Facts, RIP

Rex Huppke reports, "Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet."

Rex Huppke reports, “Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet.”

Chicago Tribune (“Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012, In memoriam: After years of health problems, Facts has finally died.”):

Facts was born in ancient Greece, the brainchild of famed philosopher Aristotle. Poovey said that in its youth, Facts was viewed as “universal principles that everybody agrees on” or “shared assumptions.”

But in the late 16th century, English philosopher and scientist Sir Francis Bacon took Facts under his wing and began to develop a new way of thinking.

“There was a shift of the word ‘fact’ to refer to empirical observations,” Poovey said.

Facts became concrete observations based on evidence. It was growing up.

Through the 19th and 20th centuries, Facts reached adulthood as the world underwent a shift toward proving things true through the principles of physics and mathematical modeling. There was respect for scientists as arbiters of the truth, and Facts itself reached the peak of its power.

But those halcyon days would not last.

People unable to understand how science works began to question Facts. And at the same time there was a rise in political partisanship and a growth in the number of media outlets that would disseminate information, rarely relying on feedback from Facts.

“There was an erosion of any kind of collective sense of what’s true or how you would go about verifying any truth claims,” Poovey said. “Opinion has become the new truth. And many people who already have opinions see in the ‘news’ an affirmation of the opinion they already had, and that confirms their opinion as fact.”


As the world mourned Wednesday, some were unwilling to believe Facts was actually gone.

Gary Alan Fine, the John Evans Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University, said: “Facts aren’t dead. If anything, there are too many of them out there. There has been a population explosion.”

Fine pointed to one of Facts’ greatest battles, the debate over global warming.

“There are all kinds of studies out there,” he said. “There is more than enough information to make any case you want to make. There may be a preponderance of evidence and there are communities that decide something is a fact, but there are enough facts that people who are opposed to that claim have their own facts to rely on.”

To some, Fine’s insistence on Facts’ survival may seem reminiscent of the belief that rock stars like Jim Morrison are still alive.

“How do I know if Jim Morrison is dead?” Fine asked. “How do I know he’s dead except that somebody told me that?”

Poovey, however, who knew Facts as well as anyone, said Facts’ demise is undoubtedly factual.

“American society has lost confidence that there’s a single alternative,” she said. “Anybody can express an opinion on a blog or any other outlet and there’s no system of verification or double-checking, you just say whatever you want to and it gets magnified. It’s just kind of a bizarre world in which one person’s opinion counts as much as anybody else’s.”

Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously declared, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” But that’s an outmoded view. As Fine points out, there are enough competing facts out there now–backed by hyperlinkable research–to support pretty much any opinion a body might have.

FILED UNDER: Humor, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jenos Idanian says:

    True enough. As Abraham Lincoln said, “The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity.”

  2. Robert R. Stieglitz says:

    Splendid, but in fact, Facts (RIP) passed away, at least in Western civilization, sometimes prior to 30 BC, as may be gleaned from the famous rhetorical question of Pilate to Jesus: “What is truth?” (Quid est veritas, although he probably said it in Greek Ti estin aletheia as in John 18:38).

  3. The thing that divorced me from the Republican Party was the “case” made for the second Iraq war, when (and I quote) ” the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

    That the GOP seems ready to run an election cycle on cynically invented facts (“Obama made it worse”) is actually small potatoes compared to that.

  4. Jenos Idanian says:

    @john personna: Sigh…

    You are aware, sir, that “fixed” has more than one meaning? And that in this context, it it at least as likely to mean “focused” rather than “rigged?”

    As in, “Mr. personna’s entire politcial philosophy appears to be fixed around the Iraq War, and there is no stretch too great for him to invoke it — and express his deep-seated loathing of anything Republican.”

  5. PJ says:

    You are aware, sir, that “fixed” has more than one meaning? And that in this context, it it at least as likely to mean “focused” rather than “rigged?”

    trick. hide the decline.

  6. Davebo says:

    You are aware, sir, that “fixed” has more than one meaning? And that in this context, it it at least as likely to mean “focused” rather than “rigged?”

