Jayne: Facts are facts, except when we don’t want them to be

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Editor

Published:

 

Greg Jayne, Opinion page editor

Thanks, Trump.

That should be the mantra: “Thanks, Trump!” Because whether you realize it or not, the new president has made our lives better. No, this has nothing to do with scaling back Obamacare or bringing jobs back to America or opening our eyes to what a dystopian wasteland the United States is.

All worthy accomplishments, I suppose, but not nearly as significant as something else the Trump administration managed to do during its first week in power. You see, Trump and his acolytes finally stopped hinting at what we suspected all along and came right out and said it: Lies are the new truth.

This occurred as Trump insisted that his inauguration had drawn huge crowds. Like, the hugest ever. Like, even more than President Obama’s first inauguration. It was an interesting assertion that seemed to disagree with the facts — like the fact about how many people were in attendance.

But that didn’t stop White House press secretary Sean Spicer from doubling down with statistics apparently drawn from a random number generator, and it didn’t prevent Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway from defending Spicer by saying he simply used, “alternative facts.”

With that, we were welcomed to the distorted reality that is the Trump administration. It took less than two days for Trump’s people to blatantly lie to the American people, to criticize the media for reporting what was the truth, and to introduce the meme of “alternative facts” to the lexicon. And for that we should be thankful.

You see, this new norm has endless applications to our daily lives. It will come in handy when I mention my 3.97 college GPA to my kids. Or when I tell my wife that I had exactly one beer at the party. Or when I prattle on about that reverse dunk I threw down back in high school. Lies? Nah, they’re merely alternative facts.

And the benefits don’t end there. For example, using alternative facts, we become certain that Godfather III never happened and that the saga ended with Michael wallowing in the isolation he had created for himself. And we are assured that pizza counts as health food. And we can revel in the Seahawks’ victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. You might have seen Seattle throw an interception in the end zone in the final minute, but my alternative facts tell me otherwise — and I feel better for it.

There are limitations

Yet before you get carried away, allow us to share a word of caution: There are limits to this brave new world.

For one, the odds are that the Internal Revenue Service won’t allow alternative facts as an explanation should you come up for an audit. For another, it’s not really applicable to the world of journalism. You see, if I knowingly use alternative facts in an editorial or a column, I get fired — which is a higher standard than Sean Spicer has to meet.

And some people have a problem with the media pointing out the Orwellian aspect of alternative facts.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, said the media should “keep its mouth shut,” just before he went out to poke a hornet’s nest with a stick. And state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, recommended to Trump critics, “Don’t read the newspapers or watch TV and everything will be just fine.”

Personally, I kind of think that an informed public is better for our country, better for our state, better for our democracy. I kind of think that people should digest a variety of news sources in order to better tell the difference between fact facts and alternative facts.

That way, when Trump insists that millions of people voted illegally, we eventually get to the root of the story — a third-hand account from German golfer Bernhard Langer. Yes, serious accusations levied toward our democracy were a third-hand distortion of a story that started with a German golfer.

And with that thought, I shall leave you for now. I’m going to go throw down a few dunks. Thanks, Trump!