Opinion or Mere Assertion?

Question #4: How Do You Spot Mere Assertion? Evidence vs. Emotion

When we say “Mere Assertion” (we mean Nonsense), we urge you to substitute whatever phrase works for you.

Before cable, the biggest names in television news were reporters like Walter Cronkite who were careful to guard their neutrality and became, as anchors of the evening news, some of the most trusted people in public life.

Along comes cable news, fighting for market share. Executives discovered that cable shows gained intensely loyal audiences when anchors and even reporters dropped their neutrality and validated the audience’s political preferences. The trend accelerated and now cable hosts startlingly partisan shows on which the paid news staff campaign for candidates, help them raise money and sometimes are even themselves candidates for office.

These pundits have no use for the SPJ’s standards of independence. They earn high ratings by affirming the audience’s beliefs, not by fact-collection and construction of logical conclusions that might aggravate viewers. This is what we call mere assertion.


The difference between opinion and assertion?

  • Opinion is a VIEW, a JUDGMENT or an APPRAISAL about a particular matter.
  • Assertion: Something declared or stated positively, often with no support or attempt at proof.

Unlike opinion journalism, which emphasizes evidence-based conclusions, mere assertion is a cluster of assumptions in search of validation. Belief and Emotion trumps evidence in this sphere.

Here's a final example:

The key differences for news consumers are these: opinion journalism draws conclusions from a fact-based inquiry with a first allegiance to the truth and a willingness to disagree with significant portions of that audience. Mere assertion is the result of a search for ways to validate a niche audience’s political agenda. It tends to emphasize beliefs and emotions over evidence and facts. And the quality of the arguments can be quite low. Circling back to the Geraldo commentary, what do you observe about the evidence he offers and the logic he has assembled? Has he verified the assertions about hoodies?