The Ugly Truth, Beautiful Lies or Alternative Facts: Every Day Choices in the Post-Truth Era

A woman stood boldly in front of the camera with a smile; her face being broadcast for the world to see. She appeared composed and self-assured as she and a reporter from the network exchanged points of view. However, she quickly snapped when she was prompted to defend the press office and her president.

SHE REPLIED CONFIDENTLY, “HE GAVE ALTERNATIVE FACTS.”
THE REPORTER QUICKLY RESPONDED, “ALTERNATIVE FACTS ARE NOT FACTS THEY’RE FALSEHOODS.”

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That woman was Kellyanne Conway, the counsellor to President Donald Trump. This was her response to Chuck Todd of NBC news regarding the statements made by Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Media companies such as The Guardian, CNN, Time, and many other notable news companies were quick to jump on and slam her statements. The video went viral and many notable morning and evening shows started commenting on the event. Wikipedia even published a page dedicated regarding “alternative facts” attributing the term and it’s popularity to Kellyanne Conway.

It is one thing to lie to the people in a press release but it is terrifying to think that a counsellor to one of the most powerful countries in the entire world would consider alternative facts as an option to the people. But “alternative facts” are not limited to governments nor are they new. However, with the mistrust and disappointment that has been going on with the Trump administration it is no wonder why the statement went viral. Media and the public had every reason to pick a fight against the new government given that the latter had many issues from the get go. While many reporters were trying to get information out of Kellyanne Conway get clarity out of the situations, others simply tried to make a joke out of the whole thing. This propelled Kellyanne Conway to viral stardom as it was the media that was now demanding to have an audience with her. Then later on MSNBC and CNN decided to ban Kellyanne Conway because of her twisted facts. However, a mere 48 hours later the ban was lifted which prompted SNL to make a parody video of the entire thing. Other blogs and news articles on the other hand tried to analyze her strategy regarding how she is so good at dodging questions. As a spokesman for the President and as his advisor, she should bring clarity to the situation but instead she continues to confuse viewers and even news reporters regarding her statements.

The statement she made on January 22, 2017 regarding alternative facts turned into a tidal wave of opinions, parodies, and news articles that are gaining more and more traction each day! It is still very much alive and active in the public consciousness and continues to make waves. Many news companies still want a piece of Kellyanne Conway thus they continue to propel her to even more stardom and fame.

The sad thing about Kellyanne Conway is that she is a fountain of lies. Whenever she is in a tight spot she says something that is often not true in order to evade the question. People who do not fact check what she is saying may fall victim to the nonsense she is spouting. News reporters try to call her out or try to bring her back to the question, she merely dodges or makes things up. Although admittedly, the line of questioning that reporters use and the wording reporters use may be a trap to make an interviewee answer a question in a way that makes them look bad. It would be fine for an average person to dodge those questions given that they are “laced with poison”. However, as a representative of the government of the United States of America she should create trust between herself and the viewers. Instead by spewing falsehoods, it makes her less credible and the government that she represents laughable.

Her vital fame is far from over as media still wants to take a shot at Trump, his government, and now Kellyanne Conway. Actors are more than ready to take their turns making parodies of these public figures and America, being a lover of humor, seems to enjoy this. Articles have been published regarding how well and alive parody, satire, and humor are with the Trump administration such instructions that have been stale and dry during the Obama administration.

Because of her nature and “facts” certain news institutions have begun to call out their fellow media institutions in ignoring her from the news. This is because her appearances on the various shows in news, television, and even parodies put her constantly in the public consciousness. By giving her constant appearances on the media, it gives her unlimited access to the psyche of the viewers. Depending on how she presents herself and whether the viewer is on the conservative or liberal side will determine how she, her message, and the government will be received. This is heavily rooted in two theories namely: cultivation theory and the megaphone effect theory.

The first theory called the cultivation effect is basically media guiding viewers or users on what they should think about. By constantly putting Kellyanne Conway on air, the viewers who see these respective shows will think about her. Now there is also an aspect of resistance on the viewers part as the media cannot tell them what to think. Viewers are active and may not think about Kellyanne Conway should they choose to do so. However, given her presence and outrageous statements on media it is difficult for an average viewer to resist something that is constantly being broadcasted.

 

This brings us to the second theory called the megaphone effect theory. It says that anything that goes through media is amplified many times and reaches areas it would not normally reach. It’s effect is similar to what a megaphone does to a speaker’s voice which is why it is called the megaphone effect. This is due to the advancement of technology as people today are more connected thanks to social media. According to an article by The Telegraph, if we would compare an typical individual from 2011 to one from 1986, a typical individual 2011 would have gotten 500 percent more data on a daily basis compared to an average individual 25 years ago. This number has probably increased significantly since then! of media, Kellyanne Conway’s antics and media’s response is being broadcast over the world. Media practitioners, political analysts, and average people from different countries can watch the exchanges that occur and make their own conclusions regarding the political climate of the United States of America. They can also form their own assumptions regarding the presidency based on Kellyanne Conway’s statements and react according to how they view these statements.

Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts are representative of today’s day and age called the Post-Truth Era or the “Post Truth” Era; where people chose the truths that they want to believe and where fact is blurred with fiction. Where the average man becomes a gatekeeper of information; a role that used to be limited to a select few in the industry.

