Tearing the October page from the calendar—black, witch-hatted cats giving way to Pilgrim-cloaked tabbies high-fiving turkeys—I’m reminded that an image of three cats dressed as wise men in front of a red-stockinged hearth is just thirty days away. I know it’s coming, just like I know that hurricane watching will give way to sleeping with windows open; oak leaves will clog gutters and the culture war flashpoint, ‘happy holidays’ versus ‘Merry Christmas’ will clog checkout lines at Bath & Body.
Even without a scientific study to legitimize it, my intuition tells me that this will be the balsam-scented season of ‘future facts.’ These are not merely facts that have yet to be created, they already exist and merely require discovery. On the surface, this makes sense. The sun was the center of our solar system before that fact was discovered. Gravity, it seems, held people from floating away from the Earth long before it was named. I know that Christmas-kitty December is coming before I even turn the page on the calendar.
Science has given us a methodology for the discovery of facts: observe, hypothesize, test, measure, conclude. Folks engaged in true science argue that this is a thoroughly iterative task: that the work of science is most valuable when we conclude that the hypotheses based upon our casual observations are proved false. A bias toward confirmation has confused many in the lay-community to think that science only works when our hypotheses are affirmed. Contrarily, in the academic world, once an experiment has confirmed a presupposition, this occurrence is treated with such circumspection that scientists insist on its repeatability as affirmation.
Innocent until proven guilty, common law asserts. The court of public opinion, like bastardized science, is not beholden to such standards.
Theorists have shown empirically that the very act of observation can affect results. In the models upon which investigative experiments are built, a bias toward a conclusion affirms the observation.
The media and politicians, and even some politicized scientists-turned-activists have become peddlers of these future facts. They speak the language of science, but have conflated hypothesis with prediction. They’re so invested in driving narrative—narrative, nowhere in the scientific method—that conclusions have overpowered the gathering of data. The mere act of investigation stands as near-equivalence to proof. Witness that, according to a new WaPo-ABC poll, forty nine percent of Americans think Trump committed a crime. Without a shred of non-circumstantial evidence, they tell us to wait for future facts.
Caught up in Hallow’s Eve’s witch-hunting, they will find something. Witch hunts prove themselves. Judge Hathorne (from The Crucible), Ken Starr, and Former-Director Mueller, once set loose upon their investigations, root out lies, deceit, and criminality. Perhaps those lies, deceit and criminality—as in the case of the Manafort indictments—are merely a retread of five year-old facts uncovered and equally unrelated. Perhaps, as in the case of Papadpoulos, an overwhelmed novice does his best to cover up otherwise innocuous, though ridiculously suspect, activities.
Future facts are not limited to Trump’s (or the Trump Campaign’s or people who once sent an email to Trump’s campaign) collusion with Russia. Nor are they, as fact-futurists from the Republican Party are working to predict, limited to conspiracies that merely await disclosure of their own witch hunts like UraniumOne and golden-showered dossiers.
Then there are future facts that intersect with the man-made causality of climate change, carbon emissions, and the Right’s skepticism toward the self-affirming models that link them. Another favorite flashpoint in the war over scientific Methodism—an orthodoxy that approaches religiosity—occurs where tax cuts and economic growth converge.
As to questions thoroughly unknowable, where thirty and forty year old, long-suppressed and unverifiable memories that exist in the recesses of victims’ and perpetrators’ memories, the facts may never escape he-said-she-said-ism to ever become anything other than perpetually future.
Ultimately, those witches will sink or float—or swing. Future facts will either find the cathartic light of day or will drown in the cauldrons of their own making. The lines between fake news, alternative facts, and future facts are as thin as the veils of hypocrisy and partisan posturing that alternately demand and dismiss them to their own logical ends.
We may find that Trump is guilty of the collusion that set this witch hunt in motion. For some, this would be a political—if not actual—coup. For some, it will be a self-fulfilling prophesy. At the end of this experiment in faux-science, our republic is undermined, our institutions are hollowed, our standing in the world becomes a laughing-stock, and the infidelities of our Proctors replace the civic good toward which even the most imperfect among us can aspire.
I, like you, am ready to tear another page off of the calendar. Sometimes we just need kitten-pics to right the wrongs of time, future facts notwithstanding.
Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at Momentitiousness.com