A student asked me the other day during a discussion of modal logic whether I found it hard to listen to the chatter of normal people. Another person–often the victim of my constant and misplaced vigilance–has raised the same question. While many might not know the proper logical mode of the claim “God exists” (necessarily? contingently?) they should know the basic facts of rationally justified beliefs. Deborah Howell, like many of her colleagues at the *Washington Post*, is not like most people. She writes:
>Editorials and news stories have different purposes. News stories are to inform; editorials are to influence.
This is right so far as it goes. The problem, as it has been pointed out by many (start here should you wish to purse the issue to its bloggly ends) is the falsley dichotomous facts versus opinion claim. Opinions, especially those of a newspaper of worldwide circulation and influence, such as the *Post*, ought to be grounded in well-established fact. Within the limits of reasonable dispute, what the facts show, which inferences can be legitimately drawn, is another matter. But we must stress that at the basis of that argument are the facts. Should those arguments, such as those of the Post editorial referred to above, fail to take the obvious facts into account, then they are little more than lies.
To the student who asked whether it was difficult to deal with the unrigorous chatter of normal people I said: it’s hard to read the newspaper.