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Tuesday, July 11, 2006 


Can facts hate? Of course not. But I'm sure every rational and semi-objective human being in the United States has casually mentioned a fact only to be subjected to angry and hysterical denunciation as a racist, fascist, or some other kind of -ist. You might have even been foolish enough to justify yourself by pointing out that the fact was, in fact, a fact--the truth. You were probably surprised when the denunciation resumed, only louder with more personal invective.

I've been planning on posting on this very question for some time but kept blowing it off. However, I came across some posts on Unabashedly Unhyphenated and the Freedomfolks and the topic generated the suggestion of a Factist Blogger Group, which I've volunteered for. This seems like as good a time as any to make that long-delayed post. KD (at UU) suggests starting with a definition and offers up his take:
Factism - The doctrine that facts subvert misrepresentation, particularly as used in a politically correct manner.
I was thinking along these lines:
Factism: (1) A stubborn belief in the existence of one objective reality in which everyone lives and is subject to. The fundamental nature of which is immutable and impervious to human whim. (2) An equally stubborn belief that facts can't be dispensed with by ignoring them or proclaiming the opposite to be true. (3) The offensive and outrageous belief that (1) and (2) are good things.
Non-factists aren't against facts, per se, only facts that conflict with what they want to be true or believe ought to be true. Example:
Non-offensive fact: The nations of Africa are no longer under European colonial rule.
Factist statement: Since the European powers have left Africa has gone to hell in a handbasket.
A lot of us who are reasonably objective have a hard time wrapping our minds around the seemingly bizarre concepts of subjectivists. To us, a rock hard fact is a comfort in a sea of chaos. To them, a rock hard fact is a speedbump on the superhighway of whim indulgence.

To illustrate I offer up two examples that opened my eyes. Both occurred at the Solano Community College near the SF Bay area. Both occurred, in fact, while I was sitting on the exact same bench on campus.

In the first instance, I was debating some topic with an acquaintance when a young 20-something woman that he knew approached. She was greeted and stood there listening to us talk. At one point, I supported a point that I was making by citing some statistics on Black-on-Black crime that had been recently released. She cut me off and snarled out, "You can't say that!". I was quite shocked at her needless hostility and offered what I thought was a reasonable response,"But, it's true!" "That," she sneered, "is WHY you can't say it." She then proceed to stomp off in a snit." Naturally, the remainder of our conversation was dedicated to figuring out what had just happened.

The second time, I was chatting with the same acquaintance, when another woman approached. This one, it turned out, had just turned 20. We were discussing a political science professor who was frustrating the hell out of us by spending only about 10 minutes per class on topic and the rest badmouthing Republicans. (He especially hated the mayor of San Diego for some reason.) When the young woman arrived we were grousing about college academics that use their classes as captive audience for their outrageous political views.

The conversation went something like this:

Her: Yeah, I know what you mean. I don't think Republicans should be allowed to teach college. Isn't there some kind of law?

We courteously explained that she had the positions reversed, which she found--disturbing.

Her: You mean you guys are Republicans?
Us: Yeah.
Her: But why? (obviously in distress)

We explained as best we could our political philosophy.

Her: (incredulously) Did you guys vote for Bush (in '92)
Us: Yes.
Her: Why?
Us: Because we don't want to live through Jimmy Carter again.
Her: Why? What was wrong with him?
Us: Come on, don't you remember what it was like when Carter was president?
Her: (without hesitation) No.

I admit that stumped us for a while until we realized that she was only 8 years old when Reagan became president. So we told her what it was like. We told her about double digit inflation, double digit unemployment, stagflation, national malaise, gas lines, even-odd rationing, the gutted military that still couldn't meet recruitment quotas, the national humiliation of the Iran hostage crisis for 444 days, the "rescue" mission that wound up needing to be rescued when it crashed in the desert, and everything else we could thinks of. None of which she had ever heard of. As we spoke the began to scowl more and more before she finally spoke.

Her: "I don't believe it!"
Us: "But, it's true!"

She gave us a contemptuous look and said something that absolutely stunned me.

Her: "I won't believe it until I see it on TV."

At this point she flipped her long blond hair behind her shoulder, whipped around and walked off. I yelled after her.

Me: "But that's when you should stop believing it."

She gave a snort but otherwise kept going.

My take home point on this, besides the factism thing. Is that for some people, TV is realer than real. It is the ultimate arbiter of what is and what isn't. But that's another post.

Amazing! True but still amazing!

I like the “speed bump” explanation. I laughed at that thought but it is true. I remember back in the 60s some people I knew would ask me how I could study math and science since there is no room for opinion. The “Humanities” and “Social Science,” I was told, were so much more creative.

Facing reality was never a strong desire for my friends on the left. I think it’s worse now ... these people are the professors today.

I agree, though I am a leftist of sorts.
But as I see it subjectivism can be found across both left and right, atheism and religion, skepticism and non-skepticism.

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  • I'm dostrick
  • From Texas, United States
  • The All Seeing Eye. A symbol of the Enlightenment and I like to think one day it will be a symbol of me. *** Middle-aged juvenile delinquent. *** Meyers-Briggs INTP if you follow that. *** My primary interests are in history, philosophy, languages, and literature. All the things that guarantee you'll never get a well-paying job.
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