“Alternative Facts”? Sure, I’ve heard of those!

alt-factsI just liked this headline from The Guardian

When Kellyanne Conway used this phrase this week, my first thought was that if she had any sense she would have said that it was a “different interpretation of facts.”  And then it occurred to me, “Hey, we have plenty of ‘alternative facts’ reported about us in Israel.”

A few weeks ago 4 soldiers were run over by a truck driver on purpose in a targeted attack.  Here’s what the BBC first reported.

bbcScreenshot from my computer

There is actually nothing untrue in this headline.  A truck driver was shot.  It happened in Jerusalem.  There were allegations that he hit people and injured them.  And the Israeli media reported it.

But do you see the problem here?  It’s the arrangement and presentation of the facts.

Does it feel different when you see the headline this way?  Here’s their later post.

bbc3
Screenshot from my computer

Still true, but now you understand who the victims are and who the perpetrator is and that it was an attack – not an alleged attack according to others.

I’m an editor.  I work with words for a living and it matters how facts are framed.  For instance:

Four young soldiers murdered in vicious truck ramming attack.

Four killed by truck.

Truck driver runs over four soldiers.

Terrorist shot in his truck after he killed four soldiers.

Truck driver shot after fatal accident kills four.

All of these sentences have the same facts, but you feel differently about each because of how those interpretations are framed.  And yet none of them is a lie.

The most shocking example of different interpretations of facts I’ve heard of was in 2007 when a master’s student won an award for a research thesis that looked into the question of why IDF soldiers don’t rape Palestinian women.  Her conclusion – hold on to your socks – it’s because IDF soldiers are racists and dehumanize Palestinian women so they wouldn’t even want to rape them.  Let me repeat.  She WON AN AWARD for this work and Hebrew University stood behind the decision.  (Here’s an analysis of the paper done by a professor at Haifa University. Here’s a shorter article about it.)

That’s an alternative fact if ever I’ve heard one.

I’m not defending Kellyanne Conway.  I’m not defending journalists who write news stories with their own biases and agendas.  And I’m not defending the academic world.

I’m appealing to you, dear reader, to be aware.  Read multiple news sources.  Read news you don’t agree with (in moderation if you have high blood pressure).  Watch out for fake news.  Analyze and deconstruct what you read and hear.  More than anything else, hold people accountable for the words they use and how they use them.

More on history and truth from my blog:

The truth about history.

How history will remember.

UNESCO rewrites history.

4 thoughts on ““Alternative Facts”? Sure, I’ve heard of those!

  1. Perception and interpretation are easily and often manipulated. History is just that = stories told by the people who won, so really, everything is an alternative fact if we apply KAC’s interpretation. We’re having a field day calling everything an alternative fact here in the US and also fearing that executive action wall is to keep us here with him. A little too reminiscent of our NK readings, no?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read that sales of 1984 have surged too. And there are suddenly many analyses of George Orwell’s works and how they are applicable today.
      Not everyone in the West is up on NK policy, but they do remember 1984 from high school (I hope!).

      Like

      • YES! Bookstores are selling out of 1984 here. Amazing! Our American English is getting reduced to Newspeak (“. . . designed to diminish the range of thought . . .” ~George Orwell) , and we are being forced to accept doublethink (the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social concepts).

        Like

  2. “The facts ma,am..Just the facts.” I guess Detectve Joe Friday from the tv series Dragnet is no longer relevant. I believe that i am entitled to my own opinions not my own facts.
    Spin it appeRs is out of Control

    Liked by 1 person

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