#AlternativeFacts: What’s the Fuss?

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Trump has been president for barely a fortnight and has already caused a stir in both US and global politics. Despite his controversial actions, however, the one issue that is trending across the world at the moment is the idea of ‘alternative facts’.

What are #AlternativeFacts? The idea arose on Trump’s inauguration day, with his Press Secretary Sean Spicer stating that the crowd present ‘was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period’ – a blatant lie considering American media was showering the world with pictures of a rather sparse looking crowd outside the US Capitol. However, the initial ‘lie’ was not the cause of controversy here. On the 22nd January, Trump’s Senior Adviser Kellyanne Conway proclaimed that Spicer did not lie, he just presented an ‘alternative fact’.

Why has this become big news? I for one, am not surprised that the Trump Administration have managed to coin this phrase. Trump is a reality TV star and managed to manipulate the media in such a way that it practically secured his place in the Oval Office, and let’s face it-  he isn’t exactly known for his chivalrous, shy character. In fact, I am a bit surprised that this phrase didn’t surfaced before the election. British politics, for instance, has seen many parties and politicians using the technique of ‘alternative facts’ as a way of manipulating many voters who do not necessarily read beyond the headlines. Brexit is a prime example of how these ‘facts’ managed to persuade some voters into believing that certain promises would come to fruition (do I need to mention the bus?). We should not be surprised that the Trump Administration has simply found a term for this- its a common political tactic.

However, what has come as a surprise about the ‘alternative facts’ saga, is the increase in the sales of George Orwell’s 1984.  Parallels can be drawn between Orwell’s work and Trump’s America, especially as Orwell tells a story of how a totalitarian regime disseminates propaganda and revises history through the concept of Newspeak, a language designed by the government to influence the way people think and prevent ‘thought crimes’. Sales of 1984 have risen to such an extent that the book has now sold out on Amazon and publishers Penguin are struggling to cope with increased demand. Interestingly, the last time sales of Orwell’s book spiked was in 2013, when leaks by Edward Snowden made the scale of National Security Agency surveillance a huge international news story and an ethical concern for many.

Credit: geograph.org.uk

While it is obvious that Trump’s Administration should not be lying outright and propagating these phrases, it is hardly the crime of the century, and to be focusing on these ‘alternative facts’ is simply taking away news coverage from some of Trump’s more sinister policies. We should be hash-tagging and generating more anger about what he has done in his first week of office, not focussing on the fact that both he and his administration lie, as it is pretty obvious that any Politician who wants a career or some sort of media coverage will lie at some point.

At least one good thing will come of this trending hashtag, at least people will read Orwell’s book and think more carefully before believing everything that comes out of a Politician’s mouth.

 

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I am a second year Modern History and Politics student.

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