Mark Hamilton: Build your media filter based on science, not narrative



(Editor’s note: This is the eighth in a series by Mark Hamilton about the history of the Pebble Project in Alaska.)

We are engaged in a contest between facts and narratives. This observation has been discussed in several books and papers recently, but I believe it is important for all of us to be aware of the unequal battlefield to which we are subjected.

This is a necessary exercise in order to decide what kind of “filter” you wish to arm yourself with in considering any controversial issue.  

Sadly, the very word “controversial” has been highjacked by the narrative crowd. In seeking audiences to inform about the Pebble mine project, I was turned down many times with the (usually regretful) statement, “We don’t allow controversial subject matters.” What? The word “controversial” simply means there are opinions on both sides of an issue.  How has this become a “hands off” topic?

Nowhere is this attitude more harmful than on our university campuses. My 12 years as the president of the University of Alaska thankfully predated an alarming trend. Understand that the foundation of higher learning is the dialectic. This protocol describes the contest of ideas, wherein a thesis, developed, supported, and explained confronts an antithesis (anti-thesis) also developed, supported and explained to be reasoned together in search of a synthesis (a newly discovered blending) that will more closely approximate truth. These contests of ideas do not necessarily require emotional indifference, indeed childlike name calling has added a bit of spice to several of these historical intellectual duels. While there may be room for emotion and passion, these diminish in the face of data and research.

What is the new learning protocol when we observe multiple universities creating “safe zones”?  Spaces that specifically outlaw conflicting ideas. Without the conflict of ideas, without the allowance of antitheses, without the reasoning together, what is left of our ability to learn?  We are left with uncontested narratives to voice opinions devoid of fact.  

Only slightly better are contested narratives assuming they are allowed on the social media link you are a part of. At least in the weighing of contested narratives, you could detect logical fallacies, or outrageous exaggerations.

What about facts?  It’s just too easy to exclaim we can never determine the facts. Of course, you can.  It may involve listening to several, certainly more than one news agency, discovering the differing interpretations, and exploring the issue yourself.  It may involve searching the several sources of baseline data compiled by agencies with no agenda except formulating their business model.  Insurance companies care about valid statistics about age and gender to construct their insurance plans, not to issue a public opinion.

Their data might be more reliable than data quoted to support a narrative.  

True, there are a huge number of issues that you just don’t care to research yourself. I certainly join you in that. In those situations, assuming that we are interested in the resolution of the debate, we are forced to rely on experts.  But here we are faced with a similar problem, which experts to rely on.

As you build your own filter, I recommend you look closely at the track record of reliability. What source of facts has predicted the outcome? That’s what your filter should do, help you in determining the outcome of controversial issues.

For example, if your sources have predicted that the world’s oil will run out in the next decade on three or four previous occasions, and that has not occurred; it’s time to find a new expert.  

Insistence on dealing with facts can deal you out of a lot of current discussions. Facts need to be verified; narratives only need to be repeated.

But while you are depending on experts, narratives are depending on clicking “SHARE.” There is no need for a narrative to disprove your facts if they can just overwhelm you with repetition; how many followers do you have? How many do they have?

While you are looking for a “LIKE” with logic; opponents are getting a “COMMENT” with emotion.

It will take some time to build your own filter, it will involve testing it with your own predictions, or predicting the path of opponents’ narratives. Only then can you avoid getting “Pebbled.”

The “Pebbled” series at Must Read Alaska is authored by Mark Hamilton. After 31 years of service to this nation, Hamilton retired as a Major General with the U. S. Army in July of 1998. He served for 12 years as President of University of Alaska, and is now President Emeritus. He worked for the Pebble Partnership for three years before retiring. The series continues next week. 

Pebbled 1: Virtue signaling won out over science in project of the century

Pebbled 2: Environmental industry has fear-mongering down to an art

Pebbled 3: The secret history of ANWR and the hand that shaped it

Pebbled 4: When government dictates an advance prohibition

Pebbled 5: EPA ‘just didn’t have time’ to actually go to Bristol Bay

Pebbled 6: The narrative of fear

Pebbled 7: The environmentalists who cried wolf


  1. Oh, you mean like the coming ice age of 1975, the starved world of 2000, the end of oil in 1979, no, 1988, no, 2001, no, 2010, no, 2020. We only have 9.42 years left before the world burns up, Inslee says we are already past the point of no return, the COVID is going to kill us all if we don’t comply. On and on the Chicken Littles go, and they lost any credence as far as I was concerned back about 1980.
    But there are dangers out there and we cannot pretend that they don’t exist, we just have to work harder to render the true from the hysterics. Inflation is real, and could consume our economy. Food is getting tight, in large part because of world politics, but hunger could become real. We now depend nearly totally upon many resources produced only elsewhere, and most manufacturing produced there.
    Our way of life as Americans is in grave danger from leftists and hysterics (but I repeat myself) and if we do not seek and find the truth, and appropriately respond, we could be the last generation to enjoy both our prosperity and our liberty.

