“Alternative facts” gaffe backfires on Kellyanne, Team Trump
Yesterday’s brilliant choice of words by The Donald’s spokesperson Kellyanne Conway, who was making a futile attempt to spin Sean Spicer’s Saturday temper tantrum press briefing triggered by reports of the comparatively low turnout for Trump’s inauguration, has boomeranged bigly:
Donald Trump’s White House counselor Kellyanne Conway coined a new term Sunday morning when she stated that White House Press secretary Sean Spicer was not lying about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. Instead, Conway claimed, Spicer simply told us “alternative facts.”
It’s truly hilarious that the Trump team, so vocally opposed to political correctness, is now being PC in describing a lie. Sorry, Kellyanne, I’m not buying it. “Alternative facts,” as NBC’s Chuck Todd so accurately put it in response to you on the air, “are not facts, they’re falsehoods!”
The Guardian‘s opinion writers explained this amazing new term:
Name: Alternative facts.
Age: Ten billion years old.
Appearance: The greatest, strongest, shiniest type of fact that has ever existed anywhere in the known and unknown universe, period.
That sounds like cobblers. No, you misunderstand. It’s not cobblers, it’s an alternative fact.
Sorry? You know, an alternative fact. See this picture of a horse? I want you to tell me what it is.
It’s a horse. No it isn’t. It’s a spaceship.
[Read the rest here.]
The free-market-friendly magazine Forbes’ opinion writer Erik Sherman was appalled:
While you can have alternative explanations or interpretations of facts, you cannot change the nature of reality.
However, the claims and language are chilling in a fundamental way. When an administration wants the rights to redefine facts, it isn’t unreasonable to consider whether it is willing to change data to support itself. Such an action would push the country closer to Orwell’s Ministry of Truth concept and undermine a vital resource for intelligent decisions and strategy.
The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Paul McGeough resurrected this blast from the past:
It brought to mind Saddam Hussein’s hapless spokesman Comical Ali, who bizarrely insisted to reporters that Baghdad was safely in the hands of the dictator in 2003 – even as live TV pictures showed that the city had been captured.
And The New York Times had one of the most trenchant, succinct, and spot-on analysesof Kellyanne’s “alternative facts” flub:
[T]here it was: an apparent animating principle of Mr. Trump’s news media strategy since he first began campaigning. That strategy has consistently presumed that low public opinion of mainstream journalism (which Mr. Trump has been only too happy to help stoke) creates an opening to sell the Trump version of reality, no matter its adherence to the facts.
As Mr. Trump and his supporters regularly note, whatever he did during the campaign, it was successful: He won. His most ardent supporters loved the news media bashing. And the complaints and aggressive fact-checking by the news media played right into his hands. He portrayed it as just so much whining and opposition from yet another overprivileged constituency of the Washington establishment.
But will tactics that worked in the campaign work in the White House? History is littered with examples of new administrations that quickly found that the techniques that served them well in campaigns did not work well in government.
And if they do work, what are the long-term costs to government credibility from tactical “wins” that are achieved through the aggressive use of falsehoods? Whatever they are, Mr. Trump should realize that it could hurt his agenda more than anything else.