They exist, you know. “Alternative facts,” that is. And they’re just like other facts. They’re true, and they’re correct — or they wouldn’t be, well, you know… facts. They support greater conclusions and things like that.
Kellyanne Conway took a lot of abuse for using the, probably maladroit phrase, but she shouldn’t have. Remember: Kellyanne Conway could say that the sky is blue on a sunny day, and the dominant media would jeer that she was an air-headed bimbo. But “alternative facts” are very real, and they affect how we all think about issues of the day.
Anyway, what are “alternative facts?” Well, it’s really pretty simple. Let’s take an issue, any issue. Let’s go with, say, “Russia’s alleged interference in the American Election of 2016.”
Every issue, like the one we’re using as an example, has a set of facts. These facts can number in the many thousands. There are big, consequential facts, and then there are little, insignificant facts. Then, there are all the facts in-between. Here’s a fact about all those facts: Each one demonstrates four different characteristics:
- It supports the left-wing narrative for the issue.
- It supports the right-wing narrative for the issue.
- It could support either side of the issue.
- It supports neither side of the issue.
If a “news” organization reports only, say, facts from the first category, then facts from the other categories are “alternative facts.” More to the point, if a “news” organization reports only those facts from, say, either category #1, or #2, then that “news” organization is disseminating fake news.
Facts without their alternatives — the facts that provide context, depth and perspective — comprise fake news.
For example: Here’s a fact, we’ll call it Fact #1, from Category #1 — facts that support a left-wing narrative: The Russians appear to have tried to interfere with the American election of 2016. It’s a fact, it’s true, it’s useful for understanding the 2016 American election.
However, it’s not the only fact from the collection of facts relevant to the issue of supposed Russian interference in the American election of 2016.
Here’s what I’ll call Fact #1 of Category #2 — facts that support a right-wing narrative: The Russians have tried to interfere in every American election since the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
The point. I’ve heard both facts from FOX News, the so-called “right-wing” organization. However, the “news” organization that I listen to the most is National Public Radio, well-known as a left-wing outfit. I’ve listened to their “news” shows for hundreds of hours since the election, and neither they, nor anyone they’ve ever interviewed, has ever once mentioned the really important fact that Russian interference is a constant in all American elections. In other words, it would be really odd if the Russians did not try to interfere in an American election.
It kind of throws the very first fact — the one supporting the left-wing narrative that’s most reported on by the “news organizations,” into an entirely different light!
A “news” organization can report facts from only one category or another, and say honestly that they’re reporting only the truth. That same organization could challenge so-called “fact checkers” to identify something they’ve reported that’s not true. Those “fact checkers” would find no untruth, because facts are, indeed, true. But, if you don’t give all the facts, then your “news” is, still, Fake News.
Fake news is nothing more than information reported in such a way as to deceive the audience.
When President Trump called CNN the purveyors of fake news, he was absolutely right. And, in these pages, we’ve documented extensively how National Public Radio is a fake news organization. The truth: most news is fake news. The vast majority of news prior to the arrival of FOX News was fake news. It was “news” meant to shape opinions in America, not inform people of what was actually going on.
Withe the arrival of FOX News (as well as Rush Limbaugh and the rest of right-wing talk media), came the opportunity for all Americans actually to get alternative points of view, consisting of real, genuine, true, factual … alternative facts.