An Orwellian first week
Views 48 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 1 - 31 - 2017 | By: Cameron Lee
Trump’s first week in office reads like the prequel to a dystopian noveland sales of George Orwell’s genre-defining classic 1984 have dramatically spiked since the inauguration.
Between the President’s assertion that torture works (despite the body of evidence against this claim) and his obsession with the idea that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote (despite the absence of evidence supporting this claim), it seems that the administration is ready for a long and tenuous relationship with the truth.
Of course, Donald Trump is not the first politician to propagate lies and misinformation. However, Trump’s disregard for facts seems to have begun long before he entered the political arena. As far back as 2011, he was questioning the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate. In November 2012, he voiced allegations that climate change “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
Between this track record and his recent actions, the likelihood of an honest administration seems minimal for the next four years.
While it is rather easy to identify and highlight false statements originating from the administration, finding the underlying motive may prove to be more difficult. Take, for example, two recent deviations from the truth: the “alternative facts” fiasco regarding the inauguration crowd, and Trump’s assertion that illegal ballots are the reason he lost the popular vote.
On the one hand, it is possible that these lies reflect a sense of insecurity: Trump feels that his administration lacks a sense of democratic legitimacy as marked by his 36% approval rating, so he is trying to construct a narrative to make it seem that the majority stand behind him. At the same time, it would seem that pushing a false account of events would only highlight his popular vote loss and decrease public trust in him, as the news stories exposing the falsehoods are not likely to paint a flattering picture. If we assume that the lies are not pathological, it becomes difficult to discern the reason for their telling.
Once again, such falsehoods are not necessarily new, and are by no means unique to Trump. However, the fact that they seem to flow through the most powerful office in the nation means that they must be taken more seriously than they might otherwise be.
The foundation of political power is control of the popular narrative; if the commonly accepted story is riddled with holes and fantasies, the political action born out of it will be misguided and plausibly destructive.
The best way to overcome a lie is with the truth, so let us take a moment to recall a few basic facts: the majority of experts denounce torture as ineffective, inhumane, and illegal; no voting officials have come forward to report a substantial number of illegal ballots; the majority of scientists tell us the climate is changing as a result of human action; President Obama was born in Hawaii.
Regardless of whether the age of “alternative facts” is a new era or a new face on an old trend, the public must either take a nonpartisan stand for the truth or else watch it degrade further into falsehoods and controlled narratives.