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Facts has died.
April 24, 2012 4:45 AM   Subscribe

Facts has died. The Chicago Tribune offers this tribute.
posted by feelinglistless (61 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
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!
posted by PapaLobo at 4:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I could swear that there was an Onion article that used this same mock-obituary-for-abstract-concept idea, but I can't seem to find it. Anybody know what I mean?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:49 AM on April 24, 2012


Oof. Singular or plural, that's horrible.
posted by robself at 4:53 AM on April 24, 2012


Horaxe Rumpole: this Language Log post lists several historical mock obituaries, but none from The Onion.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 4:57 AM on April 24, 2012


[citation needed]
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:57 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


...Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists.

If only.
posted by DU at 5:00 AM on April 24, 2012 [22 favorites]


Oh, and can I also point out the irony of this piece's desperate attempt to shoehorn in some partisan balance when this is overwhelmingly a right-wing phenomenon? Bill Clinton lying about his sex life is not the same as Republicans lying about global warming--only one of them is going to kill us all. It's precisely this false equivalency problem that's made journalism a willing accessory in the murder of facts.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:04 AM on April 24, 2012 [88 favorites]


I'm not a big fan of the mock obituary style, but given the um, fact, that the number of people who think Obama is a Muslim continued to rise for several years after the 2008 campaign, we may as well throw something in a coffin and start the official mourning period.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:06 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and can I also point out the irony of this piece's desperate attempt to shoehorn in some partisan balance when this is overwhelmingly a right-wing phenomenon?

It's the Tribune. I'm currently experiencing a similar feeling of shock to when they endorsed Obama. (One of the the first sentences was 'We have never endorsed a Democrat for president.') Not on the same scale, of course, but the Tribune does not say such things.
posted by hoyland at 5:08 AM on April 24, 2012


Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists.

I don't think they're communists. They may be liars, crooks, hypocrites or even communists -- but they are certainly not homosexuals.
posted by sour cream at 5:10 AM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Bill Clinton lying about his sex life is not the same as Republicans lying about global warming--only one of them is going to kill us all.

Not with respect of consequences, but it's quite as egregious an example of blatant disregard of, you know, the facts. Much of the current sorry state of public discourse and logic can be traced back directly to his infamous sentence "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
posted by Skeptic at 5:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


.
posted by double bubble at 5:13 AM on April 24, 2012


Who'll tell Jack Webb?
posted by jonmc at 5:20 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Much of the current sorry state of public discourse and logic can be traced back directly to his infamous sentence "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

Not really. Nixon, Thatcher and reactionary parties for several hundred years have been waging an aggressive war on the truth, for the sake of tapping into the resentful and ignorant motives of their voters. Karl Rove was up to dirty tricks long before Bill Clinton entered the White House.

And the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century altered history and claimed black was white with a regularity that would make even today's crooked and dishonest conservative parties blush.

Bill Clinton was mildly sleazy and got caught out in a minor lie about an aspect of his personal life. The only reason it became an issue at all was as a result of a hugely wasteful Republican campaign to find something - anything - with which to hinder his political programme. That was a far more dishonest activity than quibbling about the meaning of the word "is". Clinton did not invent "modern lying" and to suggest that he did is to say something silly that advances an extremist agenda.

Can people please try to have a sense of perspective?
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:33 AM on April 24, 2012 [33 favorites]


Facts are the latest move in a worrying trend towards the totalitarianism of information. Americans, the spirit of self-determination that lies at the heart of the American dream demands that you resist this attempt to railroad you country into a single consensual reality!
posted by pipeski at 5:35 AM on April 24, 2012


Much of the current sorry state of public discourse and logic can be traced back directly to his infamous sentence "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

Piffle.
posted by DU at 5:38 AM on April 24, 2012


Wow. That Allen West guy is powerful ... able to kill off the truth with a single foolish utterance.
posted by crunchland at 5:42 AM on April 24, 2012


Horaxe Rumpole

I am pretty sure this is the name of an Ork Warboss in Warhammer 40K.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Facts, the newsroom cat, was neither completely black, nor completely white.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:57 AM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yes this article has some great right wing examples. If we are looking for disregard for facts committed by the left, widespread acceptance of excessive (government) debt is a far better example of something that will destroy everything than Clinton's improprieties.

