Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Alternative Facts in The Age of Orwell

This post is particularly apt given the other post on “the true and correct” account of the inauguration.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on how Trump World tries to defend its reliance on ‘alternative facts’.

Occasionally, a political figure coins a phrase that becomes an instant classic. In the case of Trump World, it happened just 48 hours after the new president’s inauguration.

Trump and his team have been furious about the evidence that the Republican’s inaugural crowd was rather paltry, leading White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to upbraid reporters on Saturday with bizarre claims. A day later, Kellyanne Conway, a top member of Donald Trump’s team, told NBC News’ Chuck Todd that the White House has “alternative facts” to share.

As the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan noted the other day, the phrase makes clear “we’ve gone full Orwell.”

Occasionally, a political figure coins a phrase that becomes an instant classic. In the case of Trump World, it happened just 48 hours after the new president’s inauguration.

Trump and his team have been furious about the evidence that the Republican’s inaugural crowd was rather paltry, leading White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to upbraid reporters on Saturday with bizarre claims. A day later, Kellyanne Conway, a top member of Donald Trump’s team, told NBC News’ Chuck Todd that the White House has “alternative facts” to share.

As the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan noted the other day, the phrase makes clear “we’ve gone full Orwell.”

Trump World doesn’t quite see it that way, as Sean Spicer tried to explain last night. The New York Daily News reported:

The newly appointed top White House spokesman made that connection on Fox News Tuesday night while defending his colleague, Kellyanne Conway, who recently came under fire for using the term “alternative facts” to describe exaggerated inauguration attendance numbers.

“There are times, like anything else, it’s not alternative facts, it’s that there’s sometimes you can watch two different stations and get two different weather reports,” Spicer told Fox host Sean Hannity. “That doesn’t mean the station was lying to you.”

If only that made sense, it might be easier to take the White House press secretary seriously.

Let’s go with Spicer’s analogy for a minute. Let’s say you tune in to a couple of local television stations, and one of them told you it was warm and sunny in your area yesterday, while the other reported there was a blizzard. Does it mean one of the stations was lying to you?

Well, yes, actually it does. Meteorologists may reach different conclusions about future events, but when it comes to reporting on factual details on developments that have already happened, there’s no room for facts vs. alternative facts.

This is just the beginning of Age of Orwell. Reminders about 1984 apropos current events follow (from goodreads.com).

  • "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
  • "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
  • "… if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
  • "Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand [Trump and the GOP].”

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