This is the single cleverest thing I expect you will read all weekend:

Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012
In memoriam: After years of health problems, Facts has finally died.

A quick review of the long and illustrious career of Facts reveals some of the world’s most cherished absolutes: Gravity makes things fall down; 2 + 2 = 4; the sky is blue.

But for many, Facts’ most memorable moments came in simple day-to-day realities, from a child’s certainty of its mother’s love to the comforting knowledge that a favorite television show would start promptly at 8 p.m.

Over the centuries, Facts became such a prevalent part of most people’s lives that Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said: “Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.”

To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet . . .

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

Services are alleged to be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that mourners make a donation to their favorite super PAC.

The full piece is very worthy of your attention . . .


Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012
Rex W. Huppke
Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2012,0,809470.story

Category: Philosophy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

28 Responses to “RIP: Facts (360 B.C.-A.D. 2012)”

  1. louiswi says:

    Facts in and among themselves are not pesky. The problem is that a fact can challenge the belief system of a person; and for many that is just too much to tolerate. It is much easier to dismiss the fact than to adjust a belief system for that adjustment for many would be to toss it completely out. Not an acceptable choice to many. Witness the difficulty of accepting the earth is round; the sun the center of the solar system, etc etc.

  2. As we all know, Facts are easily proven… the tests are these:

    1. If its on TV… its True.
    2. If the guy has a deep voice and a suit… its True.
    3. If its a woman and the voice is melodious and calm… and she’s also well-groomed… its true.
    4. Tinkly piano music in the background is a sure test … so its surely true.
    5. If its emotionally satisfying (lizard-brain candy)… its got to be true.
    6 If it confirms what I already know and especially what I already like… its true!

  3. VennData says:

    The “demonize the other side” politics of…

    “… Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of theU.S. House of Representatives are communists…”

    …works. Facts, for the GOP media machine died a long time ago. It’s called Supply Side economics. Large tax cuts for the rich will pay for themselves and help the ‘job creators’ to create lots of jobs. All, emperically shown to not work recently. …doesn’t mean it won’t work sometime in the future, be FACT that SS economics is 0-2 in the last generation, should get voters to understand that Supply Side economics does not guarantee sound fiscal management.

  4. dead hobo says:

    My favorite facts defend the honesty of the commodity markets. After all, trading contracts in the pits is perfectly kosher (actually true), therefore all commodities are priced fairly without being adversely influenced by any form of corruption.

    Despite rumors, there is never hording of any kind, intended to influence the price upwards and make a quick buck on a quick flip.

    Oceans of cash flowing into long only index funds from buyers who hope the price rises so they can make money on the trade have no effect on pit trading, where buyers who intend to take delivery want the lowest price possible. This is fact because smug wall street pros say so.

    HFT may be scourge in parts of the equity markets, but it could never adversely influence commodity prices. Ask the wall street pros, all of whom are named Honest John.

    I really love the CRB charts that cover commodity prices since 1749, even though the CRB chart didn’t exist and was never calculated prior to about 1957. Of course the 200 years charted prior to the inception of the index is totally factual and relevant to modern times.

    Business reporters, print and tv, would have uncovered something by now if anything were amiss. Their advertisers would shout a dazzling huzzah if they uncovered a single plot. Ditto the politicians and regulators who would be rejoiced by a grateful commodities trading industry. But, since the pits are honest, everything else must surely be.

  5. krice2001 says:

    Facts… I remember I first met him in the 90′s. Seemed like a cool dude, but sometimes a little too dull for a lot of people’s liking.

  6. RW says:

    The article was very clever although it’s attempt to be “fair and balanced” did lead to a false equivalency or two. Still, the main point was pretty close to spot on except that I think this Bertrand Russell quote gets closer to the bone:

    “A hallucination is a fact, not an error; what is erroneous is a judgment based upon it.”

    Our problem is not simply a dispute over facts, it is a dispute regarding the means by which that dispute is adjudicated and the level of confirmation necessary before serious policy moves are made in consequence; e.g., a major war on the word of a delusional spy, several proven liars, a WMD fantasy and a bunch of pundit articles.

    Maybe J.K. Galbraith was even closer to the bone than Russell:

    “Increasingly in recent times we have come first to identify the remedy that is most agreeable, most convenient, most in accord with major pecuniary or political interest, the one that reflects our available faculty for action; then we move from the remedy so available or desired back to a cause to which that remedy is relevant.”