People lack an analytical scientific outlook, and I think the US in particular cannot deal with problems where there are both facts and theories involved. For example it is very easy to define what poverty is but far more difficult to build a preventative policy around the subject as the causes of poverty can be very complex and varied. This leads to arguments that attack the theoretical side and at the same time appear to discredit the facts as well.

We also have problems with local minimums, for example, during a recession, the way we offer welfare maybe should be completely different than how we do during growth. However government is overwhelmingly set up as a maker of eternal solutions than a continuously optimizing state machine. This is another area where arguments can start because both solutions may be correct but applicable in different places.
posted by niccolo at 5:59 AM on April 24, 2012


partisan balance

"In December, Facts was briefly hospitalized after MSNBC's erroneous report that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign was using an expression once used by the Ku Klux Klan."

Come on. How many people actually even heard of this? How long did it take to dig this up?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:59 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Clever Satire's not feeling too well, either.
posted by Segundus at 5:59 AM on April 24, 2012 [20 favorites]


Horaxe Rumpole: While not a obituary, one of my favorite in this genre was this one: "Terrorism surrenders to U.S."; I couldn't find it mentioned in the blue, but I remember it going around back at the time.
posted by rjd at 6:07 AM on April 24, 2012


[Some comments deleted: crazy all-caps "failure-of-crediting" accusations not done here. Want to talk about it? Go to Metatalk.]
posted by taz at 6:07 AM on April 24, 2012


Horaxe Rumpole

I am pretty sure this is the name of an Ork Warboss in Warhammer 40K.


He wot must be obeyed, natch.
posted by Verdant at 6:07 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but this is fake. F-A-K-E. Can't be said enough.

"Facts" was something people told their children in an effort to get the youngsters to behave, if not terrify them at night. Which was the only way Facts could possibly exist in the world at all.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:08 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Come on. How many people actually even heard of this? How long did it take to dig this up?

Especially when it would take about 5 minutes of watching Faux Nooz to find several examples.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:36 AM on April 24, 2012


The Tribune filed this under "news" instead of "opinion". Ironic that Facts should be killed by his own obituary.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:39 AM on April 24, 2012


In shock news the "late" Facts has been discovered alive and well living on a deserted island. He appears to have faked his own death in order to escape modern life and return to a simpler time. Speaking through his press secretary, Facts said, "I just want people to leave me alone. I need time out to refresh and get back in touch with who I am."

However, the President has mobilized the Fifth Fleet to shell the island, and also ordered SEALs to ensure that no trace of life remains. The leader of the opposition said of the President's plans, "This is just crazy! Surely we should bring Facts back alive and try him?"

Public response to this revelation has been mixed. No2Vril, a well known group of conspiracy theorists, have claimed that Facts was in truth kidnapped by a cartel of textbook publishers headed by Elsevier. They have launched a humanitarian flotilla to reach the island before the navy and emplace themselves as human shields. "We're willing to die for Facts," said Willy Balzac, leader of the group. Yet Tim Bacon, founder of the controversial Museum of Dyspepsian Evolution, when asked for comment only replied, "Who? Never heard of the fella!"
posted by Jehan at 6:42 AM on April 24, 2012


For me, it's not that facts are dead. It's that the truth, with the help of the internet and mass media, has shifted from primarily co-existent to primarily coherent/pragmatic.

For example:

Co-existent truth: Physically verifying - Dolphins are real, I physically saw one while at an aquarium.
Coherent truth: Indirectly verifying - Dolphins are real, I read about them in a reputable magazine and saw pictures.
Pragmatic truth: Using logic and previous knowledge to reach a conclusion - Based on the above examples and combined experiences, Dolphins must be real. (or "that's odd...my entertainment center just turned off, but my lights are still on...it must be the fuse box")

In the world we live in today, most of our knowledge of truths are not gained by directly experiencing them, but rather though experiencing them through different forms of media. The troubling aspect of this is the degree of separation from the ideal truth gives plenty of room for individuals to embellish or manipulate truths in order to achieve personal gain. And in this day and age, personal gain is more prevalent than ever...at least that's the impression I get from watching TV and reading online articles...
posted by samsara at 6:51 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Facts were poisoned by chemtrails.