    I don’t know Jeno…. I’m not seeing “focused” here.

    fixed [fɪkst]
    1. attached or placed so as to be immovable
    2. not subject to change; stable fixed prices
    3. steadily directed a fixed expression
    4. established as to relative position a fixed point
    5. not fluctuating; always at the same time a fixed holiday
    6. (of ideas, notions, etc.) firmly maintained
    7. (Chemistry) (of an element) held in chemical combination fixed nitrogen
    8. (Chemistry) (of a substance) nonvolatile
    9. arranged
    10. (Spirituality, New Age, Astrology & Self-help / Astrology) Astrology of, relating to, or belonging to the group consisting of the four signs of the zodiac Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius, which are associated with stability Compare cardinal [9] mutable [2]
    11. Informal equipped or provided for, as with money, possessions, etc.
    12. Informal illegally arranged a fixed trial
    fixedly [ˈfɪksɪdlɪ] adv
    fixedness n

    Is that an English dictionary your using?

  7. @Jenos Idanian:

    You git. You just reinforced the meaning of this thread.

    We now know the meaning of fixed. They were fixed as in a horse race, fixed as in a ball game. Intelligence was distorted to support the case for war.

  8. Hey Norm says:

    Jenos the liar is pontificating on facts. That’s rich.

  9. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Davebo: Thanks for the quote. Definition #4 on your list. And with the original source being British, the likelihood of the author meaning the Americanism #11 is even less likely.

    @Hey Norm: Bite me. Or, if you’re so intent on exposing and denouncing liars, you might turn your attention to anjin…

  10. Hey Norm says:

    Bite me…intelligent retort.
    What’s the difference between Jenos and a bowling ball? If you absolutely had to you could eat the bowling ball.

  11. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: It was actually slightly more intelligent than you deserve. Consider it a gift.

  12. rodney dill says:

    Sanity cannot be far behind

  13. Jenos Idanian says:

    @john personna: Back to your point: that happened at some point between “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and “shovel-ready projects?”

  14. Hey Norm says:

    Jenos Idanian is a proven liar and, as such, all comments made by him/her should be considered in that context.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:


  16. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: Disclaimer: Hey Norm is a proven idiot, and can be safely ignored. In fact, reading his comments has been scientifically proven to kill brain cells. His last recorded germane comment was in 2007, and even that is disputed.

    Norm, I’m not going to go all anjin on you and say I won’t ever ever talk to you ever again. But I will refrain from addressing you until you actually say something relevant to the topic at hand.

    Which, I realize, might have the same effect, but that’s just a chance I’m willing to take.

  17. Hey Norm says:

    Or you could just admit you lied in order to make a fallacious argument.

  18. Hey Norm says:

    From the Doctrine and Covenants of the Mormon Church, Section 63, Verse 17: ‘All liars, and whosoever loveth and and maketh a lie, and the whoremonger, and the sorcerer, shall have their part in that lake which burneth with fire and brimstone which is the second death’

    From the Book of Mormon to Nephi, Chapter 2, Verse 34: ‘Woe unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.’

  19. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: …and that’s relevant exactly how?

    Oh, yeah, I forgot. You and “relevance” aren’t on speaking terms.

    By the way, nice technique on avoiding being tagged a “liar” yourself. Just spout insults and stupid opinions. If you don’t ever say anything verifiable, you can’t be caught in a lie.

    …sigh. OK, I admit it. I lied to make a fallacious argument.

    When I was six years old.

    Somehow, though, my mother knew my brother hadn’t broken the dish…

  20. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: You wanna impress me, cite Doctrine and Covenants of the Mormon Church, Section 61, Verse 12. Or Book of Mormon to Nephi, Chapter 1, Verse 15.

    Bet you can’t without looking it up online. Because that’s just your latest left-wing talking point, which you’re parroting without having the slightest clue of what you’re saying.

  21. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: And is that from the First, Second, Third, or Fourth Book of Nephi?

  22. Hey Norm says:

    I did say something verifiable.
    I said you are a liar.
    And you are not man/woman enough to own up to it.
    That’s two verifiable things.
    I’m on a roll.

  23. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: Circular Logic Is Circular.

  24. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: And you’re a liar.. From The Book Of Mormon:

    1 Nephi: Chapter 2 has only 24 verses.

    2 Nephi: Chapter 2 has only 30 verses.

    3 Nephi: Chapter 2 has only 19 verses.

    4 Nephi: Chapter 2 actually has 49 verses. Here’s the part you apparently cited:

    34 Nevertheless, the people did harden their hearts, for they were led by many priests and afalse prophets to build up many churches, and to do all manner of iniquity. And they did bsmite upon the people of Jesus; but the people of Jesus did not smite again. And thus they did dwindle in unbelief and wickedness, from year to year, even until two hundred and thirty years had passed away.

