This short piece is written primarily as an overdue note of thanks for the prescient observation made by a dear mentor nearly six years ago. No analysis or extended commentary from me, just a few choice quotes from some wise thinkers.
Following Tuesday’s election, Nathan Jurgenson wrote a well-received post about “factiness.” Here’s his kicker:
On the right, they have what Stephen Colbert called “truthiness,” which we might define as ignoring facts in the name of some larger truth. The facts of Obama’s birthplace mattered less for them than their own racist “truth” of white superiority. Perhaps we need to start articulating a left-wing version of truthiness: let’s call it “factiness.” Factiness is the taste for the feel and aesthetic of “facts,” often at the expense of missing the truth. From silly self-help-y TED talks to bad NPR-style neuroscience science updates to wrapping ourselves in the misleading scientisim of Fivethirtyeight statistics, factiness is obsessing over and covering ourselves in fact after fact while still missing bigger truths.
Rewind to December 8, 2010. Six years ago, my mentor Fred Goodman (emeritus professor of education from the University of Michigan) shared the following with our small research community in an email titled “Neologisms”:
I’ve indulged my passion for creating new words by adding three to my vocabulary.
Some time ago I started using the word “fict” for a fact that was created by the author of a piece of fiction. For example, it’s a “fict” that Sherlock Holmes’ armchair was green. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said so and that’s all there is to the matter. So … a fict is to fiction as a fact is to faction. When people complain that a “faction” is already a word and I can’t define it that way, I say that that is exactly what I mean. A “fact” is only a fact to a “faction” … be the faction left-wing or right-wing politicians or a faction of physicists who differ over what constitutes a fact from another set of physicists. But I realize there is another kind of “fact.” Inspired by Fox News perhaps, it’s a fact that has been sold to folks on grounds that it’s good for them when “in fact” it’s just the opposite. I’ve decided to call that a “fuct.”
I’ll leave it there for now – fict, fact, and fuct.