That's right. It was murder!
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:52 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Facts are alive and well. IN MY HEAD!
posted by Splunge at 6:53 AM on April 24, 2012


Facts was born in ancient Greece, the brainchild of famed philosopher Aristotle.

Uhh ... what?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 7:00 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


This was an insufferable article and I feel stupider for having read it.
posted by desjardins at 7:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm puzzled as to why they included "the internet" in the list of things that killed Facts.

Is that just dying traditional media bitterness, or is there something there that I'm missing?
posted by sotonohito at 7:24 AM on April 24, 2012


I also hear that Rock & Roll is dead.
posted by hoca efendi at 7:37 AM on April 24, 2012


Facts are lazy and facts are late.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:49 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The three things every generation believes it invented are music, sex, and cynicism.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:54 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I also hear that Rock & Roll is dead.

On the plus side we can now solve the energy crisis. I just need magnets, a long spool of copper wire, Freddie Mercury's corpse and Justin Bieber's version of "Somebody to Love".
posted by Talez at 7:58 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I also hear that Rock & Roll is dead."

Not if Neil Young has anything to say about it.
posted by Mike D at 8:15 AM on April 24, 2012


Justin Bieber's version of "Somebody to Love"

Is there some way for me to un-read this?
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 8:17 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and can I also point out the irony of this piece's desperate attempt to shoehorn in some partisan balance when this is overwhelmingly a right-wing phenomenon? Bill Clinton lying about his sex life is not the same as Republicans lying about global warming--only one of them is going to kill us all. It's precisely this false equivalency problem that's made journalism a willing accessory in the murder of facts.
Raising the earth's temperature a few °C is not going to kill us all. It would not be good. But it's not going to eradicate human life.
posted by delmoi at 8:29 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Much of the current sorry state of public discourse and logic can be traced back directly to his infamous sentence "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
Or at least the quoting out of context of that statement. What he said was
"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the--if he--if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not--that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement....Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true."
In other words, using the "normal" definition of "is" - there was not a sexual relation at the time he answered the question, it was over. The testimony was supposed to be secret anyway - Clinton wasn't trying somehow trying to twist words to mean different things. That quote was not from any kind of deceptive or inaccurate statement.

It's certainly ironic that someone would try to make a claim about something that "Killed facts" by making a false statement themselves.
posted by delmoi at 8:37 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Raising the earth's temperature a few °C is not going to kill us all. It would not be good. But it's not going to eradicate human life.

Surely you're not as stupid about climate change as that, to think what's going on is limited to the high on a summer's day being 96 F instead of 93 F?
posted by aught at 8:45 AM on April 24, 2012


Much of the current sorry state of public discourse and logic can be traced back directly to his infamous sentence... -- The ghosts of Nixon, Reagan, and Johnson will be happy to hear that.
posted by crunchland at 9:00 AM on April 24, 2012


If we are looking for disregard for facts committed by the left, widespread acceptance of excessive (government) debt is a far better example of something that will destroy everything than Clinton's improprieties.

You mean that lefty acceptance of excessive government debt that started under Reagan? The government debt that was reduced by Clinton and increased again by GW Bush?

