Are the Statements Clear?

If some statement's meaning is not exactly clear, there is usually a reason for it. It is easy to check a specific statement or claim; a vague one is a much more difficult target. Watch for vagueness everywhere. Even news reports can (and often are) vague and incomplete. The vagueness can result from simple lack of information or from deliberate disinformation. A vague report leaves LOTS of room for interpretation, with the probability that your interpretation will be incorrect in the way that someone intends. Remember that truth will be clear and specific while lies will be vague. Lies are vague because specific false claims can be easily checked.

Sources of Vagueness

  • Doublespeak: This is the use of language and words carefully constructed to conceal the actual meaning. Euphemisms work well here. For example, "enhanced interrogation" actually means torture.
  • Evading the Issue: Did you ever see a politician who didn't do this? When asked a tough question, the speaker gives an answer to something else. They may really emphasize "peace, justice and the American Way," but the answer does not respond to the question. This is not hard to detect and is very annoying.
  • Glittering Generalities: These are vague, broad statements that will connect with the audience's beliefs and values. They really don't say anything substantive. Slogans make great examples. The vagueness means that the implications, though varying for different people, are always favorable. Think of peace, freedom, justice, family values, etc.