Opinions

The Age of Post-Truth

By Marian Baker, Opinions Editor

Over the weekend immediately following the inauguration, many events took place, from President Trump’s first full day in office to the pervasive Women’s March. However, much of the first weekend of Trump’s presidency was spent in a debate over inauguration day crowd numbers.

The day after Trump’s inauguration ceremony, Saturday, Jan. 21, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gathered the press to deliver his first statement, a short, five-minute speech in which Spicer attacked the very media he was speaking to, accusing them of lying about the size and “enthusiasm” of the inauguration. Spicer offered multiple falsehoods regarding the attendance of the Inauguration, giving a blatantly wrong number for the D.C. Metro ridership on Friday, stating that there was a change in security measures this year for the Inauguration, and claiming that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

Spicer’s statements were false. However, when President Trump’s former campaign manager and current counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on NBC’s show “Meet the Press,” she defended Spicer’s lies to the utmost, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd, “You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

When Todd insisted that Conway explain why Spicer lied, she responded with a veiled threat: “If we’re going to keep referring to the press secretary in those types of terms I think we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here,” she said.

In other words, don’t ask the tough questions if you want to stay in the good graces of the White House.

When it comes to objective truths, there are no political divides. Following Conway’s “alternative facts” statement, the dictionary Merriam-Webster tweeted out a definition of the word “fact”: “a fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality.”

When it comes to Spicer’s original statements, they possess no basis in objective reality. There is no such thing as “alternative facts.” “Alternative facts” are simply lies.

While many saw the debate over inaugural attendance to be nothing but a sideshow, the actions and words of these Trump Administration officials is, in my view, one of the most important events of Trump’s first weekend as president. In one of their first appearances in any sort of official, government capacity, Trump officials lied to the American people. Not only did these officials lie, they defended the lies. In doing so, they are setting the tone for the rest of the Trump Administration. After this first weekend of the Trump Administration, it is clear that there is a new reality regarding truth. There is no debating it now; we are truly living in the “Age of Post-Truth” if blatant lies can be described by a top government official as “alternative facts.”

However, in presenting these lies as truth, the White House is doing something very deliberate. They are gaslighting the American people. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which persistent lying and misdirection is used to make a subject question their own sanity; as the lies flood in from our own government, we will be forced to wonder whether what we are hearing really is the truth, after all. Is this a lie? Is it the truth? Or is truth even knowable at all?

I wish us all the best in the coming battle for reality itself.

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