An alternative fact (2017- ) is one that supports one’s beliefs and yet is somehow not just a plain fact – what others would call a “falsehood” if not a “lie”. The term was introduced on US President Donald Trump’s third day in office to defend something he had his spokesman say on the second:
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe.”
Media left and right condemned it. Snopes called it “unproven”, PolitiFact rated it “Pants on Fire”. Right-wing Fox News and the Daily Caller said it was untrue. So did Glenn Beck. While conspiracy theory sites Infowars and Gateway Pundit did not call it out, neither did they defend it – but alt-right-friendly Breitbart News did.
The New York Times had tweeted side-by-side pictures of Trump’s inauguration and Obama’s 2009 one (pictured at top). Both were taken from the top of the Washington Monument about 45 minutes before they were sworn in as president. Way more came to see the 2009 inauguration.
Despite that, Trump sent Sean Spicer, his spokesman, to say his was the biggest:
“We do know a few things, so let’s go through the facts.
- We know that from the platform where the President was sworn in, to 4th Street, it holds about 250,000 people. From 4th Street to the media tent is about another 220,000. And from the media tent to the Washington Monument, another 250,000 people.
- All of this space was full when the President took the Oath of Office.
- We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural.”
The first one might be true, but the second one seems unlikely based on the pictures. The third gives only the morning ridership for Obama – in 2013. Trump’s morning ridership was 193,000. In 2009, Obama’s was 513,000. The difference between those last two numbers is like in the pictures. It gets no better for Trump if you throw in Nielsen’s numbers for television or CNN’s for Internet streaming.
Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, was on “Meet the Press” the next day. She defended Spicer as presenting not “facts” but “alternative facts”!
Some dismiss it as a silly debate or say that the press does it too – but that turns a blind eye to Trump’s transparent lies. If he is willing to lie about something like this in the teeth of clear facts, what will he do when the stakes are much higher and the facts much less clear?
Remember, Trump built his political career on Birtherism.
Motive: Maybe he is a pathological liar or delusional or surrounded by yes men. Or maybe he is trying to create doubts about the press, which could bring him down based on the truth. Since he will not make his tax returns public and is therefore presumably corrupt, he would have good reason to fear them. Even more so if the Russians are behind his rise to power.
– Abagond, 2017.
- fake news
- conspiracy theory
- moral blindness
- thief-thief technique
- Guide to Trump
- RationalWiki media guide
- George Orwell: 1984