President Trump and ‘Alternative facts’

Donald .J. Trump a businessman with no known political pedigree is now known as President Donald .J. Trump the 45th president of the United States of America. His rise to be the most powerful man in the world has been as dramatic as it has been astonishing and to some people, bizarre.Image result for trump

Trump’s rise has been of interest not only to political scientists but to media analysts as well as ordinary folks across the globe. But what has made this six times bankruptcy, and three times married man resonate with conservative American people who voted for him?(https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2016/live-updates/general-election/real-time-fact-checking-and-analysis-of-the-first-president) Or rather how did he manage to get his message across to voters in a media environment which seemed more keen on stifling his campaign message while highlighting every wayward statement he made, and they were many? There are no easy answers to this questions. However a scrutiny of his use of Twitter as an alternative communication tool may provide clarity on some of these questions. Further more a closer look at President Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer (the surname speak volumes in context of his job role) and White House Senior aide and President Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway’s statements about Trump’s inauguration audience, may give any insight how on Trump operates.

Image result for spicer cartoon

The doctrine of ‘alternative facts’ seem to be an operating default position of President Trump and his press team. His prolific use of Twitter throughout his campaign and post elections to either challenge mainstream news reportage or give his political alternative view has been unprecedented. Trump has taken to Twitter each time he felt he was in a ‘sticky’ situation or whenever he felt the press which he has deemed to be dishonest was misrepresenting or ignoring his position. Hence we witness the advent of his  ‘alternative facts’ doctrine at the heart of his press engagements. But what is ‘alternative fact’? Is Trump the first to use ‘alternative facts’ to defend a position or pass a message to people? Can ‘alternative facts’ be countered in the minds of the receiving audience?

Prevailing wisdom defines alternative facts as simply falsehoods which should never be mistaken as alternative views. As an example, during the Iraq war of 2003, there was a battle between western media, led by CNN and the Arab owned Al jazeera satellite news channel. Both became popular because of their on the ground reporting of what was happening in Iraq, albeit for various reasons and from different perspectives. CNN was more about reporting on the advancement of US and British troops and the success they were having. Whereas Al jazeera was providing alternative facts deemed to be the humane side of this war, with footage showing of bloodshed, devastation and lives wrecked by US and British bombs (http://www.robincmiller.com/art-iraq/b125.htm). Views presented by both channels were alternative facts not the position presented by Trump’s press Secretary on the figures of inauguration attendees. Those were out-rightly untrue and indisputably false. The Trump press team’s position can only be equated to that of Ali Hassan al-Majid nicknamed Chemical or Comical Ali,  former Iraq’s Interior and Defence Minister during the 2003 war,(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfAeMtcURg0), who ‘spewed’ lies to the Iraqis and the world even as bombs were raining down in towns and cities of Iraq. The remarkable thing is both Ali and Spicer somehow emphasize that their words are ‘facts’, contrary to available evidence.

For Ali Hassan al-Majid, who was practising public diplomacy which appeared to be intended for both domestic (Iraqis) and the outside world, his ‘alternative facts’ failed dismally, attracting ridicule particularly from foreign audiences. How will Trump and his team fare on public diplomacy in their similar practice of ‘alternative facts’? Will it work when confronted with issues of substance such as the US relationship with Russia? Trump and his team have so far argued against every known fact about Russia’s Putin. His ‘alternative facts’ publicly presented thus far portray an ‘angelic’ Putin contrary to his predecessor and European allies.

Rather interestingly when the two leaders are compared and an analysis of their behaviour made, one can observe some similarities in how they deal with matters of facts, or rather ‘alternative facts’. In its public diplomacy efforts, Russia (Putin) of recent has been issuing statements denying any annexation of Crimea or military involvement in Ukraine, (http://www.unian.info/politics/1526324-putin-on-crimea-russia-has-not-annexed-anything.html). Trump in his ‘alternative facts’ has been publicly complimentary of Putin, even describing him as a ‘ very smart’ guy. With such actions, many are left asking what sort of public diplomacy is Trump engaging in with Russia as it is contrary to US intelligence and allies briefings on the Russian leader. The similarities on love for ‘alternative facts’ of these leaders of the two most powerful nations on earth, adds interest to a first scheduled meeting of these two in  Reykjavik in the coming weeks.

Composite of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin

Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!

Unfortunately in a “post truth” world, where people have become disillusioned by many things, among them media’s unobjective or perceived bias reporting on other key issues,President Trump’s doctrine of ‘alternative facts’ has easily carried him into the White House and may actually define his presidency. This is just but the beginning. ‘Alternative facts’ can be countered by real facts, if they are inoculated as a recent study has found. And in this Trump era, it might be time to apply inoculation of real facts,(https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/jan/24/study-real-facts-can-beat-alternative-facts-if-boosted-by-inoculation).

Bibliography

Abramson. J. 2017). ‘Alternative facts’ are just lies, whatever Kellyanne Conway claims.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/23/kellyanne-conway-alternative-facts-lies

Gambino. L. and Jacobs. B. (2016). Trump praise Putin over US sanctions-a move that puts him at odds with GOP.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/30/donald-trump-russia-obama-sanctions

http://www.unian.info/politics/1526324-putin-on-crimea-russia-has-not-annexed-anything.html

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfAeMtcURg0),

Lee. M. (2016). Has Trump declared bankruptcy four or six times?https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2016/live-updates/general-election/real-time-fact-checking-and-analysis-of-the-first-president

Nuccitell. D. (2017). Study: real facts can beat ‘alternative facts’ if boosted by inoculation.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/jan/24/study-real-facts-can-beat-alternative-facts-if-boosted-by-inoculation

Qusti. R. (2003). Study in Contrast: CNN Vs. Al-Jazeera,http://www.robincmiller.com/art-iraq/b125.htm

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2 thoughts on “President Trump and ‘Alternative facts’

  1. stevencurtislm January 25, 2017 / 12:18 am

    This is a topical piece and you make some interesting points. I like your comparison between Trump’s approach to the truth and alternative approaches to covering the invasion of Iraq. However, given our focus on global communication and public diplomacy, it is not clear how most of the post is relevant to the module. Perhaps you could link Trump to examples of post-truth politics in diplomacy, such as Russia’s propaganda efforts over the past few years, which seem more concerned with proliferating possible causes of events to sow confusion and as a distraction.

    A few passages need clarification. For instance, what does this mean: “What sort of mindset has he been engaging when dealing with conventional and mainstream media”? And don’t you mean ‘inhumane’ side of the war when referring to Al Jazeera’s coverage of Iraq 2003?

    Like

    • xavizava January 25, 2017 / 5:04 am

      Thank you very much for Steve for ever useful and helpful comments and advice. Will act accordingly.

      Like

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