On Saturday afternoon, President Pussy Grabber Von Trumpnik Twitter Low-Turnout Baby Hands visited with the CIA. During the session, he claimed that the media lied about the size of his inauguration crowd. He also said that when he looked from the stage, it looked like a million to a million and a half people. Reporters called him to task.
The numbers didn’t back up the claim.
Later the same day, Trump had White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer follow up with the press. In that briefing, Spicer alleged that Trump had “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period…” Neither the Nielsen ratings, nor crowd estimates, support this. Nielsen rates Trump’s inauguration viewership as the third largest in 36 years, behind President Reagan and Barack Obama. As well, The Financial Times said initial estimates put the crowd total near 250,000, fewer than Obama’s 1.8 million in 2009. Spicer, too, was caught in a lie. He admonished the press, doubled down on untrue information and refused to take questions. The press was scathing. Again, the provable data negated his claim.
Enter Kellyanne Conway on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” When asked about Spicer’s lies, Conway claimed that he was simply offering, “alternative facts.”
Let’s stop here.
The nature of a fact is that it is verifiable — the Eiffel Tower is 984 feet tall. We can measure it. The crowd at Trump’s inauguration was smaller than Obama’s. We can measure it. Even without exact numbers, we can view side-by-side images taken at similar points that show crowds of very different sizes. It is provable. Any “alternative” is a lie.
Here is an apolitical example:
Your boss regularly pays you with a check that is worth legal tender — dollars. The next week, he pays you in chocolate. He says to you that it is an alternative to dollars. Do you accept this?
No, because you can prove to him that chocolate does not spend at the grocery, nor does your bank accept chocolate as a payment for your mortgage or car note. Chocolate may get you a date, or cigarettes in prison, but it will not get you a car from Toyota.
We are entitled to our own opinions. We can disagree about the beauty of roses. Beauty is a relative concept. It cannot be determined objectively, nor measured or standardized, despite our best efforts. It will never be exact or verifiable.
With that said, we are not entitled to the fabrication of truth. Facts are not subjective. We can verify them, like the media did Trump’s inaugural crowd.
For our government to blatantly invent data for the sake of Donald Trump’s tender ego is, first, ridiculous and, second, dangerous. It is ridiculous because governance is not a popularity contest. Trump and his cronies are quibbling about who attended his party, not the money it cost taxpayers, or even the state of healthcare. This is an attempt to soothe Trump’s narcissism.
This inauguration wasn’t significant enough to necessitate the lying. To tell the American public that Spicer offered “alternative facts” is dangerous because these lies could result in the loss of many American lives — much like the “alternative facts” of weapons of mass destruction. It lays the foundation for dangerous precedent. If Trump’s administration will lie about people cheering in a field, it will lie about everything and to all persons. It will lie to its people, and they will lie to those who voted against him.
None of us are untouched by this.
It gives politicians like him — like Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin — license to tell the public anything. Bevin’s claim that his administration does not answer to accreditation boards could cost those at the University of Louisville, if the school can’t provide an accredited degree. Students might also lose federal financial aid, should the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges remove the university’s credentials. This would seem to put the state at risk of litigation, costing us more.
We are all responsible to make these lies painful for politicians. They must be held accountable to the people who elected them and to those who did not. Americans warned Trump this weekend. It is up to us to follow up and follow through should this be the standard he intends to bear.