The second requirement,
that the expression is not misleading to its recipients, is pragmatical/semantical
rather than strictly scientific or logical, in that it deals with the
conditions of the communication of truth, rather than the assessment
of it. One cannot call a statement tenable if the expression used is
misleading, biased or tendentious. Thus the second requirement deals
with the communication of information about states of affairs, such
as statements in reported accounts of factual events, in giving evidence
or first-hand witness accounts. Under this also come statements made
in resume of texts or of the stated views of other persons and groups.
The principle can also be stated negatively, that is to say, formulating
what constitutes a break of the principle as follows:
A statement about any state of affairs is untenable when both 1) there is adequate evidence that its assertion is not sufficiently in accordance with the state of affairs to which it refers, and 2) its expression is misleading to its recipients
Reports by first-hand observers
Firstly, when an expression that makes a report on an actual state of affairs is misleading, it will seldom be sufficiently clear and cognitive to give an accurate description of that to which it refers. This will also mean that one or more of the other principles of efficient communication are broken. In practice, an infringement of the principle of tenability occurs when the recipient(s) of the report misinterpret the expression and thus also the state of affairs itself. The sources of such misinterpretation therefore can include the use of emotive language, of insufficiently appropriate or precise expressions, of inconciseness and contradictions in terms, all of which have been exemplified earlier. Whether the expression conforms to prevailing language usage in the situation that applies, depends upon opinions as to what are sufficiently neutral and appropriate terms in the instances involved.
Where a first-hand report consists in a sequence of expressions, misinterpretation can arise from incorrect ordering of the expressions, confusing the recipient as to the actual sequence of events reported.
Eg) Consider the great difference between:-
EO Thereafter the demonstrators used physical violence against the police, who unfortunately shot two of the demonstrators.
E1 Unfortunately the police shot two of the demonstrators, who thereafter used physical violence against the police.
There are so many ways in which a first-hand report can be misleading due to language factors that no thorough list is attempted here. The following, however, can be regarded as a special - but most common - case of being misleading... namely, by inadequate representation of facts.
Secondly, when an assertion is not sufficiently in accordance with the facts, it may be partially correct as a description of a state of affairs, but simply not true as a whole. On the other hand-however, it may be practically impossible to verify or refute with certainty. Though we. referred to insufficiency of the assertion in representing a state of affairs, rather than only its being false, statements for or against which no evidence can be found cannot reasonably be judged as to their tenability or untenability.
For example: "Richard Milhous Nixon secretly wrote graffiti on toilet walls." This statement, as far as available evidence goes, can neither be judged tenable nor untenable. One cannot thereby exclude its tenability or its untenability if evidence should later be forthcoming.
In evaluating the degree of tenability or untenability of a statement the expression must be interpreted as to its exact meaning, to what state of affairs it refers. Quite often the assertion one derives from the expression will depend upon the interpreters own prior acquaintance with such states of affairs - or even the particular one in question. The interpreter's prior knowledge of relevant facts can sometimes be crucial in deciding how to interpret the expression or decide precisely to what it refers, nonetheless, only when a definite assertion is understood can its truth or falsity be considered. So in the final review, the judgement as to degree of tenability or otherwise is a separate decision that follows after the decision as to its correct interpretation,
The evidence necessary to establish untenability will depend entirely upon other sources than the statement in question. These may include personal observation) investigation of secondary evidence such as other witnesses' reports, texts, and recordings of all types and even experiment. No lists of the ways of collecting control evidence can be made, so ingeniously varied are the methods of investigation used in all the areas of human enterprise. Yet since we are dealing with reports by first-hand observers, there will in all cases be some actual state(s) of affairs upon which the truth or falsity of the report depends, even where the report is entirely faked. In such cases the falsity of a report is demonstrated by reference to other states of affairs that did occur.
Where an alleged state of affairs no longer pertains, of course, investigation must rely upon circumstantial evidence and reasoning. This is invariably the method used in dealing with reports about alleged human motives or intentions at all events, for the intended meaning of human acts cannot be observed or properly demonstrated other than by indirect, circumstantial evidence.
Reports almost always contain more than one expression so that the possibilities of untenability of the report as a whole are increased. It can be affected by whatever is chosen as a headline or paragraph heading, by the ordering of information in different sequences, the size of print used for various parts, the placing of the material around photographic or other graphic material that can 'colour' the report and so on. When judging the tenability of a report as a whole, not only should each statement be studied, but also the possibility of crucial information or facts being omitted so as to alter the tenability of what is explicitly stated.
Third, when an expression in a report tends to favour the viewpoint on a state of affairs of one concerned party to the neglect of that of another concerned party it is tendentious. In other words, the report is biased and as such cannot be judged as making a highly tenable statement. Since there is a party to the matter (or perhaps more than one other party) which finds its view disfavoured, it is likely that the facts are not sufficiently well-established. All tendentious statements are not untenable however, for either party may be in the wrong. Only a further assessment of evidence or factual study will decide the issue of tenability. This occurs frequently in broadcasting media and the daily press by the omission of information that would affect the receivers' judgement of its tenability, as can also be seen by the incompatible and conflicting reports that occur in publications of different political leanings. Purposive tendentiousness by the communicator is often very hard to prove satisfactorily, therefore one can only judge as to the likelihood of it having a tendentious effect upon the recipient's derived assertion (i.e. its interpreter's understanding of it).
Reports rendering the views of others
This is a special case of first-hand reports. Others' views are reported in shortened or compressed form for many purposes, of course, and the reasons for so doing as well as all the communicational circumstances will influence what it is reasonable to include in, detail or to present in resumé form. The principle of tenability is, more specifically, broken in these cases where the views of others are represented so as to alter a recipient's judgement of the tenability of those views. The originator's views constitute the state of affairs described, whether in spoken or written form. Statements of reporters about these can alter their tenability both because of the expressions chosen and the assertions conveyed. As this distinction has already been dealt with in general above, the following list of typical cases of misreporting does not distinguish between the meaning and truth of the statements,
General cases of misreporting others' views
a) Misquoting when directly reporting a statement verbatim.
b) Making the originator's views less precise so as to open for interpretations that are incorrect.
c) Making original statements more general where they were specific, thus altering their meaning to affect their tenability.
d) Presenting statements out of context so that the originator's qualifications of them are lost.
e) Omitting important points from the stated viewpoint of the originator.
f) Mixing reported views with the reporter's own comments or other materials so as to confuse recipients as to the originator's position.
g) Drawing implications from the originator's stated view that the originator might not accept as valid, without making clear that such implications are not also explicitly held by the originator.