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"
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.