  7. streeteye says:

    Postmodernism, n. : Postmodernist approaches are critical of the possibility of objective knowledge of the real world, and consider the ways in which social dynamics such as power and hierarchy affect human conceptualizations of the world to have important effects on the way knowledge is constructed and used.

  8. constantnormal says:

    While funny-sad, there is something behind this, more than the usual-and-customary political fear-mongering. Change usually involves refuting some prior “facts” and the increased pace of change in the modern world may have undermined the utility of “facts”.

    Some relevant links:

    Mistakes in Scientific Studies Surge [WSJ] … the Voice of NewsCorp, undermining Science daily …
    Phenomena of Retraction [JAMA]

    I believe this is known as “throwing the baby out with the bath water” … people are too simple-minded to be able to discern between accepting the best available info (knowing that it may change in the future, back and forth even) and distrusting everything.

    Everything except their gut, and their favorite reinforcer of their own prejudices and ill-informed opinions. People are least able to question themselves.

    “Intelligent species”, my @ss!

  9. ami_in_deutschland says:

    Decades ago in his now classic work on ethics After Virtue, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre discussed this very subject — he refers to it as the intrinsic “incommensurability of rival arguments” — along with its historical development over the past several centuries. A stimulating excerpt which introduces his argumentation can be read online:

    Chapter One: A Disquieting Suggestion

  10. Jack Damn says:

    Simple carbohydrates killed facts.

  11. scottinnj says:

    R.I.P facts. It was well known that facts have a liberal bias anyway

  12. bergsten says:

    I knew what this was before I even started reading, and was impressed it took almost two dozen paragraphs to get to the real reason for writing the article. It moved from humor to indisputable facts to the things we all agree to believe, to the things we like to believe, to it..

    Look. Let’s just cut to the chase and lock up everybody not in our tribe who don’t believe in Global Warming like Professor Horse Teeth here suggests. And while we are at it, let’s (to paraphrase Jeremy Clarkson) take all of those with the “conservative” gene out and shoot them in front of their families.

    We’d save a whole lot of PR, BS, money and time. No more need for elections, etc.

  13. Petey Wheatstraw says:



    There’s none so blind as those who will not see. Ignorance is bliss. For many, facts harsh their buzz.

  14. seneca says:

    Facts were born around the mid 1700s at the time of the Scottish Enlightenment and the dawn of the scientific method. Before then, even educated people couldn’t readily separate Facts from superstition and nonsense.

  15. Frilton Miedman says:

    I’m not so sure fact has died, but merely taking a pit-stop at the Indy 500 for some upgrades.

    There, mechanics have identified the problem, and have added a new mechanism – “social media”, where the corrosive forces against fact can be rapidly weighted, debated, and ultimately broken down to truths by massive numbers of individuals at incredible, unprecedented speeds.

    I think of the Arab Spring, the Canadian Government all but kicked out of office last year…the fact that terms like “ALEC”, “Koch Brothers”, “Murdoch” and “Citizens United” are household names now.

  16. Expat says:

    I don’t think facts are any deader today than they were one hundred years ago. Those who know me well might assume that the meds are finally working, but I think that the story of the death of fact is really the story of the growth of information.

    Before broad education, relatively free journalism, ubiquitous television, and the amazing phenomenon called the Internet, we had few ways to know that we were being lied to or even a reason to suspect it was the case. We knew little about foreign wars or the private lives of our ruling elite.

    Today we are overwhelmed with information, much of it false or at least misrepresented. So while there is probably more Fact available to us, we are also served up much, much more propaganda and untruths than before.

    Fact is not dead. It is merely drowning in a sea of bullshit.

  17. Afthought says:

    Facts is not dead. He’s in hiding ever since the Main Stream Media Gang put out a contract on him. This is a true fact – a pal of mine, you know, a in-the-know kinda pal, said he read it on Twitter.

  18. atswimtwobirds says:

    I blame quantum physics.

  19. DeDude says:

    “Opinions” is one nasty gang you don’t want to mess with – no wonder they put a hit out on “facts” and got him.

  20. tdotz says:

    We knew it was coming. After all, the poor soul couldn’t even afford health insurance – what a loser!

  21. NewBob88 says:

    Taking a lot of science and math classes teaches a student to reason. These students have a reasonable chance of becoming adults that use facts to make their decisions.

    I was a Public School Teacher and can attest that many students are not being taught to use “reason.” This observation includes college graduates. The result is a large number of adults that are driven by their emotions.

