Because I’ve been under the weather, I haven’t yet posted on the “alternative facts” issue, and I see from the discussion thread that several readers are aware of it. In brief, Tr*mp and his minions have spent their first three days in office not only dismantling the accomplishments of the last administration, but in waging war against the press (a familiar tactic of totalitarian regimes), and, of course, lying.
The clips and articles below show two things: a). the Tr*mp administration’s willingness to lie when convenient, and then to dissimulate and waffle when caught on those lies; and b). the clashes between the press and the administration that are going to be common within the next four (or, God help us, eight) years.
And it introduces the a new mantra that, I suspect, will be with us for as long as Tr*mp: “alternative facts.” “Alternative facts” are, in fact, lies—the lies that Tr*mp et al. introduce in place of truths reported by the press. As a superannuated scientist, I’m especially offended by this notion: something is (unless it’s ambiguous) either a fact or not a fact, and cannot simultaneously be both—unless you’re Schödinger’s cat.
So, first we have Tr*mp’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, using his initial press conference to attack press reports about the relatively sparse attendance at Tr*mp’s inauguration (compared to Obama’s inaugurations), the BustGate issue, and to tout Tr*mp’s “triumphant” reception at the CIA. Spicer took no questions: not a good start for relations between the media and the government.
In a great piece by Chris Cillizilla, the Washington Post has annotated some of Spicer’s remarks. You’ll see that some of the statements are highlighted in yellow, and if you click on those you’ll see the reporter’s take on Spicer’s remarks. There are many lies, a few truths, and a lot of equivocation. This use of the “Genius” feature to highlight statements is a very nice thing.
Here’s the video: start at 1:18. Then read the piece highlighted above.
And here’s a remarkable exchange (also written up in The Post) between Chuck Todd, reporter and moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and Kellyanne Conway, officially named as “Counselor” to President Tr*mp.
Todd presses Conway to explain why Spicer was trotted out to lie to the press in his first public appearance (Todd is talking about the attendance at the inauguration). Conway’s non-response is simply a threat to the press: “If we’re going to keep referring to our Press Secretary in those types of terms, we’re going have to rethink our relationship here.” She then brings up the Martin Luther King, Jr. bust, a press error that was immediately corrected. (Spicer, of course, did not correct his lies.)
At 1:32 Todd, exercised at Conway’s refusal to answer his question, presses her to explain why Spicer lied in his first appearance. She responds that “You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and. . . Sean Spicer gave ‘alternative facts.'” Todd gets even more worked up and says, “Alternative facts are not facts. . . they’re falsehoods.” (See Cillizilla’s piece to see how factual the “alternative facts” are.)
Todd’s right. Conway went on equivocating and bringing up other issues: she’s a master at midirection and dissimulating, but she’s not going to win over the press.
This exchange, which took place two days after Trump was inaugurated, is a harbinger of what we’re in for. Thank Ceiling Cat that America has a free press and won’t passively put up with lies. For its part, the Trump administration will do everything it can to mock the press, but it can do little to muzzle it given we have the First Amendment. Let us hope that people like Todd will keep pressing the Administration when they lie and equivocate. It can’t help but come across to at least some of the American people.
Fasten your seat belts; we’re in for a bumpy ride.
Alternative facts, indeed!
And, for more grins (we must not lose our sense of humor):