    So, you wanna admit you’re a liar, or rat out the liberal talking point that lied to you?

  25. Hey Norm says:

    @ Jenos…
    Evidently the place I copied that from was in error.
    I apologize for my mistake, which was not verifying it.
    (See how easy that is)

  26. Hey Norm says:

    The verse can be found here.

  27. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: Sorry, Norm, not good enough. You quoted an online source without verifying it for yourself purely to make a false point (just what, I’m not quite certain), and by the standards you yourself have established, that makes you a verifiable LIAR!!!!!!!

    And you won’t say where you got it from… how interesting. Just who are you protecting, liar? Or are you hiding that you actually made it up yourself?

  28. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: That page gives a 404 error, liar.

  29. Hey Norm says:

    It’s from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, Chapter 9, Verse 34.
    And it says:

    “…Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell…”

    As I said that it said.
    Sorry my source had the wrong reference.
    That’s my mistake.
    My mistake does not make you any less of a liar.
    Much as you might hope it would.

  30. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: Just admit it, Norm. You came into this thread purely to cheap-shot me, and I beat your ass like a kettle drum.

    By my standards, your misquoting — and subsequent correcting — does not make you a liar. It makes you human.

    But by your standards, repeated endlessly, you are.

    Yeah, I misidentified the wrong “Trayvon Martin.” Just like you misquoted the Book of Mormon (why you brought it up still escapes me). Yeah, I’ve owned up to the error (several times), like you have. But you want forgiveness, but won’t grant it.

    Screw you. Screw you to the wall on your own hypocritical standards, liar.

  31. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: And you still won’t cite your source to prove you were misled, and not simply making crap up…

  32. Hey Norm says:

    Much as you would like to assuage your guilt…an incorrect reference to what is a correct quote is not in any way shape or form the same as claiming that someone said something that she never said:

    “…Cameron “Bush will make rape legal” Diaz…”

    The fact that you are unable to grasp the difference pretty much explains everything that need be known about Jenos Idanian.

  33. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: Wow… now I understand why you didn’t cite the specific “lie” I supposedly made. Time to do more ass-beating…

    I gave the full quote, and the context, of noted Bush-hater Diaz. She’s a hysterical ditz.

    Who did magnificent booty-dancing in the Charlie’s Angels movies, but is still a hysterical ditz.

  34. Jenos Idanian says:

    This is too stupid. I’m going out to enjoy a glorious day.

  35. ernieyeball says:

    This is too stupid.

    Now That’s a fact!

  36. rodney dill says:

    Stay tuned for later today when Jenos tells Hey Norm, “Nyah nyah!” and Hey Norm, responds, “Neener neener!

  37. Tillman says:

    Okay, so, here’s where we tell everyone at what point we stopped reading the back and forth between Norm and Jenos…

    I believe the last post I read was @here, and wow. Internet fight.

  38. jd says:

    Darn! I ran out of popcorn.

  39. Jenos Idanian says:

    @rodney dill: Oh, for Christ’s sake, Rodney! Ever heard of “spoiler alerts?”

    You went and ruined EVERYTHING!

  40. From November 2009:

    One of the basic tenets of postmodernist linguistic deconstructionism (which I learned how to do in my postgraduate studies at Vanderbilt) is that all text is tainted by bias and that objective points of view are impossible. Hence, the objective of expression is to exercise power. (Formerly the type of expression so designated has been confined, mostly, to those of history, literature and politics. But now we see that even mathematics may be considered biased and subjective.)

    Hence, there is no such as thing as objective truth and statements are never more than propositional in nature. A statement’s truth content is never more than opinion, and opinions are nothing but expressions of power. Therefore, in a basic sense, all speech is power directed.

    This is a fundamental world view of the Left and is derived directly from Marxism, as reworked by Leninism. Since Marx held that his communist theory was literally scientific, his economic-historical forecasts were not simply likely, they were certain. To understand and partner with this inevitability was to be “on the right side of history” (which is where that overused cliche comes from). As formulated by Lenin et. al., truth is therefore not statements of objective facts, but assertions that move the communist revolution and its fulfillment closer to reality. “Truth” is therefore pliable and impermanent, the concept of truth being only practical. In practice, all of language became subservient to the dominance of the party, a fact recognized by George Orwell in his novel 1984 and its concept of Newspeak.