Tell Us the Truth Mr. Trump
On January 21st of this year, Sean Spicer deliberately lied when discussing the audience present at President Trump’s inauguration. He claimed that it was, “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” When Kellyanne Conway was asked why Spicer would state such a blatant falsehood, she responded that the statements he made were merely “alternative facts.” This episode sparked a phenomenon of false narratives that has continued, and only spread out across U.S media over the past few months. This period of time has placed significant emphasis on truth and its role in the political realm. Truths and falsehoods are no longer black and white; separate and clearly distinguishable from each other, but have rather melded together into a hazardous contagion that poses a great danger to the future of information presentation to the U.S public.
Along with alternative facts there have also been discussions surrounding fake news, which are false stories that are presented as legitimate in order to sway public opinion in a certain direction. The attitude Trump has displayed towards the media has only allowed fake news to thrive, and therefore evolve. These artificial news outlets are becoming increasingly difficult to spot, as they have become more sophisticated in their trickery techniques. ABCNews.com.co may at first appear to be valid, but is actually a site that mimics the design and style of the official ABC news website, yet produces fictitious stories. In addition to these imposter sites, such as Fox-News 24.com and Local31News.com, there are parody sites that deliberately publish satirical articles in order to make political statements through humor, such as The Onion and Clickhole. Although entertaining, the presence of these pieces combined with the desire for rapid and quick information, allows them to unknowingly become incorporated into the individual’s conception of daily events.
This heavy reliance on flashy headlines to draw in uninformed, unsuspecting readers is one of the most concerning aspects of the increased presence of fake news. Considering that roughly 6 in 10 people do nothing more than skim headlines when it comes to keeping updated on news, the rising influence of phony headlines has become very troubling in that they allow the expansion of this deceitful environment. Upon simply clicking and reading, an individual may find that the headline presented was false, but unfortunately the majority of people do not get that far, allowing fibs to manifest in their own reality. The concern is that blatantly false information is being disseminated at a rapid pace, and has had a heavy impact on the formative process of opinion development amongst internet users navigating their way through cyberspace each and every day. However, it is not so important what is being said in each specific case, but rather the reality this phenomenon represents, as it is far different from the reality these falsehoods intend to fabricate. The Trump administration has initiated a dangerous game in order to try to shape circumstances in their favour, and unfortunately they are succeeding.
Each day Orwellian nightmares come to life and shroud us in the shadows of toxic fiction propagated by the very establishment meant to protect us. Trump lives in a world where he received the most electoral votes, and faced the longest delay in cabinet formation in history. People were also bussed over state-lines to cast false votes in the presidential election, the murder rate is rising in Philadelphia, he was in Scotland the day preceding the Brexit referendum, and climate change does not exist in this alternate reality. This is a mythical world, conceived from the mind of Donald Trump and imposed upon us. We are forced to live in his fantasy, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is not. It is terrifying to see a democratically elected world leader attempt to address their wrongdoings not by changing their ways, but rather altering the surrounding context to make them seem right. This is painfully clear to see in how Trump has assembled the team around him, and who those individuals are. In his cabinet, he has Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education, a woman known to have very little experience with the subject matter. He had Michael Flynn as his National Security advisor, despite being aware of the investigation into his ties with Turkey. He has elevated Steve Bannon from Breitbart News’s Chairman, to the de facto CEO of his campaign, and finally to the White House’s chief strategist–temporarily giving him a position on the coveted National Security Council. Trump has allowed power hungry individuals to masquerade as experts, in order to receive constant validation for the actions he takes. Trump can never be wrong, thereby making his truth the only one. Any deviation is declared oppositional, with the actor being labeled as the enemy, which explains Trump’s treatment of the media as well as the removal of James Comey as the Director of the FBI.
It does not matter if Trump’s statements can easily be disproved. Once a statement like that is made, there will be people that hold onto it. Once those words are uttered they leave a lasting impact even on those fully aware of the lie. It creates unconscious associations that have powerful potential to affect how we perceive what goes on around us everyday. As Winston Churchill so aptly pointed out, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
It is hard to think about Hillary Clinton without thinking about her 2016 email scandal. Whether or not she was actually guilty of any of the claims made against her by Trump does not matter. What matters is that the claims were made and remain associated with her even today. We can control whether or not we believe what Trump says, but we cannot control how our minds are shaped and molded by fabrications and deceit. It is vital to be ever-vigilant and consciously sort reality from myth in order to mitigate the effects of these semantic trappings. Two plus two may not equal five, but if it is repeated enough times, there are those that very well may begin to believe it.
An anti-intellectual sentiment has intensified in the United States, and is directed viciously at journalists and writers attempting to remain steadfast to honesty, and bold in their sincerity. Not only does this administration lie, and attempt to justify those lies, but it has also come to represent a movement against those that try to advocate for information transparency and accuracy. Freedom of speech and expression are far more than the ability to articulate one’s opinion. They are the guardians of truth, dedicated to the preservation of precision in the conveyance of fact. Such vehement opposition to the media, and the freedoms it embodies, only shows how much the administration has to hide. Truth is only frightening to those that live a lie.
Being a world leader entails a significant amount of responsibility, and that starts with being honest. There is something to be said for secrecy in political matters, especially when it comes to managing conflict without creating hysteria. However, this is a temporary concealment, not a permanent alteration. What Trump’s lies show is that truth is not enough; we require truth with integrity. “Truth” as Trump defines it has loose and dangerous boundaries that he has found he can shape to his benefit. Truth needs to be more than just the absence of a lie. It must be statements, declarations, and assertions, without ulterior motives or framing, intended to inform and enlighten – not mislead and misdirect. The truth is not a toy, or strategic tool, but represents the unquestionable aspects of existence that should be immune to the agendas of men. The truth is not open to interpretation, no matter how much the Trump administration would like us to believe it is.