I came across this sentence in The Economist, but I do not quite understand what does it mean. "Critics cannot appeal to neutral facts and remain loyal, because facts are not neutral"

  • Hopefully there was context to make it less sweeping. It does not seem to me like the Economist to make such a sweeping statement that "facts are not neutral" ... I can see them asserting that facts are not ~always~ neutral but even then I do not think that is their bent. My guess was the context was putting those words about neutral facts into another's mouth... In their world, Critics cannot appeal to neu...
    – Tom22
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 4:50
  • I'm guessing the Economist is mocking a group (by attributing this view to that group) they disrespect's expectations of loyalty and view that facts that might work against them are not neutral because whatever works against a good cause is biased ?
    – Tom22
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 4:52
  • Found the article . the preceding sentence was 'When power dominates truth, criticism becomes betrayal.' The sentence you give is within the context laid in the first. Within that way of thinking all facts are cherry picked 'spins' (perhaps, they are leaving that much room .. .perhaps deriding their regard for facts altogether) and a sign of betrayal (turning loyalty around)
    – Tom22
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 5:11

2 Answers 2


The sentence presumably refers to the idea that many neutral facts are only objective when measured using standards that may be arbitrary or biased, or evaluated using a particular set of abstractions forming a graph which may be arbitrary or biased.


  • In the 18th century it was a fact that whales were fishes.
  • In the 21st century it's a fact that whales are mammals.

It's the classification systems that make each a fact.

More recent example: The DSM is a medical reference work that is revised every decade or so, which reclassifies various mental disorders.

  • Using the first edition of the DSM (1952) homosexuality was a kind of disease, or "sociopathic personality disturbance", which could at that time be cited as a fact and be treated by doctors.
  • Whereas the 5th edition of the DSM omits homosexuality.

Again it's the system (or reference book) that makes the fact.

Obviously not all facts depend much on classification systems, or at least not on systems likely to be disputed. Example:

  • the largest whale is larger than the largest human.

I don't know what was trying to be said, but I can parse the logic of the sentence.

If it's true that facts are not neutral, then:

Critics cannot appeal to non-existent facts and remain loyal.

(Non-existent facts because if fact aren't neutral then a neutral fact can't exist.)

It's not clear what remain loyal refers to, but I can propose "the truth":

Critics cannot appeal to non-existent facts and remain loyal to the truth.

A possible rephrasing of this, to use current language:

Critics cannot uphold fake news and remain trustworthy.

However, that's only one possible interpretation of the sentence—and given without any context.

  • you need the context from the article to make sense of it: economist.com/news/leaders/… they are mocking republican's demand for loyalty as warping their approach to facts
    – Tom22
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 5:19
  • @tom22 I also don't understand what "when power dominates truth, criticism becomes betrayal" refers to or means. Although, I could interpret it to support the answer I already gave: Forcefully wielding false information under the guise of truth makes you untrustworthy. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 5:26
  • When people's ~desire/motive~ for tower is greater than their ~respect~ for truth --- they made it clear in the earlier paragraphs how motives were causing faulty thinking.. so the motives do not need to be restated
    – Tom22
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 5:32
  • @tom22 The point is that the article is an opinion piece, which means it's open to interpretation. This particular question has no clear-cut grammatical answer, and there are multiple "answers," that can all be given. (If your answer is different from mine, then provide your own.) Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 5:47

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