By ROGER SNODGRASS
Los Alamos Daily Post
So it’s fake news vs. alternative facts, is it?
Well, alternative facts are a contradiction in terms. Something is either a fact or not. Nothing is in between. There are no alternative facts.
We’re talking about Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President of the United States, trying to help her boss wriggle around his still-unfounded tweet that Barack Obama tapped his phone in Trump Tower. The President’s charge of fake news as a blanket statement can’t possibly apply to every case and is at the very least carelessly imprecise. Especially when much of the media’s disputed information has not only been open to question, but defended when challenged and subject to correction when warranted.
The first draft of history is a pretty tough assignment. With all the barricades that have been put up to keep the media out of touch and people in the administration determined or afraid not to talk, the media in general have done a credible job, compared to Trump’s first two months barely hanging on to his bucking horse while giddyupping himself down into the depths of the polls.
My high school debate coach cautioned me never to ask a rhetorical question that could be answered to the contrary, but in this case I’m willing to take the risk: Would you buy a used car from Donald Trump?
Just because something has been called a fake doesn’t make it is a fake, and the person who can’t come up with a shred of evidence for any number of outrageous claims – that his phones were tapped, for example, or that he is going to make Mexico pay for “a beautiful wall.” The popular vote count was the popular vote count. That’s a done deal. It wasn’t millions of votes off the mark. Only one pathetic voice claimed it was. There were fewer people at the Trump’s inauguration than those who came out for Obama. Get over it.
Maybe Trump is prone to one of the other informational diseases. Maybe, rather than truth itself, he prefers truthiness, famously described by late-night television host Stephen Colbert in 2005, as “characterizing a ‘truth’ that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively ‘from the gut’ or because it feels ‘right’ without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.”
There is also confirmation bias, much talked about during the presidential campaign, the error that occurs because we have a tendency to see and confirm what we expect to see. There is a closely related error, which is called “motivated reasoning,” in which we talk ourselves into believing something that the facts belie. But since it involves reasoning, I am less inclined to believe this one is applicable.
The New York Times may have been slightly mistaken from time to time and the lack of attribution of sources is a legitimate problem for journalists throughout the country who can’t get answers for their questions. But I always like to point out when I can that there are five, usually “nameless” public relations people behind the scenes for every reporter trying to get a question answered.
Donald Trump’s mental state is cause for concern, “unhinged, unmoored and unglued,” wrote David Brooks, the center-conservative columnist for the Times.
Forget true or false, right or wrong. How about up or down?
Things like that give one pause, as when Trump started talking about Hillary Clinton’s accusations about the Russian hacking of the DNC. “She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia,” Trump said. “Maybe it was. It could also be China. It could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
Some people think he’s funny, but unfortunately, for many others the whole discussion raises the unmentionable question: could the President be mentally incontinent?