Facts are subversive. Subversive of the claims made by democratically elected leaders as well as dictators, by biographers and autobiographers, spies and heroes, torturers and postmodernists. Subversive of lies, half-truths, myths; of all those ‘easy speeches that comfort cruel men’.
… Facts subvert the lies of oppressors but also the heroic self-images of countries and individuals. Poland’s image of itself as a pure victim of history is shaken by the true story of the murder of Jews by Poles in the village of Jedwabne. The United States’ cherished claim to moral exceptionalism stumbles over the photographs of torture in the prison at Abu Ghraib. Britain’s post-imperial illusions fare little better. Even great political writers, held up to us as moral authorities, are not immune.
… The first job of the historian and of the journalist is to find facts. Not the only job, perhaps not the most important, but the first. Facts are cobblestones from which we build roads of analysis. They are mosaic tiles that we fit together to compose pictures of past and present. There will be disagreement about where the road leads and what reality or truth is revealed by the mosaic picture. The facts themselves must be checked against all the available evidence. But some are round and hard – and the most powerful leaders in the world trip over them.
>"Facts Are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade Without a Name"
by Timothy Garton Ash