Facts are Facts

Posted on January 23rd, 2017 by

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” This Aldous Huxley quote is displayed prominently at the top of our Fighting Fake News online guide. We created our fake news guide because helping people develop the skills to evaluate information is central to our mission.

So let’s talk about “alternative facts,” which popped up in the news cycle over the weekend. As Merriam-Webster pointed out, there is no such thing as “alternative facts.” According to the dictionary’s tweet, “a fact is a piece of information presented as having objective truth.” They tweeted this after claims from various White House officials and advisors inflated the number of people attending the inauguration. When challenged, some of those advisors said they were simply presenting “alternative facts.”

While facts can be interpreted in a variety of ways, the dictionary is right: a fact is a piece of information presented as having objective truth. Facts need to be questioned and explored – you should absolutely look into how a fact was established – but once a fact has been proved, the “alternative” ceases to exist and you are left with facts and only facts.

(A final disclaimer: As an academic library at a private institution, it’s a little awkward to wade into the political arena without appearing to be partisan. The library is not endorsing one party over another, or advocating for any particular political position or candidate. Instead, we are calling out instances where information is being twisted and spun in troubling ways. We’d do the same no matter which political party was in charge.)

 


2 Comments

  1. Scott Ickes says:

    Thank you Julie. I’ll be bringing this up and airing it out with students the first week of the new semester.

  2. Greg Kaster says:

    Bravo Julie and Library Colleagues! More important than ever.