By now the entire world is familiar with alternative facts – at least if sales of 1984 are any indication. However horrifying and double-thinkey it may be, alternative fact is the new name for the truth in the Trump administration.
(I think this next part should probably go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, if only to affirm to myself that there was once a world where it was true and maybe we can get back there.) A fact, at least as I understand the word, is not up for debate. It is a fixed point, unalterable and empirical, based in a measurable, provable quantum. Facts are reality, they are the very metric by which we formulate reality. Alternative reality is, well, not.
The whole thing is an offensive, hostile sham designed to insult the intelligence of the American people.
(There, I said it, feels good.)
I and all my friends in the thinking community can get as metaphysically angry about this as we want, but the reality (I know, I’m obsessed) is that the mandate of the alternative fact is not going away. That’s because the idea is absolutely genius at reaching the disenfranchised on the right. These are the folks who believe that elite leftists control the government, corporate America, and the media- you might know them as the alt. right (see the appeal of alternative as a label?).
To this demographic, the conventional narrative (what the rest of us would call fact-based) is caught in a liberal-bias tailspin from which it will never recover. So when they hear something so bald-facedly insane as an alternative fact, it doesn’t sound crazy. It sounds like sweet relief from the barrage of information they get from sources they’re convinced are lying.
So when the president does something like, say, issue an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and then claims it is not a Muslim ban, despite the dozens of times he promised to “ban Muslims” in his campaign using similar executive action, the mainstream media’s outcry falls on deaf ears.
Who cares whether it’s a ban or not? The alternative fact is that President Donald Trump just made our country safer. (He didn’t.) Or the alternative fact is that these countries harbor dangerous refugees that America can’t afford to run the risk on (We can). The reality doesn’t matter anymore in alternative fact land – and that’s part of the genius.
A journalist working for the Toronto Star is compiling a list of every lie Trump tells in office. So far the tally is at 33, and that’s just in verified statements. You might think this is the kind of document that would sink the President’s credibility, but pieces of this kind are having the opposite effect. By calling Trump out on falsehoods he’s spouting, the media more firmly establishes themselves as the opposition party in Alternative Factland. They become a bunch of schoolyard bullies, ganging up on the poor President every time he misspeaks or gets a fact wrong. Sarah Palin tried a similar gambit with her “gotcha moment” soundbite, but she was trying to reach level-headed, news reading and watching Republicans. Of course, that defense wouldn’t work on people who trust mainstream news sources. But to the citizens of Alternative Factland, the media really is piling on Trump unfairly (in a way they would NEVER have done with Obama).
This bullshit dichotomy, the opposition of the media and the truth allows Trump and his cronies to say whatever they want, then blame whatever backlash it creates on the unfair media.
So too with Kellyanne Conway’s ‘Bowling Green Massacre,’ a massacre which is most notable for never having happened. But to hear Ms. Conway’s version, more than a dozen Americans were gunned down in cold blood by two Iraqi refugees. Except for the fact that they weren’t, but those two Iraqis were involved in a kind-of, maybe conspiracy which made the locals of Bowling Green uneasy so whatever, call it a massacre, it’s virtually the same thing. And in Alternative Factland, it really is. The threat of terror to America is the exact same as actual acts of terror against the American people. How else could anyone reconcile the tiny percentage of attacks actually perpetrated on Americans resulting in the level of hysteria and xenophobia evident in recent policy?
I usually try to end my articles with something hopeful, an action point or way in which the thing I’m ranting about can be addressed and dismantled. But that is impossible with Alternative Factland and her citizens – there is no way to pierce the deluded bubble and have a reasoned discussion. The only ray of hope I can think of is that now is the time to start identifying the politicians and people willing to participate in the farce of alternative facts. Write their names down, follow what they do, and in two years, for the love of God, don’t validate them by voting to live in an imaginary republic.