Let’s Talk Facts and ‘Alternative Facts’
President Donald Trumps advisor claimed Trump’s press secretary provided reporters with ‘alternative facts’ during a news conference.
What, exactly, is a fact? In our overly-politicized world, one definition may well be “whatever your party claims to be true.” Even if that’s true, you might have a harder time coming up with a reasonable definition for “alternative facts.”
Over the weekend, the first Trump Administration news conference was used to scold the press for what it labeled false reporting. The complaints centered on reports that Donald Trump’s inauguration drew a smaller crowd than Barack Obama’s, and that Trump was critical of the intelligence community.
The New York Times has a detailed article on media reports and the photographic evidence and statements and tweets from Trump himself that led to those reports.
During a contentious exchange with Chuck Todd, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press and said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave “alternative facts” when he inaccurately described the inauguration crowd as “the largest ever” during his first appearance before the press this weekend:
Asked on “Meet the Press” why Spicer used his first appearance before the press to dispute a minimal issue like the inauguration crowd size, and why he used falsehoods to do so, Conway pushed back.
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” she told NBC’s Chuck Todd.
NBC News reported that Conway repeated Spicer’s claim on Saturday that “it wasn’t possible to count the crowd, despite Trump’s team’s accompanying insistence that it was the ‘largest audience.’”
If they really believe isn’t possible to count a crowd in that way, why and how can they then say it was “the largest audience”?
Either you can count it or you can’t. It’s one or the other.
But then that’s sort of how facts work.
Way back in sixth grade, I attended an accelerated program that taught, among other things, critical thinking. One of the first things we learned is what a fact actually is: a statement that can be proved. That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?
If it can’t be proved, it isn’t a fact.
This means that statements that are true may not be considered “facts” until there is a way to actually prove them. But it also means that claims that have no truthfulness to them can’t be facts until someone proves them to be correct.
There is no such thing as “alternate facts.” A statement is either a fact or it isn’t, because a fact must be able to be proved to be a fact.
This means, no matter how Republican you happen to be, that a blatant falsehood was provided to the media during the news conference.
Logically, there’s no other way to look at it: if they can prove the audience attending Trump’s inauguration on Friday was the “largest ever,” then it was a falsehood to then say it wasn’t possible to count the crowd; if it is possible to count the crowd, it was a falsehood to say such an act is impossible.
Understanding what a fact is does not require a great deal of training.
If this first news conference is any indication, it’s surely going to be an interesting four years.