This has been a total enigma to me for quite some time: The biggest government debt increases in the last 60 years were by Republican presidents. The only president who actually paid off debts in the last 35 years was a Democrat. Why is it that Republicans can get away with that lie that they are somehow better at reducing government debt, when that is obviously not true? That seems to me one of those examples of total disregard for facts.
posted by sour cream at 9:25 AM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure a visual representation of the decline of American public discourse would start with an image of Richard Nixon hunched over in a corner with a lighter trying to burn a stack of incriminating documents before the Feds busted in. In the back you'd see Ford desperately propping a chair under the doorknob.
posted by a debt owed at 9:26 AM on April 24, 2012


The sexual assault kit performed during Facts' autopsy came back positive for Rupert Murdoch's and Roger Ailes' DNA
posted by Renoroc at 9:42 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I won't believe that Facts is dead until I see the faked photoshopped picture of the corpse with my own eyes.
posted by naju at 9:53 AM on April 24, 2012


Clinton wasn't trying somehow trying to twist words to mean different things. That quote was not from any kind of deceptive or inaccurate statement.

Inaccurate, no. Deceptive, oh yes. If you parse that sentence, and I do mean the full sentence, you'll notice that what he's actually saying is that, unless Ms. Lewinsky was on her knees with her face at his open zipper at the very moment in which the question was asked, he would have been truthful replying in the negative. Now, this is just the kind of dishonest sophistry which pollutes the public discourse more than any outright lies. It is Bullshit, with a capital B.

That a politician, nay, a statesman, can produce such a statement with a straight face, and get away with it is truly an appalling sign of the times. It isn't at all surprising that the politician who most closely modelled himself on Clinton (pace the sexual shenanigans, as far as we know) was Tony Blair. And we all know the consequences of his somewhat strained relationship with Facts...
posted by Skeptic at 10:10 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


niccolo wrote:
Yes this article has some great right wing examples. If we are looking for disregard for facts committed by the left, widespread acceptance of excessive (government) debt is a far better example of something that will destroy everything than Clinton's improprieties.
You mean facts disregarded by the right, not left:
If the United States had per person health care costs were comparable to any other wealthy country, then we would be looking at long-term budget surpluses, not deficits.

This is why serious people focus on the need to fix the health care system, not the budget deficit. If we fix our private health care system, then there is no long-range budget problem. If we don't, then the economy will be wrecked even if we eliminate the public sector health care programs altogether.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 10:57 AM on April 24, 2012


And we all know the consequences of his somewhat strained relationship with Facts...
The Good Friday Agreement?
posted by fullerine at 11:01 AM on April 24, 2012


Surely you're not as stupid about climate change as that, to think what's going on is limited to the high on a summer's day being 96 F instead of 93 F?
Surely you're not stupid enough to think that there are only two possibilities: A 3 °F increase and the complete eradication of human life, do you?

Again, a thread about the "death of facts" and people run around spouting insane hyperbole. We may be approaching Peak Irony.
Inaccurate, no. Deceptive, oh yes. If you parse that sentence, and I do mean the full sentence, you'll notice that what he's actually saying is that, unless Ms. Lewinsky was on her knees with her face at his open zipper at the very moment in which the question was asked, he would have been truthful replying in the negative. Now, this is just the kind of dishonest sophistry which pollutes the public discourse more than any outright lies. It is Bullshit, with a capital B.
Yeah, except you're completely fucking wrong. If you divorce your wife, and someone asks you if you are having a sexual relationship with her, are you lying if you say you aren't because you haven't slept with her since the divorce? What about a girlfriend you break up with? Is it a lie to tell people you're not sleeping with her, if you haven't done so in months?

It sounds like you don't actually know the facts of the case, actually. Clinton and Lewinsky had stopped fooling around and she wasn't even working at the white house at the time. Lewinsky left the white-house in April 1996. Clinton's testimony in the Paula Jone's case was on January 17th, 1998.

Most people understand that if you haven't had any physical contact with someone in months, or years even, you are not having a sexual relationship with them. To claim that it's somehow a lie to say so is again, ridiculous.

In fact, the actual perjury charge had nothing to do with the statement he was talking about - he was asked in the same deposition if he'd ever had sexual relations with Lewinsky, and claimed he had never done so, on the basis that the sex acts were performed on him, but not by him. that was what the perjury charges were about, not the statements he made about the current point in time. The whole "depends on what the definition of is is" actually had nothing to do with the case at all - it just made a juicy soundbyte.

