The truth of “alternative facts”
February 22, 2017
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I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve joked many times about the current political and general landscape of America in a rather Nihilistic fashion.
After all, the easiest way to deal with all the problems out there is by pretending they don’t exist. Yada yada, ignorance is bliss.
For example, in regards to the environment it’s so convenient to pretend that everything is okay.
It’s awfully nice to pretend that the irreversible damage done by climate change is a non-issue, especially when it’s such a nice, warm February day.
I try not to think about that through my day-to-day life, because the idea of irreversible damage to our planet stresses me out.
Unfortunately for me and all of you, everybody now needs to be more involved in the political news cycle than ever before.
This has never been more clear than in the recent debacle involving the term ‘fake news.’
Essentially, CNN reported on an intelligence briefing regarding Russian involvement in the election. President Trump called the organization ‘fake news,’ refusing to answer any more questions.
More recently, President Trump tweeted about CNN cutting off Senator Bernie Sanders in an interview for jokingly using the term ‘fake news.’
This statement, according to Politifact.com, is false and thereby fake news. They report that the broadcast only experienced technical difficulties several sentences later.
Quite the debacle. This happened in conjunction with Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump, using the infamous term ‘alternative facts’ when speaking of inauguration crowd size.
It’s the age of mass media at the price of reliability, quantity over quality.
Quite realistically, there isn’t a single most reliable source. MSNBC is the classic antithesis to Fox News, a liberal bias versus a conservative one.
CNN is its own problem, a victim of the 24 hour news cycle demanding constant news, resulting in a watered down yet over-dramatic broadcast.
There’s also, of course, the thousands of sensationalist ‘news’ sites being shared on Facebook and elsewhere, some being twisted truths and others being plain falsehoods.
This isn’t a conservative problem nor is it a liberal problem, it’s just a problem. And the solution is putting in a little more than the minimal effort to be somewhat aware of what’s happening.
That means not only reading more than the initial headline, but potentially reading two opposing articles on the same topic.
It means actually watching the source content, be it the Inaugural Address or the weekly White House press briefing. It is so incredibly easy to manipulate what people say by creating a context-less three second soundbyte.
In the case of the Sanders interview with CNN, Trump only mentioned Sanders saying,
“Well, I don’t know, maybe he was watching CNN fake news, what do you think?” The interviewer, Burnett, responded “You don’t buy it?”
President Trump was honest in saying that the interview cut out after. However, Sanders responded “That was a joke.” Burnett responded saying, “I know it was a joke. I’m saying, you don’t buy what he said, obviously?” with the footage then cutting out.
News organizations and politicians alike can manipulate anything people say possessing the slightest bit of humor, sarcasm, or personality into something despicable.
It’s exactly what happened after every single presidential debate, with ‘winners’ being declared as if it were a sporting event rather than a discussion on policy.
This problem is what I believe to be the root cause of the polarization of today’s political scene, which nearly every student can agree is a problem.
People on opposite ends of the political spectrum can never agree on a topic, since their underlying facts are different.
Therefore, to actively fight this polarized America that we all complain about, we all have to put forth some effort in order to become educated on topics, regardless of whether or not they agree with our own previous beliefs.
All current readers are not only the purveyors of the finest media outlet out there, the New Trier News, but also at the recieving end of a pretty great education. Use it.