It is wonderful that America has a free press that allows freedom of speech and parody. Politicians are easy targets for memes, parodies, and other humorous antics because of their unpalatable decisions, controversial statements, and questionable character. In a government such as China or Singapore, sadly criticism or satire humor are not allowed. Image in governments that are trying to have a unified national identity often oppress or heavily restrict media voices. Censorship boards pressure both media and individuals to publish positive reports on political leaders, parties, and public figures. Even significant historical events such as the Tiamen Square massacre were censored and white washed from history. Corruption or scandals of Chinese officials are rarely broadcasted or talked about for risk of execution. Parody and satire are not welcomed in these country because they carefully guard their image. This is why their national media seems to have consistent and reoccurring patterns. They have odes to the good old days of certain dynasties that were pre approved by the government. They create this idea of a unified China and an obedient China through their shows. They rarely feature political issues on their media and news channels because they know that media can aggravate the people. Even in the age of digital and social media their people are heavily guarded. The Chinese are not allowed to use Facebook, YouTube or Twitter and instead have local alternative sites with similar functions. These sites are heavily policed by a government that is critical of their self image in the worlds eyes and in keeping their people oblivious to the problems that occur in their society.

If America would adopt such a policy news media would merely be puppets of the administration. Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” would be the “actual facts” announced by the government. All divergent media would be deleted and the person who posted the divergent information would be punished. There would be only one source of news which would be held captive by the government. Parodies, satire, and comments against the administration would be completely non-existent. Humor would die for the sake of the image of the administration and the nation. Even constructive criticism would not be available for the government to change as there would be no accurate balance. The watch dog of the people or the media would become the lapdog of the government. The people would then be sedated by the media into thinking nothing was wrong as the media would prevent reply even in the global age. Access to foreign information and news sites would be blocked in favor of the ideology being pushed by the government. People brave enough to show the truth would be considered as “enemy propaganda” something that should not be trusted.

Hopefully Trump’s administration will not go that far considering that Trump is famous for suing people who mis-use his image. Constitutionally, freedom of expression is and should be protected by American law. But in a government where media is suppressed, censorship may be used as a measure of protection. But it can be used in order to silence anyone who opposes the government. Media is another measure that naturally checks and balances the government for abuse. But it can also be a pawn used to silence the public and infiltrate their consciousness. If the American government chooses to silence the masses the people will be in an uproar as America is the land and symbol of the free. But if they take it away without the public knowing then we have a problem. The thing is with a government suppressed media, one will not truly know if what is being broadcasted is fact or alternative fact. One will only rely on sources that may or may not be true such as blogs, tweets, and other images. But repercussions can and will happen in such a government.
However there are also those who will actively resist these being presented creating the great divide on election day. The reality is we human beings can only see fragments of a whole truth and each side we see with our own biases. Even legitimate news sources are not exempt from this reality which is why we have extreme left or right wing news producers. Through news reports, people can only see fragments of the truth as each reporter would present their case and writing from the perspective that they have experienced it.
People who put their trust in their government or are on the political party of the government might align with the ideologies being presented by the government controlled media. Even during the election process people read articles that aligned with their sense of reality. They would depend on their Facebook feeds to bring the news. Facebook, being blatantly aware of man’s emotional capacity, has an algorithm to give you news that you want to hear. Because of this people blame Facebook’s algorithm for Hillary Clinton’s loss as they felt that if they were given a different feed perhaps they could have done something to stop it. But in reality who searches for things outside their own little bubble? How many people actually tried to read the other side of the story instead of seeing it as rightist or leftist propaganda? How many people are open to the idea that the other half of the nation wanted to put Donald Trump in power? The protest rallies show not that many. A recent experiment done by The Guardian showed that many people could not live beyond their own bubble and only a few were able to see the “bigger picture”. Nevertheless, facts and truths are essential for a society. If people were all fed lies no one would do anything to correct the situation.

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As readers, reading all sides of the story that is available would be the best option to being a well-balanced and rounded reader. But separating one’s self from personal biases is indeed a difficult thing. In our social media society, it seems easy to detect falsehoods if there are concrete facts but it is also more difficult to tell who is telling the real story. In the event the government decided to create alternative facts and try pass them off as real facts people can easily fact check because of the global access to media. But if the United States were to be separated like China then it would be more difficult because of the idea of a national media and the cases of white washing. This is of course impossible because the people will not stand for it.

As for the current Trump administration, I genuinely hope and pray that they will realize that there is a need for real truth and real facts. Ignorance may be bliss, but that does not excuse anyone from reality. Regardless of whatever the attendance count of Trump’s inauguration actually was, the administration should do a better job planning and strategizing. Instead of playing the blame game with the media they should focus their efforts on America and making their country better. If Trump, Kellyanne Conway, and his team do a good job and serve the people instead of their own image, he might get re-elected to see a larger re-inauguration crowd. Or The Simpson’s prediction might come true… But who knows? All America can do right now is hope for the best.

To conclude, Kellyanne Conway’s rise to fame was because of her official statement on NBC News during “Meet the Press”. The media kept her in the public consciousness by constantly inviting her to interviews, doing parodies on her and by commenting on her. Media caused her rise to fame and the controversies that surround her keep her as a hot topic. Americas freedom of speech allows room for parodies, commentaries, criticism, and serves as a watch dog of the government. Kellyanne Conway’s antics can be openly criticized and fact checked. However in a country with a national image to keep, such activities would be banned and punished by law. Hopefully with the support of the people, the media will not become a lap dog of the government.

 

Photos courtesy of Unsplash. Com and Wikipedia.com. Used under Creative Commons.

Article by Jasper

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