The terms fake news and alternative facts have become very popular in recent times, ever since Donald Trump won the 2016 USA presidential election. Why? And what do they really mean? Let’s look at how these terms arose.
During the 2016 USA presidential campaign, in which the two final candidates were Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, almost all the large news businesses and pundits were predicting Hillary Clinton would win easily. However, of course it turned out that Hillary lost, and Donald Trump became the next president of the USA. The large news businesses and their allies blamed this partially on what they called fake news, that being any ideas proliferating on the Internet which did not come from them, such as:
- When Hillary Clinton was the USA’s Secretary Of State, she was paid US$500,000 to speak at a conference in Russia, hosted by the Russian bank which handled the sale of some USA uranium mining interests to Russia.
- Many believe Hillary Clinton was at least partially responsible for the deaths of Americans in Benghazi.
- Hillary Clinton ordered the set-up of a private email server, and when being investigated for various reasons by the FBI, ordered the server contents deleted, and also had mobile telephones destroyed with hammers, among other activities intended to hide evidence.
- The Clinton Foundation has taken huge amounts of money from many very bad people.
- A large number of people who dared to speak up about the illegal practices of the Clintons have mysteriously committed suicide for no known reasons.
All such stories were labelled fake news by the large news businesses, which consistently refused to cover any such stories on their own. These stories were thought to be among the reasons so many people voted for Donald Trump rather than Hillary Clinton.
In order to more firmly control the news to which people gained easy access, the large news businesses and the owners of the large Internet businesses decided to start using the term fake news to describe any news which might contradict the ideas they preferred to push on everyone. Indeed, the large Internet businesses such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and Twitter committed to restricting the news people could access through them to those news items which were deemed fitting for their own ideology.
Then along came Donald Trump’s inauguration. All those who disapproved of Trump happily mocked the event and claimed that more people had attended the inauguration of the previous USA president, Barack Hussein Obama, and therefore Obama was a far better president than Trump. It was supposed to be evidence of Trump’s personal failings. In support of such ideas, the following image was happily pushed around the Internet:
The image is in two parts. The left side shows the crowd at the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama. The right side shows the crowd at the inauguration of Donald Trump. The crowd for Obama, in that picture, is clearly larger.
What those pushing the image and the idea failed to mention was the timing of the photographs. The reality is this:
- The photograph of the crowd at Obama’s inauguration was taken when everyone had already arrived, after midday.
- The photograph of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was taken around 11 AM, when people were still travelling to the site.
This, on the other hand, is a photograph of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration when it was actually happening, after midday:
That picture provides a more realistic and accurate comparison.
In the interests of accuracy, I shall point out that the USA’s National Parks Service published its own photographs of the event in a PDF file in response to a Freedom Of Information request. Those pictures seem to support the narrative of the major news businesses, except that they do not have timestamps, so it is difficult to be certain whether they accurately show the crowd at the actual time of the inauguration.
Regardless of which crowd was larger, and why it matters (it seems to be a form of penis measuring), the Whitehouse Press Secretary of the time, Sean Spicer, declared that Donald Trump had the largest presidential inauguration crowd ever. This kicked off an extensive and vitriolic debate. The Marxist or leftist folks in the USA insisted that Obama had a larger crowd, which somehow made Obama a better person than Trump. The Trump supporters insisted the Marxists were wrong because… well, I have no idea. But the whole argument was ridiculous.
In response to that debate, when asked about Sean Spicer’s comments and the supposed facts, Kellyanne Conway suggested she and her colleagues were using “alternative facts”. This obviously meant not that she was just making things up for no reason, but that she and her colleagues (in her opinion) were saying things contrary to what was said by the large news businesses, but which were (in her opinion) were supported by facts.
Following the comments by Conway, the Marxists or leftists latched on the whole “alternative facts” idea and used it to suggest that Trump and everyone associated with him were living in a delusion shaped by alternative facts, which in the leftist opinion meant delusional ideas at odds with reality.
So, the whole alternative facts idea isn’t really a Trump matter; it’s a Kellyanne Conway matter.
As for fake news, well, that’s really now just about information and belief control.