Facts Are Stubborn Things

Organizers expected 200,000 in Washington, D.C.; more than double that came. From New York to Los Angeles, Gulfport to Boise, Paris to Nairobi--and yes, Antarctica too--what started as a solitary Facebook page became the demonstration of a lifetime. Globally, 3.2 million marched on January 21st in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington. The scenes on TV and in the streets were stunning. The Trump administration, on its first full day, reeled at the optics. In his first act as Press Secretary, Sean Spicer grasped at straws to defend the president's inauguration crowds, simultaneously insisting that "no one had numbers" and that President Trump's was "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration."

But for all the cloud and fog in the capital, the color of the day proved bright pink.

So here's the takeaway: grassroots movements and community outreach are more important than ever. When authority figures peddle "alternative facts" and attack independent journalists, truth becomes something that needs advocacy to survive. The tools to push back against this brand of institutional disinformation are available.

For all the criticism social media has endured this election cycle--much of it merited--its power to democratize current affairs remains one of the defining forces of the century. We saw how it can be tapped on Saturday, when one Facebook page created by a woman in Hawaii led to the largest collective protest in U.S. history. That's the kind of game plan that will be necessary over the next four years. That's how we fight for the truth, when others try to erode our trust in it. That's how we remember that there can never be an alternative to the facts.

As President John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."