Image: Kellyanne Conway / Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons
From The Hunger Games to 1984, dystopian fiction has always been a bestseller. Watching it on screen or reading it in a book can be a gripping experience, but when the new leader of the free world says things that could definitely be included in dystopian scripts, it can feel slightly concerning.
There’s no denying that the Trump presidency has been unprecedented in its un-presidential ways. Whether it be the lack of experience in politics, the lack of details in policies or the undignified treatment of fellow candidates, press and public, this is all quite unique. Nevertheless, recently we have seen even stronger rhetoric from another source close to the president, previous campaign manager and now Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway.
Not even one month in, Kellyanne Conway taught us a new phrase, ‘Alternative facts’. This was a macabre stroke of genius in some regards. The invention of new terms is the perfect loophole to avoid admitting fault, as only you can know the true definition. A fact is something that is proven to be true, therefore would an alternative fact be defined as a ‘possible truth’ or more a ‘substitute truth’?
While this euphemism was quick to catch, the reality is that many other new terms may enter our vocabulary quite soon. While some euphemisms help soften difficult phrases, such as ‘in between jobs’ rather than ‘unemployed’, phrases like ‘alternative facts’ make corruption and dishonestly much easier and more convenient. They place pleasant but vague images into our minds, while masking shocking realities. The phrase ‘alternative facts’ was used as a means to justify Sean Spicer’s untrue statements about the size of the crowd at President Trump’s inauguration. When the topic of discussion sounds so pointless, it begs the question of what new expressions will arise once bigger problems come by.
Less than two weeks later, Conway infamously criticised the media for not reporting on the Bowling Green Massacre. Somewhat unsurprisingly, this was also an alternative fact. In reality, the incident took place in Iraq where the two US soldiers were killed.
When watching the interview, it’s interesting to analyse the wordings and body language of Conway. Conway artfully uses laughter and shrugging shoulders to make her viewers believe that the Trump administration is being disadvantaged in some way. Her confident long-winded responses often follow the same structure. They begin with a short response to the question, followed by a comparison to either Obama or Hilary and then finally a pivot to a completely unrelated topic. These interviews are often exhausting and draining conversations to listen to, and leave you feeling as though you know less than you did before.
As Denzel Washington said, "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you do read it, you're misinformed," Especially in this day and age, it is vital to fact-check. Get your news from multiple sources and verify it for yourself. When euphemisms are used, research the details and find out exactly what is happening. When those in power lie or misconstrue the truth, stay aware and speak up!
Why is this all such a big deal? I’ll leave it to Orwell himself to illustrate:
“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” – 1984.