By now, you may have heard of Kellyanne Conway. You may not know her by name, but you may know her by the statement she made defending some of the outright falsehoods touted by President Donald Trump’s Press Secretary.
This statement was that the Press Secretary was using ‘alternative facts’.
So what exactly are alternative facts? Facts that are not facts - in other words, lies, falsehoods, untruths, ‘made-up stuff’.
But, what’s the harm? I mean, people utter little white lies all the time and it does no harm, does it?
When someone is in the hospital, fighting to recover from whatever ails them, a little white lie of ‘you’re looking good today’ when they look just as ill as ever can help the person feel a little better. Does it hurt the person? Likely not. But does that mean the statement is true? No.
But, now, you could call that an ‘alternative fact’.
But, what would happen if everyone used alternative facts for things that actually made a big difference?
Let’s say I am travelling to Winnipeg. Normally, I’d fill my car up with gas before I leave town, and then when I get to Winnipeg, it would be nearing empty.
Using alternative facts, my gas tank is not empty. I choose to believe that my gas tank is only one-quarter empty, rather than lingering on ‘E’, and go about my business within the city. I then need to come home, and, believing my alternative facts, see that my tank is still at three-quarters full. I proceed to leave the city, only to be stranded on the side of the road a few kilometres later because my gas tank is, in fact, empty. Believing my alternative facts did not help me.
Maybe not the most serious of alternative facts or beliefs, but still, not fact. I am believing an alternative reality.
Now, I think alternative realities are great...in books, in movies, in video games, but not in real life. In our every day lives, we must take the cold, hard facts and, even if we don’t like them, live with them.
Facts are just that - statements proven to be true by some means. Two plus two is four. This is fact. If a child says two plus two is three because of ‘alternative facts’, they are still wrong.
So, in a now, ‘post-truth’ world, what are we to do? The only thing you should be doing - looking for the facts. Looking to make sure the statements uttered by any news source, friend on Facebook, random person on Twitter or politician are true. Look for peer-reviewed articles, and things backed up by credible sources.
I’m sorry if your favourite blog doesn’t fall into this category and is no longer proven to be factual. But, the facts are the facts, and we must abide by them, no matter if we like them or not.