Fact is a central concept for law, journalism, and every other sphere of human life. Where there is an eternal risk of getting lost in the wilds of subjectivism and political correctness, facts come to the rescue. If we look at the exact sciences, for example, obsessive support for a “flat earth” was not considered a big problem at the end of the day. Humanists and other rational people knew that for any reasonable person, the ability to distinguish fact and its interpretation is like learning how to eat with a knife and fork.
An exhaustive explanation of what disrespect for facts leads to is suggested by the dystopias of Yevgeny Zamyatin, Aldous Huxley, and, of course, George Orwell. The mention of his work 1984 in the Ukrainian context is considered the norm for any “middle of the road” Ukrainian politician.
And even despite this, 1984 is the best account of the situation when a fact is replaced by an interpretation. Remember the eternal “swing”, over which Eurasia is fighting with Oceania? Or Winston Smith’s classic dialogue with O’Brien, where he tried to subjectivise everything he could?
Here, a quote is necessary:
“Winston could not clearly recall a time when the country would not fight … Officially, the ally and the enemy never changed … The party says that Oceania never entered into an alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knows that Oceania was allied with Eurasia just four years ago. But where is this knowledge stored? Only in his mind, and he, one way or another, will soon be destroyed. And if everyone accepts the lie imposed by the party … then this lie settles in history and becomes true.”
Is it possible today? According to the apt expression of our publicist Pavel Kazarin, who lived and worked in Crimea until 2014: “Russia invests in distrust and undermines the credibility of known facts.” To me, as a lawyer, this is obvious. When one state violates their neighbour’s border (and denies this fact), and it actively produces what is now called “fake news” in the media, it supports Russia’s many conspiracy theories and in general undermines the foundations of international law, all we can do is shrug. Why? Because I share the conviction that a dialogue can only be conducted with those who recognise the existence of a particular fact, and then argue only about that fact as it is interpreted.
For example, I will argue with those who recognise the fact of Holodomor, and at the same time question some pro-Ukrainian interpretations on this subject.
At the same time, it is really tossing pearls before swine to argue with people who question facts. Have you seen this phenomenon in courtrooms? Maybe someone “didn’t see” a raider attack? Or the construction that took place in the complete absence of any relevant permits? Or the denial of clearly evidenced domestic violence?
When I think about the future of Ukraine, with regard to international laws and with respect to the media, I increasingly understand that, for the development of our country, we must have respect for facts, and at the same time obstruct, in every way possible, those legal entities and individuals who present their fantasies as reality.
Do you support “statesmen” as they strive to produce pro-Ukrainian fakes? After their exposure, as they taste the shallow victory of the dishonesty they peddle, “yes, but everyone is doing this, so no one is wrong.” Such “logic” would be akin to the triumph and legitimisation of the (dishonest) story of the boy crucified in Sloviansk. Do you think that sometimes an uncomfortable story can be rewritten with pro-Ukrainian motives? In this case nothing differentiates us from our neighbours who consider the Ukrainians of Kherson as “the cradle of the Russian nation”.
Facts first, this is something that was said even by Donald Trump. But we already know this, without his advice.