Rex W. Huppke’s Chicago Tribune obituary for “Facts” on April 19 caught a fair amount of attention. Huppke traced the life of Facts from its Aristotelian birth in Greece, through the years of growth during empirical observation.
When 19th and 20th century societies questioned science as nourishment for Facts there were setbacks. Facts was often sustained by Records through these rough years, and as we moved to lightning-speed, digitally refreshed records every minute of every day there could have been great advances for Facts. But human nature being what it is that isn’t what seems to have happened.
The death knell for Facts has been, according the Huppke, the explosion of social media and no need for verification of assertions.
National Public Radio aired a segment April 29 that reported the “death” and wondered if this meant trouble for the practice of fact-checking. Bill Adair of Politico was quoted as say that fact-checking was alive and well.
The story went on, however, to highlight Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan’s research. He found that people predisposed to believe incorrect information simply are not swayed by correction. He calls it the “backfire effect.”
Can the death of Records be far behind that of Facts, like the mate in a longtime marriage? Who needs Records once Facts dies?