trailer went sideways and literally disintegrated at highway speed, striking two other nearby vehicles (note: on multi-lane highways, don’t sit right beside someone else, you have no idea what’s going to come off their vehicle and strike you).
I interviewed the two eyewitnesses. The first person told me they felt the pick-up truck driving was speeding, then they saw the truck go out of control and the trailer come apart, striking the nearby vehicles. So it seemed like the pick-up driver was totally at fault.
Then I spoke to the second eyewitness, who was right behind the pick-up. They said a large deer came of the ditch at full speed, striking the passenger side of the pick-up near the front tire, making the vehicle shimmy and go out of control. It turned out the deer’s body was in the ditch where it went unnoticed.
It was a very good lesson for me to keep in mind: talk to everyone, and don’t just jump to conclusions.
A good lesson that some Nobel Prize people could have heeded before they started handing the prize out like Halloween candy.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.