Alternate Facts Are Now Ubiquitous with the Alt Right
Let me start by thanking Mr. Trump. He is actually bringing me closer to my friends and family. Through disagreement and misunderstanding I have had to forge new bonds and explore new meanings of friendship and family. My love and loyalties have never been brought into question before, but new rules of engagement are having to be put in place that were not necessary before this “peaceful transfer of power” took place. So now, reassurance of my love and loyalty is required throughout any and all interactions with family and friends.
I learned a long time ago that without breakdown there can be no breakthrough. So, thanks to Trump, we are learning to find our way in this new paradigm, where facts no longer seem to matter and assurances that “yes, I still love you, even though we disagree,” are a required part of every conversation going forward.
We now live in an insane sea of feelings and opinions. Tempers are pitched. Sensitivities are being challenged. In fact, I have found trying to get at what is true to be increasingly frustrating. We now have to consider “alternate truths” on equal footing with actual truths. Trapped in a world where facts are now meaningless, I find myself deliberately limiting my conversations strictly to expressions of my opinion, because there is simply no end to alternate facts.
This is the world brought about by our new President, who has raised this type of banter to new heights. The beauty of being forced into this crazy tumultuous sea of opinion, is that my feelings and opinions also are unassailable, because they are mine. Of course, so are yours. And, as long as we understand this, we will all get along.
It was actually a refreshing departure for me, to dive into the world of the Dylann Roof trial. In trial, every effort is made to deal strictly in the realm of fact, at least as it is humanly possible to do so. In his case, his guilt was a fact, even as the reasons for his actions could not be as easily distilled.
Trump almost seems to have discovered that feelings trump facts in the art of persuasion, even though this has always been so. He has an uncanny ability to harness the power of emotionally charged language in ways others before him could have only dreamed. His last name is eponymous with this, his greatest gift. His words actually trump facts.
For example, in his inaugural address, Trump referred to “American carnage” as an actual real thing. This assessment, presented as an inarguable fact, resonated with those who really are afraid of losing their own familiar way of life. The genius of Trump is that he encourages his followers to fill in the blanks with their own personal experiences of fear and loss, which they are happy to provide. Like taking candy from a baby. “Make America Great Again” means something a little different for everyone. That’s why it resonates.
Here’s another seemingly small but stunning example of his affinity for praying on the emotions of his followers. I noticed when examining the transcript of his inaugural address, Trump added the word “all” before “knowledge” in the phrase “. . . beautiful students deprived of [all] knowledge.” It seems he decided at the last minute the statement didn’t evoke quite enough fear on its own. It wouldn’t do simply to say he believed our public education system needs to be overhauled, meaning privatized. He’s not interested in using facts to build an argument. Feelings are all that is required. He needed more emotional pizzazz, so he simply inserted the word “all” to an already emotionally charged sentence.
He is literally doing this, with every phrase he utters; this speaking style has now become ubiquitous with his identity. It comes very naturally to him.
That’s his secret weapon. Trump starts with fear and works backwards from there. For example, “we are losing our way of life.” For many, that gut feeling is true; it is an aching, gnawing feeling, as real as rock. He doesn’t need to tell you why it’s true. It’s a feeling and you either already know it’s true or you don’t, because you feel it. So when he speaks directly to that fear we will accept any conjecture, alternate fact, or conclusion he offers because it is in line with our very own feelings. This is his secret weapon. It would be foolish to underestimate what he, as President, might accomplish with this weapon; it is a weapon more powerful than any nuclear arsenal.