    Our best hope to bringing “Facts” back into existence is the revamping of our educational system. The hand that rocks the cradle will rule the world. Let this hand be “Facts.”

  22. InterestedObserver says:

    A few observations on facts….

    If you’ve ever had to sit through a criminal trial and seen a really good investigator testify, it’s something of a joy to behold as they clearly draw the lines between facts, observations that are consistent with specific scenarios, and things which are depicted in, for example, photographs versus facts. As a physical scientist, when I’ve experienced this situation, I’ve walked away impressed when the investigator is at the top of his/her game. As someone who’s gone through providing depositions in patent cases, I know that some of this is due to targeted coaching, but it doesn’t diminish my view.

    In the blogosphere, there’s all too much noise of the “I know that…. is true/false/etc.” flavor when there’s absolutely no objective reason to believe that the writer would have any personal knowledge of the germane facts. I know, the post is a lot more persuasive when positioned in that fashion. However, it seems as though opinion, generally marginally informed to uninformed to misinformed, is the new fact. Given the internet’s power to amplify and push the position, facts only seem to dilute the message. Think about that last bit…., facts dilute the message, as does nuance.

    The little sister, Emphatic Assertion, she’s probably the most damaging of all. Can’t label her opinion. Can sure look somewhat like a fact if properly clothed. Destructive.

  23. leveut says:

    Hail Ritholtzia!

    Citing this sort of article with approval is the sort of thing that significantly reduces any credibility the proprietor has in terms of commenting on anything.

    Citing this article with approval is so sad and pathetic it makes one embarassed for the proprietor in that it evidences such a low regard for and familiarity with reality in the political realm it makes one wonder if his commentary and analysis in his area of putative financial expertise is actually worth anything.

    Sad and pathetic.

    Another very sad day for Ritholtzia when looked at from the world that values facts and objective reality.

    Hail Ritholtzia!

  24. DeDude says:

    Another victim of bean-counters and market forces. As journalists were forced to fill more and more air-time, yet having the same or less time to collect facts, the natural refuge was opinion “journalism”. Now instead of spending hours or days collecting the facts about an issue, they could just spend 2 seconds pulling an opinion out of their dumb a$$. So much more “productive”, so the bean-counters were happy. And since most of the viewers were not able to recognize the difference the costumers didn’t revolt either.

  25. [...] a follow up to the truly wonderful RIP Facts discussion yesterday, I am compelled to point out its evil twin, something awful as that was [...]

  26. 873450 says:

    Here’s a couple of very expensive, tragic facts that bankrupted the U.S. and will cost future generations of Americans trillions of dollars:

    “You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don’t matter, …”We won the midterms. This is our due.”
    - 11/02 – Vice President Cheney to Treasury Secretary O’Neill during a cabinet meeting
    O’Neill objected to a 2nd round of tax cuts while the nation at war (off budget) and that year’s deficit, alread projected to exceed $500 billion, were threatening the U.S. economy. During the same meeting President Bush, citing opposition from “the corporate crowd” turned down O’Neill’s request to more aggressively prosecute corporate crime. One month later Cheney informed O’Neill he was fired.

    “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
    - 01/28/03 – President George Bush during the State of the Union Address
    For a laugh see defending the president’s infamous 16 words for being factual.

    And here’s a humorous, malicious fact:

    “If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.”
    - 04/08/11 – Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on the Senate floor

    “Just 3% of the organization’s work is related to terminating pregnancies, while well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does relates to preventative health care services. … We did call [Kyl's] office trying to ask what he was talking about there. And I just want to give it you verbatim here. It says, ‘His remark was not intended to be a factual statement.’ ”
    - 04/08/11 – CNN anchor TJ Holmes:

  27. patfla says:

    I thought facts had been backfooted by the seductive (to many) philosophy that says that all of reality is a social construction that happens in human minds and that we can right many, if not all wrongs, by, um, reeducation. This seems to appeal particularly to young adults (freshly out of college which is not coincidental) although it’s full appeal is much broader than that. It’s a phenomenon of both the developed and developing worlds although it’s used quite differently in each.

    That said, others who believe themselves very grounded in facts, say oilmen in either TX, Saudi Arabia or Russia have their own delusions (and crimes).

    It seems that at the same time the world is pulling closely together it’s also fragmenting possibly more in terms of belief systems – which kind of makes sense. Most people are adrift if they lose the identities they were raised with (or, say, the identity they gratefully received from college professors in textual criticism or whatever it’s called).