Donald Trump’s strange relationship with facts in a post-truth era

As the inauguration of Donald Trump leaves a number of people on edge and ignites several hundred protests throughout the nation, our country finds itself in a unique position: actually getting to know the man we have elected president.

As his administration begins to roll back several first-day promises it flaunted throughout his wily campaign, such as renegotiating the North American Free Trade agreement, people who once supported him are already beginning to doubt his potential as a president. In fact, several have taken up issue with his rumored ties to Russia, or his abandonment of efforts to pursue “justice,” and incarcerate Hillary Clinton for her email scandal. Others just feel duped, either by his exaggerated policies on immigration, or his overly optimistic projections of his administration’s early effects on the economy. 

Those who bother to question his decisions look to the media for the facts, the very entity they were taught to distrust during Trump’s election campaign. 

What they found was obviously shocking, and further developments in the narrative have only proven to shake them further. According to Gallup, Trump’s approval ratings have fallen as low as 45 percent, the lowest of any newly inaugurated president, and as low or worse than any president’s approval ratings overall in the past six decades.

This staggering estimate is due to the general public’s realization of Trump’s fondness for what his top adviser, and former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway terms as “alternative facts.”

To get a better look at these so-called “alternative facts,” people must first be associated with his behavior regarding the inauguration ceremony itself. Many of his reluctant supporters wish he would “just stop tweeting about it,” according to Vox. Trump said the inauguration attendance numbered somewhere around 1.5 million people at a meeting taking place within the CIA office on Jan. 21, which would have rivaled the attendance at either of former President Barrack Obama’s inauguration ceremonies.

However, several news agencies suggest the number was much lower, as evidenced by the Joint Congressional Committee for Inaugural Ceremonies, which regulated ticket sales to the inauguration. The committee reported there were around 250,000 tickets sold. Trump said this was a lie.

When questioned about the statements of Trump and Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, Conway said “alternative facts” were used to assess the crowds. The statement attracted criticism from not only political opponents and news outlets, but also several dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster, with lectures on what the word “fact” indeed meant. NPR has even gone so far to say Trump is subscribing to the late pastor Norman Vincent Peale’s philosophy, “A confident and optimistic thought pattern can modify or overcome the fact altogether.”

Needless to say, America is not in need of positive thinking in the face of grave realities. In fact, that may be what got us here in the first place.

 

Benjamin Hummel is an English and speech & communications major and can be reached at [email protected]