How could I not touch on the phrase that has been blowing up the internet ever since it was first uttered on by Counselor to the US President Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview last week? Alternative facts.
In my last editorial, I discussed the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s first press briefing, where he accused the media of deliberately underestimating the size of the crowd for President Donald Trump's inaugural ceremony. Due to the media storm that followed, in defence of Spicer, Conway came up with her own blunder.
It seems that the general public was a baffled by this statement as I am because merriam-webster.com reported that lookups for the word ‘fact’ spiked in the time since the phrase was first used. For the record, they define fact as “the quality of being actual” and “a piece of information presented as having objective reality”. To put it simply, a fact is something that actually exists and can be proven to be exact.
Now let’s look at ‘alternative’, which is described as “offering or expressing a choice”. So, if I’m understanding this correctly, Conway feels that Spicer was offering a choice of objective reality or, more commonly called, misinformation.
Whatever way you spin it, you may be surprised to know that ‘alternative facts’ is actually a law term used to describe “inconsistent sets of facts with plausible evidence to support both alternatives”. From my understanding there are a bunch of rules about how this can actually be used in a court room, none of which I will ever wrap my head around. But, what I do know is the way that Conway used the term isn’t the way the law intended it.
As I alluded to last week, there are very measurable ways to determine something as simple as attendance at the inauguration and alternative facts just aren’t necessary. They are probably also not the best way to start a term in office, where accountability and transparency should be a priority.
While Conway’s phrase has provided plenty of fodder for comediennes and social media in general, well known journalist Dan Rather posted a scathing criticism of the Trump administration on his Facebook page stating, “Facts and the truth are not partisan. They are the bedrock of our democracy. And you are either with them, with us, with our Constitution, our history, and the future of our nation, or you are against it. Everyone must answer that question.”
It seems that alternative facts were just the start of Donald Trump’s first week of president where he managed to cause uproars by issuing an executive order on the Affordable Care Act, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and agreement, reinstating the Mexico City policy, preventing funding on family planning for many organizations, allowing for applications to be resubmitted for the Keystone XL Pipeline and signing a memorandum to advance construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. And, if that wasn’t enough, he also signed an executive order to propel his big campaign promise of building a wall along the US-Mexico border and took extreme measures to halt immigration and even general admittance into the USA for pretty much anyone coming from seven majority-Muslim countries.
While I have mixed emotions on many of these things and what they will mean for our country, my general emotion is terrified. If this is what can happen in just one week, what is going to happen in the next four years?