By R. Sah.
Donald Trump lies. Politifacts, a politically unaffiliated fact-checking organization, calculates that 69.9 percent of his statements are false. Through doing this he has strained his relationship with the media more than any other President in the past, essentially freeing him to do or say whatever he wants. If Trump continues to provide America with such a distorted view of reality, there could be severe consequences farther down the line.
Trump’s lie about the crowd attending his inauguration – and his ridicule of any source that tried to argue against him with photographic evidence – served to establish tense relations with the media and the truth right from the beginning of his term. This introduction was consistent with his later actions; in a January 11th conference, Trump refused to answer CNN’s questions and attacked Buzzfeed outright, prompting the New York Times to declare that “Journalists Need to Stick Together and Back Each Other Up.”
And it doesn’t stop there. In one of Trump’s most recent press conferences on February 16, he refused to answer any questions that came from left-wing press. He justified this action by saying that he had “never seen a more dishonest media.” He promised to reform “fake news”. He essentially indicated that he will personally combat the “lies” of the media with his own truth; we would be ignorant fools if we didn’t rely on him for our information.
Historically, the role of the media in politics has always been respected, if a bit controversial at times. The media is supposed to act as another check on the president’s power – especially in a democracy such as the United States’ – keeping the citizens informed with unbiased facts. Take that away, and the president has almost unlimited power to distort reality on a whim. The press conference on February 16 shows that Trump is willing to do just that — undermine the media and all that it stands for to make himself the sole fountain of truth.
We’ve seen such distortion before, both in history and fiction. For example, striking parallels can be drawn between George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Donald Trump’s manipulation tactics. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the totalitarian government of “Airstrip One” uses Newspeak, a language of restricted grammar and vocabulary, to limit its citizens’ freedom of thought. This is similar to Trump’s own rhetoric, which is notorious for using simplistic and repetitive language.
And it may not be a far cry to compare Nineteen Eighty-Four and Mao Zedong’s lying tactics to Donald Trump’s methods. Airstrip One’s government used its mass manipulation to strengthen its totalitarian hold on the people, leading to a state of perpetual warfare. When Trump let Sean Spicer falsely accuse Iran of attacking a US navy vessel, the resulting war could have had chilling consequences for the entire world. Furthermore, Mao Zedong, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Trump all claim to be the only source of truth in their societies; the first two achieved totalitarian manipulation on a dramatic scale. One can easily predict what Trump is heading towards.
It is easy to get carried away by Trump’s, or even a friend’s, Facebook posts and Tweets. As seen in this last election, the echo chamber of “artificial truths” ran amok on both sides, and continues to do so. Trump was elected because he affirmed unheard desires of many frustrated conservatives, not necessarily because he was telling the truth. Liberals, too, blindly believed their favorite news sites without considering the validity of their statements.
And yet, it is dangerous to conservatives and liberals alike to let “alternative facts” define Trump’s relationship with reality. If he acts on false information that only serves to validate his personal worldview, lies will be used to justify government decisions that may cost thousands of lives.
We don’t have to be passive observers in this war on truth. As John Oliver recommended in his show “Last Week Tonight,” make sure to fact check everything you see on social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.. Ask for sources on every single meme you come across. Don’t share anything based on how much you agree with it; make sure that the information you are sharing comes from a reputable source. Work to inform others, and stave off the flood of manipulative tactics from all angles. Work towards staying grounded in these four years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Featured Image: This image was originally posted to Flickr by Michael Vadon. The image has been licensed for fair use by the creator under the Creative Commons license – Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). This image has been cropped.