  2. “Controversial” is moving the UA mining program out of their old building and merging the School of Mines into oblivion, while moving a cultural Native arts program into the old building at a cost of $$ millions, where only Native students are allowed to participate. Actually, it might not be controversial at all when you have a dictator UA President who still wears his stars at his civilian job and speaks from both sides of his mouth.

  3. AK: The prophecies concerning Gog and Magog, being withstood by the ships of Chittim, suggests that it could be America and England … who are going to build the ships. We need to be even wealthier than we are now, to afford that many ships.
    Gog and Magog, and all the hosts with them will have millions of troops marching a very short distance to attack Israel. It took months to put even a half million troops in Saudi Arabia for the Iraqi wars. The ships of Chittim may have to transport millions of troops within weeks.

  4. Jose:
    Get a grip. No one reads or cares what Hamilton writes. Empty words and phrases don’t bring a following.

  5. Thanks Mark for highlighting the issues that our society is facing. People are too selfish to get the big picture. They don’t want to go with facts but their own opinions.

  6. Agimarc:
    Not here at MRAK. Suzanne cuts the fat and obfuscations thrown out by the Left. If you are a major media junkie and inclined to follow the herd mentality, then yes, 90% crap is a well-rounded figure. Nothing to see here in Hamilton’s essays. It reminds me a bit of the essays that Frank Murkowski foists on Alaskans about once a month. Irrelevant and wasted verbage from a guy who is obsolete and probably unhappy with his past actions. Move on.

  7. Jose: “…where only Native students are allowed to participate.”
    Cultural Native Arts involves walrus ivory, polar bear hide, and other materials which are illegal for non Natives to possess in it’s raw form.
    The USSC ruled that while conservation of endangered species is necessary, it must be balanced with traditional Native culture. This is fair because it’s the non Natives who endangered the various species in the first place.
    The USSC didn’t want to be part of a cultural genocide … a genocide which you seem to have no problem with. Again it appears to boil down to the anti Hamilton gang being racists. You may not be card carrying Clansmen, but it’s a reoccurring theme whenever any of you try to DOX Hamilton. Out of the heart the mouth speaks.

  8. An amateur search of U of A mining brings this:

    Program Offerings
    B.S. Mining Engineering
    Program Requirements | Road Map | Flow Chart
    Minor Mining Engineering
    Program Requirements
    M.S. Mining Engineering
    Program Requirements
    Ph.D. Engineering
    Admission Requirements | Program Requirement

    Any of the readers can easily find out all they need to know about whatever all the off topic Hamilton dissidents are complaining about. It’s all there. See and judge for yourselves. Make a fact based decision. Text any or all the professors, managers, or whomevers, and see for yourself.
    Learn about SE AK high school students being able to go inside a real silver mine.
    And yes, they still do horseback field trips. And yes, it’s all accredited Nationally.
    “Where’s The Beef?”

  9. JosephDJ:
    The College of Mines was severely watered-down by Hamilton many years ago. Hamilton replaced the building with a Native arts complex that is for Natives only. How is that not racist? Hamilton’s vision for a world class mining school 20 years ago was more like a nightmare for miners and a wet dream for Lefties. The miners won’t forget that.
    btw, your stats do not tell the real story, the one Hamilton will not address, or even attempt to defend himself with. UA faculty know, and they don’t forget.

  10. Tom ATB: You, and the rest of the anti Hamilton crowd may be absolutely correct and perfectly justified about how he may have reduced the mining department. However, his series is basically a history of the Pebble mine, from his perspective. He’s not running for office, nor applying for a job. It’s just his abbreviated historical account.
    So far, nobody has disputed his factual statements, nor his personal viewpoints. So far, his account of Pebble stands. This failure to dispute Hamilton on any facts or opinion on the Pebble mine adds credence to his version, and subtracts credence from his dissenters.
    That’s all it has been so far, simply character assassination over a long held grudge for completely unrelated matters. A personal problem, voiced in a manner which fails to elicit very much sympathy, and certainly provides no foundation for any further action … not even pom pom waving.
    The one thing about all this dissent though is that it’s been helping improve my writing skills, and making me do some research about matters which I was unaware of. I never became a certified paralegal because legal research was my weak suit, at the time.

  11. Tom,

    Is that what all the hubbub and sour grapes is about, the faculty at UA are upset with Hamilton? Makes sense why there have been a number of one time commentators with drive by personal attacks on this series and why they never address the subject at hand.

  12. @Steve-O,
    I think what the anti-Hamilton folks are saying can be summed up quite simply like this:
    Message OK;
    Messenger not OK.
    ie, credibility seems to be lacking based on past performance on matters at issue.

  13. Solution…….
    Why doesn’t Mr. Hamilton write a piece or comment here at MRAK, and defend his position, why he traded the UA School of Mines building for a Native Cultural arts facility. He obviously didn’t think very highly of the UA mining program. Does Mark Hamilton have the courage to address this issue head on, or will he keep on hiding?