Again, kind of amazing that in a thread about the "Death of Facts" people can't even bother to get the facts right.

*ugh* - I'm not even trying to defend Clinton. Maybe he perjured himself, maybe not. But to claim that he was somehow trying to use a non-standard definition of "is" is just factually wrong. If you want to argue that facts are important then you really should be using facts that are correct.
posted by delmoi at 11:28 AM on April 24, 2012


Clinton lied because it is impolitic in America for a sitting President to say:

"Fuck yeah, I banged an intern, and if you want to know the truth, the incumbents of this office who did NOT bang interns according to records that I'm privy to can be numbered on one hand. So you can either sit there now and listen to thoroughly documented juicy stories about heroes from both parties and what they liked to do, have done to them, and the ages and sexes of those involved, or we can all just STFU about it right now and get back to pretending I'm a real estate scammer who personally clubbed Vince Foster and 93 other guys to death with a brick."
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:36 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yes this article has some great right wing examples. If we are looking for disregard for facts committed by the left, widespread acceptance of excessive (government) debt is a far better example of something that will destroy everything than Clinton's improprieties.
"If we are looking for disregard for facts committed by the left, widespread gay sex is a far better example of something that will destroy everything"

Is that a factual statement? No. Economists disagree about the importance of government debt. Krugman, for example, thinks it's not really a big problem (compared to other issues in the economy that should take precidence), and the budgets proposed by the republicans actually increase the debt anyway.

An opinion about the importance of the national debt is not a "fact". The idea that the national debt will "destroy everything" is not a "fact" either.

How exactly would the national debt "destroy everything"? The annual deficit in the 2012 budget was $1.101 trillion dollars. Revenues were $2.627T and the GDP was $14T. So, an across the board 7% tax on "Domestic Production" would bring the annual deficit down to zero.

The doomsday scenario is that investors would no longer want to purchase US treasuries, or whatever. But if that came to pass all that would actually happen would be tax hikes to cover spending. That's it. On average, everyone would maybe have to pay 10 percentage points more in taxes. That's it. Hardly an apocalypse. And even that minor inconvenience is unlikely to occur, as people still think of U.S treasury bonds as being super-safe.
posted by delmoi at 11:46 AM on April 24, 2012



posted by bz at 12:10 PM on April 24, 2012


"Facts" is not dead. What is happening is that people are lying, and you, dear Chicago Tribune, along with most other media outlets, will not say they are liars. Allen West is a liar and will not suffer any consequences for this. The Chicago Tribune is cowardly, at about the average level for a newspaper today.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:09 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


In the past, Chicago was an interesting newspaper town. There was a time in the last 50 years when there were four fairly successful dailies: The Trib and Sun-Times in the morning, the Daily News and American in the afternoon. TV news was credited for killing off the afternoon papers.

That said, a major nail in the coffin for Chicago news came in 1984, when Marshall Field III sold the semi-progressive Sun-Times franchise to Murdoch's News Corp. Murdoch pretty much ran it into the ground by turning it into a tabloid. Since then, there have been a few other owners for the Sun-Times, including Conrad Black.

The Tribune hasn't escaped its share of controversial leadership, either. It was always considered a supporter of Republicans over the years, and during Colonel McCormick's reign was critical of the New Deal and later a Joe McCarthy booster. Recent years haven't particularly helped its status in the news business.

Here's an interesting fact: The Tribune owns The Onion.
posted by SteveInMaine at 4:38 PM on April 24, 2012


I think the problem is that there are just too many facts presented to us everyday. There has been more information produced in the last 30 years than during the previous 5,000. People are often left with no coping mechanism than to deny the possibility that some things may be universally true, even for them.
posted by Greener_pastures at 5:57 PM on April 24, 2012


Eh, if you're looking for egregious examples, West's statement doesn't even qualify for the top ten in the past few years. Try this one: "...not intended to be a factual statement."
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:19 PM on April 24, 2012


After the eulogy, Fox will be offering a rebuttal.
posted by blueberry at 11:55 PM on April 24, 2012


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