“Just the facts, Ma’am”

That is what Sgt. Joe Friday said on Dragnet, an American radio (1949-1959), television (1967-1970) and motion picture series, (1987 & 2003) enacting the cases of a dedicated Los Angeles police detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, and his partners

In today’s world, the ability to separate the facts from either fiction or falsehoods seems to be a skill lacking in nearly 80 % of middle school, high school and college students surveyed in 12 states.  The study, Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning” by the Stanford University History Education Group came to that conclusion from the 7,800 responses they received in the study.

Executive Summary – THE BIG PICTURE

When thousands of students respond to dozens of tasks there are endless variations. That was certainly the case in our experience. However, at each level—middle school, high school, and college—these variations paled in comparison to a stunning and dismaying consistency. Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak. – Executive Summary November 22, 2016 – Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning

The USA and the World Today

We’re entering the age of the Network, a world of hyper-connectivity and constant flux, where disruption is the norm and autonomy, empowerment and meaning are basic expectations of the new workforce.

We see the disruption in social media as claims of fact are often nothing more than a fake story or an alteration of the facts to fit the narrative of the person making the post.

However, the authenticity of the poster gives credence to the post and the “Fake News” takes on a whole new life of its own.  Just ask CNN, FOX News, The New York Times or any other news outlet that has had to “make a retraction”.

The ability to decipher and make a personal decision require reasoning and deciphering fact from fiction as well as the ability to determine the source.  Both are predominantly absent when the digital world implodes on us through Facebook and Twitter.  The evaluation of information that flows through social media channels easily dupes many people daily.  The misinformation leads to a connection with others that will reinforce “their” truth of the facts thus creating an avalanche of false truths cascading down the timeline.

Today the ability to reason has joined Elvis and left the building.

Today “Just the Facts” isn’t……

Our language is replete with famous phrases from historic and literary characters who never uttered the words attributed to them: Marie Antoinette and “Let them eat cake”; Cary Grant and “Judy, Judy, Judy . . .”; Sherlock Holmes and “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Sometimes the phrases are made up out of whole cloth (because they sounded like something those people would say), and sometimes they’re corruptions or rephrasing’s of something that was said. “Just the facts, ma’am” is a case of the latter.

Jack Webb’s ‘Joe Friday’ character typically used the phrase “All we want are the facts, ma’am” (and sometimes “All we know are the facts ma’am”) when questioning women in the course of police investigations.

So popular was Dragnet in its day that satirist Stan Freberg spoofed it on a 1953 record titled “Little Blue Riding Hood”.  Freberg’s “Little Blue Riding Hood” spoof changed the line slightly, and it was Freberg’s alteration — rather than anything Joe Friday said — that would enter the roll of immortal catch phrases:

Little Blue Riding Hood:   Why Grandma, what big ears you’ve got!

Sgt. Wednesday:   All the better to get the facts. I just want to get the facts, ma’am.

Working on sorting the facts from the fiction,

Have a great weekend


Michael Tannery CPA CDFA® AIF® ●  CEO
Registered Principal

Be A Financial Olympian™

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