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Sunday, Feb. 25
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion

COLUMN: Alternative facts aren't facts

Owing to a misguided fixation on his own perspective, President Trump assumed his view of Friday’s inauguration attendees was proof enough to claim the crowd was the largest of all time.

That mistake was replicated by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who claimed during a press conference Saturday that Trump’s swearing-in had “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

Then, during “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway responded to host Chuck Todd’s criticism of Spicer’s claim by saying Spicer “gave alternative facts” to what all reasonable evidence suggests about the crowd.

Even in my own studies of literature, a field people generally regard as being very subjective, you must provide justification for any claims you wish to make in order to maintain a valid argument.

There is not a single academic discipline, to my knowledge, that would permit such blatant untruthfulness as that of Trump, Spicer and 
Conway.

For my own argument, it is hardly a challenge to find evidence Conway’s methods prioritize political power instead of public decency and truth. Her alternative facts quip, however, is the best and worst example I’ve heard yet.

While undeniably effective at foregoing ownership of the impermissible behavior of her President and his staff, the notion that one can simply deny reality and delegitimize fact is ridiculous.

Although I understand that the so-called real world hardly operates according to the same principles academia enforces, I had hoped it was reasonable to assume that such petty, easily falsifiable claims as Spicer’s would not be allowed from a position as influential as the White House press 
secretary.

I know that those positions are not immune to falsehood, but it seems to be a break in tradition that the new White House staff would not only tolerate but also defend lies about information as objective as the size of a crowd.

Even if we decided the straightforward photographic evidence was not sufficient and turned instead to the work of crowd scientists whose 
calculations we trust, I don’t see how anyone can presume to dismiss their conclusions as being impossible to verify.

Variations in decisions about which time of day to use as a basis of comparison or how many people per square meter to use as a unit of measurement will produce corresponding variations in final conclusions, but even in a range of differing estimates, every option has evidence to justify its legitimacy.

You can’t just choose an answer outside of that range and use it to support whatever narrative is most advantageous for your political party.

At the very least, you shouldn’t do this. Whether or not Trump, Spicer and Conway will succeed is up to the American public.

I urge you to see these tactics as the unethical manipulations they truly are. Do not join Trump in his shortsightedness. Do not excuse Spicer for his recklessness. Most of all, do not yield to Conway and her deceptiveness.

Alternative facts are not facts.

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