Facts Still Dead: Little solace in the distortion-laden presidential campaign.
Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke attracted a great deal of attention last April when, disgusted by the avalanche of misinformation being tossed around on the campaign trail, he wrote an obituary for Facts.
The piece rapidly became a graveyard smash and an Internet sensation. It was shared on social media nearly 89,000 times in a matter of days.
Since that time, we’ve been through a hotly contested presidential election. So what was the impact on poor old Facts? Any likelihood of a resurrection, or did the politicos simply drive a stake through his heart?
Sounds like Huppke is leaning toward the latter.
“It got really bizarre,” he says. “There was a level of dishonesty out there that was pretty striking.”
Huppke cites Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s widely debunked claim that Jeep was moving production jobs from the United States to China; Democratic House Speaker Harry Reid’s evidence-free assertion that Romney failed to pay taxes for a decade; and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s error-laden convention speech as just a few of the many signs that Facts remains deeply buried. When Ryan said his iPod playlist “starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin,” it was game over.
“It’s hard, because we’re bombarded with information, and if you have a life — you’re going to work, taking your kids to school, and finally you go home and fall asleep — it’s impossible to really keep on top of what’s happening and what’s right and wrong,” Huppke says.
“For as great as all the access to information is, it has created an enormous amount of noise,” he adds.
Huppke says the rise of blogs, which do not have the same checks and balances as traditional media, played a role in sealing Facts’ fate. “But when you got to Twitter — everyone and their uncle is a reporter.”
Twitter is similar to a game of telephone, Huppke says. “If you have 20 people on the line, and you whisper something to the person next to you, it’s totally different by the time it reaches the end of the line.” Except this time, not everyone’s laughing when the last person in line mistakes “banana” for “Romney’s proposing a $5 trillion tax cut.”
“Saying, ‘I [read] this thing in the [newspaper] that Obama did’ and ‘I heard on Twitter what Obama did’ is very different,” Huppke says. “I think Twitter is like another vehicle for letting us zip around Facts.”
Do people even miss Facts, or are they perfectly content hanging out with the survivors listed in Facts’ obit, his brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and his sister, Emphatic Assertion?