Facts don’t make writing good, and facts don’t make a story true. Mostly, facts provide an excuse for bad writing, and distract us from the truth about our own lives. Media outlets like to hype the factuality of their news reports, as incentive for you to ingest their bland, decontextualized descriptions of the day’s most violent events, but facts, by themselves, mean nothing. Divorced from perspective, facts have no power.
We tend to overemphasize the importance of facts in our culture, in the same way we over-value material objects. In reality, facts don’t lead to the truth any more than buying a Bowflex machine leads to the perfect physique. Nothing prevented you from exercising your muscles before you bought the machine. The machine just offers you a specific way to do something that you obviously prefer to avoid. Similarly, nothing prevented you from thinking deeply about your existential condition before The News started feeding you “the facts you need to understand your world.” Watching the News feels like you are doing something edifying, but really, it takes up way too much space for something we’re just not that involved with.
Journalists meticulously strip perspective out of their stories, leaving nothing but impotent rubbish to take up all of the space between the ads. “Unbiased and impartial” really means “disinterested and uncaring.” That’s how corporate advertisers like it, and that’s how corporate domination becomes the predominant perspective of all media. Advertisers pay for the right to present their perspective in their own words, against a neutral background of disconnected, irrelevant and objectified facts. That’s why “fact based journalism” is so popular in modern media.
For some reason, we believe in this myth about facts. We believe that exposing them and broadcasting them to every corner of the world will somehow make things better. We say: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” but today we see how the worst kind of scum thrives in bright light, so long as nothing taller or stronger can take root. Scum thrives because The News scorches the Earth with irrelevant, disembodied facts.
The News fills your head with irrelevancies that distract, subvert and belittle your own thought process, while it consumes all of the space where you might actually talk to your peers. Watching The News is not how you become an informed citizen; watching The News is how you become a brainwashed drone, and that’s not what anyone really aspires to become.
Information can be inspiring, relevant and powerful, but rarely is it so. Mostly, especially today, information distracts us, saps our energy, and wastes our time. The News becomes addictive, not because it provides an essential nutrient to intellectual and civic life, but because it masks the angst, confusion and general unease of alienation. Facts, as they come from to us from the media, amount to little more than an endless trail of breadcrumbs leading us nowhere except toward obesity, malnutrition and death.
To find the very worst fact-based writing, however, you have to read science. Science, as a whole, amounts to an immense edifice of the worst published writing in the history of human language, which unscrupulous men use in their quest to dominate the Earth. In that way, modern science is very much like the medieval Catholic Church.
Few of us read much real science. Mostly, this indecipherable gobbledygook gets filed away in back rooms of libraries or in ungoogleable internet servers, where no one ever reads it, but it becomes part of this enormous edifice of sacred texts into which all learned people have invested large portions of their lives, with the promise that if they did, they would earn more money than the rest of us.
In reality, nothing in that edifice of so-called knowledge helps us, or them, understand the world we live in. Instead, it amounts to an encyclopedia of violence and a compendium of oppression. The edifice we call “Science” contains the formula for every toxic chemical on Earth. It tells you everything you need to know to build a thermonuclear weapon, and it contains every study ever conducted for the purpose of learning how to influence consumer behavior and effectively brainwash a population. The truth of the matter is that the only thing educated people really learn, in all their years of study, is the dynamics of civilized political power, and by the time they understand that, they’re already too deeply invested in it to quit.
Scientists further deny the basic truth of our lived experience by telling us that the only facts that matter, have to be carefully chosen according to complex statistical algorithms that only scientists understand, or they have to be gathered in a laboratory setting. Scientists will be the first to dismiss the facts of your life as irrelevant, anecdotal and statistically insignificant. They’ll tell you to base your decisions on the proven probabilities of verifiable science, and to calculate, rather than feel your way through life. That’s how scientists tell you that they think they should make your decisions for you, and that’s another way that modern science resembles the Catholic Church.
All of the facts in the world don’t make bad writing worth reading. Facts are just a sleazy tool to sell empty words, and too many empty words can bury you. On the other hand, writing that speaks to you, has truth in it, and you will find the facts that support it because there is more truth in the facts of your life, than you will ever find in all of the news media and science writing on Earth.