  14. Ellen: I’m just guessing that the stand alone school of mining had too many Chiefs and not enough Indians … and that it was an expense instead of an asset.
    I’m also guessing that the Native Cultural Arts brought in monies from the Native tribes, regional corporations, and BIA.
    Maybe the stand alone school of mining just wasn’t as cost effective as the Native Cultural Arts? Maybe what we’re hearing from Hamilton’s dissenters is the distant echo of the demise of an obsolete fiefdom?
    There had to be a great loss of personal bennies for so many to be complaining 20 years later.
    Also, I’m a miner, and my extended family has been in hard-rock and placer mining for generations. You can still find the records of our mining. It was over thirty years ago when I was actively mining. on Bonanza Creek. One of my uncles was mining North Fork Harrison. We had mines in Oregon and California also.
    My observations with “your” school at the time was that it was pee-pot full of deadwood. I had worked for the US Forestry Service, just long enough to learn what dead-wood is.
    So, are we hearing the last gasps of dead-wood? What good has that done you? Now half the state is aware of a few butt-hurt ex-fiefdom refugees. I suspect that you have done nothing but re-enforce the decision to have put the stand alone mining division out to pasture.
    Nobody ever sympathizes with whiners. They’re so irritating to even hear them.
    As for Hamilton responding in any way … I doubt that he would be foolish enough to respond in your “safe place”, especially since absolutely no difference of opinion is allowed. He will only get dirty, and all of you will enjoy it.

  15. Judy,

    I guess I missed the part where the anti’s said anything about the message being ok. All I’ve seen is personal attacks and sour grapes from the anti’s.
    Earlier in this series I asked another anti about all of the mining schools across this nation that have been boarded up and completely shuttered due to the off shoring of intellectual mining expertise as well as the off shoring of actual mining jobs. I further asked if Gen. Hamilton had something to do with the failure of all of those schools as well, or was it possibly due to the part the environmental movement has played in shipping our mining sector overseas into much less (if any) regulation. Predictably the reply was yet more attacks on Gen. Hamilton.
    I freely admit that I know precious little about Gen. Hamilton and his past, what I know of him is from reading this series and the comments of his detractors. I do not have the personal history that apparently some disgruntled UA staff or former staff have. His series here has been informative, mostly for what Gen. Hamilton has said regarding his perspective on what happened with Pebble, and some for what the anti’s have said, mostly for the fact that they are incapable of discussing the subject at hand and resort to personal attacks.

  16. STEVE-O: There’s nothing like a good spitting match to get readers attention. I did what I could to get more people to read Hamilton’s story. I feel a little guilty because encouraging his dissenters was just too easy.
    Stopping Pebble was a profound disaster for Alaska. It all but guaranteed that the major mining companies will just sit on their other Alaska claims until their off-shore mines are almost depleted … maybe forty- fifty years from now?

  17. STEVE-O: It wasn’t that Pebble was stopped. It’s how Pebble was stopped. “Partisan” is just about the worst trait that the EPA, or any other agency can have. “Cowardice” is also a bad trait, as displayed by the ACoE … especially as the ACoE is military, supposedly trained to march towards the sound of the guns.

  18. The Joker:

    The whole point and foundation of the “forefathers” of the United States of America was to have too many Indians and No Chief!

    That is otherswise described as discussion, meeting of the minds, consensus building and listening to each other — as opposed to – talking AT people.

    Trudy Sobocienski

  19. Trudy:
    I believe Joker was casting an inside remark that most people wouldn’t pick up on. Your comment, though, is notable and your philosophy is admirable. Cheers back!

  20. ARTFUL: I suspect that JOKER’s comment was to contrast my above reply to ELLEN “…too many Chiefs and not enough Indians…” as part of an ongoing spitting match with the anti Hamilton gang. I think JOKER expresses their view correctly., that they don’t approve of the Native Cultural Arts program which occupies the Mining school’s former “castle” … which was formerly a White redoubt, but is now Indian country.
    Personally, I don’t care that they don’t like Hamilton. I don’t know Hamilton well enough to even form an opinion about him. The point is that Hamilton is giving a history lesson about Pebble, and that the dissent hasn’t been on subject.

  21. JosephDJ:
    Well, Hamilton’s history lesson may well be better that Terrence Cole’s history lesson about Pebble. That is, “Pebble is bad because it will cause more global warming, poison all fish, and make more Republicans rich.”
    And if you repeated that sentiment in Cole’s History class, you get an A.
    Hamilton would have received an F.
    Man, I miss that little Dwarf.

  22. People are using large quantities of words to express their opposing ideas on here. I’ve met Gen Hamilton more than once; his viewpoints seem pragmatic and well-founded.
    That said, I know a school of mining engineering will uplift the lives of far more people that any cultural center (regardless of whatever culture is being promoted). Before anyone can focus on culture and art, they must first tend to their need for food, clothing, shelter, energy, education, gainful employment and healthcare…. all of which are intrinsically dependent upon mining.

    • Productivity far weighs over non-productive ‘feel good’ jobs. For any society to continue to exist it must produce as much as it consumes.

  23. WAYNEDC: I agree completely with you. Now all you need to do is figure out how to reverse the damage the EnviroNazis have done in stopping mining in America, having driven it offshore. This handful of “sue and settle” activists are directly, and almost single-handedly responsible for the mining school closures all across America.

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