Here's why alternative facts should scare you

Alternative facts blur the lines between truth and partisan opinion

Lying has always been a part of politics.

Richard Nixon lied about Watergate. Bill Clinton lied about his affair. Now Kellyanne Conway and the Trump administration are lying about a whole slew of things: the size of Trump’s inauguration, the non-existent Bowling Green Massacre and the rising murder rate in the U.S.

These are just a few of the lies and uses of “alternative facts” that have popped up within the last month. 

It's no secret that the media influences our generation. As an ASU student, I am worried that facts in the media are starting to become indistinguishable from opinion. 

The phrase "alternative facts" was created out of a need for facts that simply do not exist. It was first uttered by Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president in an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when describing the false facts regarding President Trump’s inauguration crowd.

Conway was defending the actions of the Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who claimed that Trump's inauguration had the largest crowd in U.S. history. Chuck Todd was claiming that it was not actually the largest crowd and asked why the press secretary had said it was. 

The crowd was not the largest in U.S. history and Conway said that her press secretary had given her “alternative facts” on the matter. 

Although it is hard to actually gauge the number of attendees at a presidential inauguration, CNN does claim that former President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration crowd size was probably larger than Trump’s, which would indicate that her alternative facts were really just opinion.

In the wake of the “Meet the Press” interview with Conway, sales of George Orwell’s novel “1984” have reportedly shot up by nearly 10,000 percent according to NPR .

Alternative facts seems to conjure up the idea of “newspeak” from the book which is the language used by the fictional government to control its citizens thoughts, moods and actions.

The parallel between the phrase “alternative facts” and “newspeak” is somewhat startling. Both are used to change the way people think and to distort the truth in order to discredit the other side’s points. They also both make it seem as though their opinions are fact.

It’s frightening to think that some people including Conway are attempting to distort the facts for everyone, making it so that the general public is unable to decipher what is true and what is not.

Truth should not be affected by your political beliefs, and if each party begins coming up with their own “alternative facts” to defend their ideology, then people will cease to be able to distinguish fact from opinion and become more divided than ever before.

I’m not saying that different political parties can’t disagree with each other — people have a right to their own beliefs. However, people should be able to distinguish a fact from an opinion.

Disagreeing with someone’s opinion is fine. Disagreeing with facts is a completely different issue. 

Like I said before, lying is not a new for politics. However, this move to simply discredit facts by using this phrase is outrageous. It disguises a lie by playing to people's tendencies to side with what their party tells them.

As a student journalist, it is scary to think that we may end up in a post-truth era, an era where people aren't able to tell fact from fiction. 

Conway was able to play to people's distrust of the media and simply say that her side had its own set of facts that would prove her right. She used alternative facts in attempt to cover up the administration's mistakes.

All this does is give her a short-term win with her supporters and sow more mistrust of the media by the general public. Journalists cannot continue to report what is true if the truth can simply be discredited by those who offer an alternative fact supporting their own idea.

"I think this idea that there is a war on the media makes it incredibly important for journalists to basically do their jobs, and their jobs are to seek out the truth and pick out the facts,” Christina Leonard, director of Reynolds Business Reporting Bureau, said.

Our future generation needs to be able to tell a fact from an opinion. If that is something we aren't able to do, then we will truly be living in a post-truth era. 


Reach the columnist at morganbwillis@gmail.com or follow @Morganwillis37 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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