Editorial: “Alternative facts”: the media’s concern stems from between Conway’s lines
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This week in politics, we have come across a new term that doesn’t make sense.
“Alternative Facts” is the phrase, and the creator is Kellyanne Conway, President Donald Trump’s spokeswoman and campaign manager. She graduated from George Washington University Law School with honors and became the first woman to run a Republican presidential campaign in August 2016. Currently, she serves as counselor to the president. Indeed, it is puzzling as to why Conway would create such a ridiculous statement.
On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Conway refused to concede that Sean Spicer, the White House’s press secretary, lied about the size of the crowd that attended Trump’s inauguration. Spicer stated that it was “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.” Trump also changed his background on his Twitter to a picture taken at Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, one that saw nearly twice the turnout.
Initially, Conway circled around questions about Spicer’s statement, deflecting attention to the previous eight years of the Obama administration and how the media covers Trump, before finally arriving to confront Spicer’s lies.
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving—Sean Spicer, our press secretary—gave alternative facts,” said Conway.
“Alternative facts aren’t facts, they are falsehoods,” replied Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press.”
Chris Wallace of Fox News had the chance to sit down with Reince Priebus, the White House Chief of Staff, to discuss the press conference. Priebus accused the media of lying about the crowd sizes, despite there being no evidence to support his claims.
“You talk about honesty,” Wallace said. “You say this is about honesty. But there’s another issue here though, Reince, and that is the president’s honesty. Two things he said yesterday were just flat wrong.”
The outright refusal to acknowledge that the phrase “alternate facts” isn’t incorrect definition-wise, prompted the Twitter account for the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to tweet, “A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality.”
It’s unclear if there will be a boycott of the dictionary, especially one that has been around for nearly two centuries.
If that wasn’t enough, Merriam-Webster posted again two days after “In contemporary use, fact is understood to refer to something with actual existence.”
No evidence has been provided by the White House to support this phrase, nor will any ever be substantiated. It is false.
However, this sheds light on a more important issue. Fears of the protection of the freedom of press have increased. Falsehoods and lies are not being condemned by this administration, rather they are being promoted.
Trump initiated this controversy on knowledge himself. He has been hostile towards some journalists, and generally most who questions his authority or merit. Any member of the media who questions his version of a story is simply branded as “liberal” or “biased.” Similarly, intelligence agencies have been discredited by Trump because they presented factual information that contradicted what he wanted to believe. Their message, which needs to be listened to, is ignored because the agencies are equated with a larger media who some conservatives believe will present Trump negatively, regardless of his actions.
However, even with political motivations, both the right and the left wing need to be able to acknowledge facts. Just because someone is biased in a certain direction, does not mean what they are saying is inherently false. Biased does not equal untrue.
In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “bias” as “an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.”
Liberals can be unreasonable. The media can be unreasonable. Everybody can be unreasonable, but having poor reasoning is different than telling outright lies.
This wasn’t a slip up. It wasn’t a gaffe. It was a bold-faced lie told by the Trump administration, and they’re sticking to it. The moment all that possible reasoning vanished was when they were attempting to cover up for something they knew they lied about.
The worst part? Conway did not believe that the “alternative facts” undermined the credibility of the White House. They believe that lying to the American people carries no weight, and it is simply a question that can be avoided and dodged. Trump’s administration is receiving backing regardless of their stance on the truth and not facing the expected consequences.
While what they lied about arguably is not that important in the large scheme of things, what matters is the fact that they were willing to lie about something so small and easily disprovable. It is a fact that this administration is clinging to falsehoods to defend itself. They are willing to blame the press when they lie, further straining the relationship between the public and the media.
It is time for the Trump administration to reread the Constitution. Freedom of press is covered. With attacks on the media continuing, expect that clause to receive scrutiny soon.
Man’s greatest ability is his ability to reason and acknowledge facts. These are objective, verifiable truths that cannot be refuted. Without facts, we do not have reality.
Facts are facts because they are true and accurate. Alternative facts? You can’t have facts that contradict each other. Then they aren’t facts. George Orwell’s “1984” warns about this exact situation. It has become one of the top-selling books on Amazon for a reason.
Tell the truth. It’s a shame that we now have a White House that has failed to establish trust. The only way this “Makes America Great Again” is if Trump supporters were referring to the Nixon presidency.