What The Trump Era Can Teach Us About Our National Illusions
When world-class political flack, Kellyanne Conway, uttered the gorgeously provocative and spectacularly honest phrase “alternative facts” to defend some nonsense blathered by the White House press secretary at the behest of our paranoid new president on NBC’s Meet The Press, it conjured up the kind of joy in my soul that is rarely sparked. Only a true poet can take the magnificence of all-things and parse it down to a hymn to the human spirit. Conway is an artist. And artists are inspired by muses, and there is no greater muse to the delicately trained ears of this reporter than Donald J. Trump.
And like Rosa Parks, whose seemingly trite refusal to move from her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus became the symbol of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement 61 years ago, the goofy defense of how many people showed up to Trump’s inauguration has become, thanks to Conway’s abstract reasoning, a teachable moment for our republic.
Now, firstly, one is right to ask: what exactly is an “alternative fact”?
Before, say, the Beatles, there was this thought that popular music had to be massaged through several layers; songwriters, performers, managers, public relations firms, record company geeks, etc. The Beatles changed all that by becoming all of these. Don’t fool yourself, this is what the mastery of the artist formally known as Citizen Trump, but in this space will forevermore carry the nickname El Douche, has done with the word “fact”. It is taking an absolute and transmogrifying it before our eyes; a science meet art meets steaming piles of crap principle that speaks volumes.
To wit: Prior to this historic appearance on an otherwise dull 60-minute program originally founded on political discourse but slowly deteriorated over the years into a mind-numbing spin-cycle, a “fact” was “a piece of information presented as having objective reality” or “a thing that is indisputably the case.”
Fact: The earth revolves around the sun.
Alternative Fact: The sun revolves around the earth.
Those unfamiliar with genius might call such a thing a “falsehood” or even a “lie” or at the very least the evidence of stupidity. This is wrong. These definitions miss the point of Trump and the United States of America. The concept of an “alternative fact” is not new, but somehow, through the creative machinations of a true mastermind, it has shed light on our national delusion that has and continues to forge ahead unbounded, and, miraculously, never gets called into serious question. Nay, it gets celebrated and passed on with pride.
Now, in politics you are expected a measure in truth-bending, but this is child’s play compared with the symphony of madness Trump wielded for over a year. There was one point in which I was unsure if Trump wasn’t some kind of Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton satire or maybe the entire thing was happening in his/our head like Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas or Scientology. (A man running a campaign for political office continuing to say he is not a politician is worthy of Lewis Carroll.) However, Conway’s admission that we can now deny that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit by simply saying it does not puts on trial the very nature of our American tradition of “Alternative Facts”.
Here’s one that will get Conway wet: Columbus discovered America.
This is a monumental “alternative fact” that we not only celebrate but continue to teach in schools to our children, who one day may grow up to use phrases like “alternative facts” with a straight face on television, purportedly sober and not joking.
From the Encyclopedia Britannica (soon to be outlawed under the Alternative Fact Executive Order): “During four separate trips that started with the one in 1492, Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands that are now the Bahamas as well as the island later called Hispaniola. He also explored the Central and South American coasts.”
Or…Columbus never set foot on North American soil.
This is fact.
Alternative fact: Columbus discovered America.
Also included as bonus “alternative facts” is Columbus “discovering” anything, as there were indigenous peoples inhabiting these lands and the always amusing “proving that the earth was not flat”, which was first determined by a Greek philosopher named Pythagoras in the sixth century bce and corroborated many times thereafter.
I can hear Conway moaning now.
I know this makes me hot.
One of the epic “alternative facts” of recent times was the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, which was the grounding principle of getting the richest, most powerful nation in the world embroiled in a multi trillion-dollar desert war, costing thousands of American and Iraqi lives and dozens of other horrors.
Fact: Iraq had no WMDs.
Ah, but that ordeal pales in comparison to my lifetime’s greatest “alternative fact”, which is still not widely known. Chances are you are reading this for the first time, but please (unlike Conway, Trump or whatever is going on in the White House right now) check my research: North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an “unprovoked attack” against a U.S. destroyer on “routine patrol” in the Tonkin Gulf on Aug. 2, 1964, and North Vietnamese PT boats followed up with a “deliberate attack” on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.
What was known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which resulted in the egregious Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, providing President Lyndon Johnson unchecked aggressive powers over all of Southeast Asia, and as a result, unleashed the Viet Nam War, the most damaging useless conflagration this nation has ever endured. For fun and frolic, this later laid the foundation for the kind of powers granted to daddy and son George Bush to enact their highly questionable forays into Iraq.
If Kellyanne Conway is not cumming by now, I can’t imagine why.
Debunking other “Alternative Facts” include:
Pilgrims did not host the first Thanksgiving.
Paul Revere never declared “The British are coming” nor did he even make it to Concord.
There were really only 12 original colonies, not 13.
Teddy Roosevelt nor his half-assed Rough Riders ever stormed San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.
Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball.
This barely scratches the surface of “alternative facts”. So, I ask, how can a country that lives comfortably with illusion be equipped to defend against the kind of bullshit it is fed from every corner from history books, politicians, the media, agenda-motivated bloggers, and the like? We are programmed to accept the “alternative fact” from our religious institutions, schools, and other myopic groups that aim to gather us in like a mindless flock to march lock-step into a mass hallucination.
This explains the popularity of television, which, in turn, gave us a Donald Trump.
Hey, when you’re forced to put your hand on your heart and pledge allegiance to your country, as if you are a potential insurrectionist, in the first grade, it tends to dull you to mind-games.
And so we thank Kellyanne Conway and El Douche for their continued harping on the pointless defense against fact like a nearly three-million shellacking in the popular vote is the result of dead people and illegal aliens and there were more people seeing the Trump inauguration than anything ever in recorded history or the Mexican government and not the American taxpayer will be paying for a border wall or the president did not brag about assaulting women, he loves them.
Their unyielding dedication to this time-honored craft has allowed us a short but meaningful stroll down bullshit lane, which, of course, will change nothing, as we will continue to swallow our “alternative facts” and hold parades on fantasy holidays, and, I guess, believe anything Trump tells us. But at least we will know we are full of shit, so then we can’t blame everything on the Chinese.
“Alternative Facts”: An American tradition since a slave owner wrote “All men are created equal.”
Do yourself no favors and “like” this idiot at www.facebook.com/jc.author
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, “Midnight For Cinderella” and “Y”. and his new book, “Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon”.