Florida Republican Rep. Allen West’s claim that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House are communists was the fatal wound for Facts, which had been losing a battle against the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet….
Wonderful op-ed. via Percolate
Facts held on for several days after that assault — brought on without a scrap of evidence or reason — before expiring peacefully at its home in a high school physics book. Facts was 2,372.
“It’s very depressing,” said Mary Poovey, a professor of English at New York University and author of “A History of the Modern Fact.” “I think the thing Americans ought to miss most about facts is the lack of agreement that there are facts. This means we will never reach consensus about anything. Tax policies, presidential candidates. We’ll never agree on anything.”
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.”
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.”
Though weakened, Facts managed to persevere through the last two decades, despite historic setbacks that included President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, the justification for President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, and the debate over President Barack Obama’s American citizenship.
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.
Poovey, however, who knew Facts as well as anyone, said Facts’ demise is undoubtedly factual.
Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion.