Defending Facts is Defending Liberty

In an interview on “Meet the Press,” presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false claims surrounding President Donald Trump’s inauguration. According to Conway, Spicer’s assertions that the 2017 presidential inauguration was the largest-attended in history are “alternative facts.” Rather than confronting the possibility that Spicer’s claims are false, Conway created a new philosophical realm of thought in which the truth can — or cannot — exist.

It is easy to dismiss the concept of “alternative facts” as another one of the Trump administration’s absurdities, especially with the lighthearted rise of trends like the “#alternativefacts” tag rampant on social media. But if there are two words that aptly characterize the past presidential election, the rise of Trump and his alarming policies since his inauguration, they would be “alternative facts.” The only alternative to the truth is falsehood, and it is precisely falsehood that has fueled Trump’s rise to the presidency. He has claimed that the public does not care about his tax returns, that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton laughed at a 12-year-old rape victim while defending her attacker in court, that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, that he had been against the war in Iraq before it started, that Mexico would fund the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, that not many Syrian refugees are women or children and that excluding immigrants and refugees from the U.S. will reduce terrorism threats. The list goes on and on. We encourage you to examine these false claims more on Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-check resource PolitiFact.

The Editorial Board fully supports diversity of political thought. However, we encourage students to prevent political preference from clouding their judgement of what is true and what is false. If an event did not occur, or if a person did not make a specific comment, then claiming otherwise would be a lie. President Trump has consistently crafted and disseminated baseless claims that have been proven incorrect with clear evidence; many are simply not true. And we, as Americans and defenders of this country, must distinguish the two more clearly than ever before.

The notion of “alternative facts” implies that anything can be a fact if one wants it to be. This concept is frightening in an age where the liberties of so many, including our peers, are being threatened. The vulnerable and dehumanizing positions of our Deferred Action for Childhood Americans (DACA), Muslim, LGBTQ, female, disabled and diverse peers — people that we eat, sleep and study with — are all rooted in “alternative facts.” “Facts” that claim that undocumented persons are detrimental to the economy, that Muslim communities pose a threat to our country’s security, that people of color are lazy and unproductive and that a woman running for president is “disgusting” for going to the bathroom not only perpetuate harmful stereotypes but also have real consequences for members of the Amherst community. Put your politics aside — we cannot accept these claims as realities because they manifest into our everyday lives, reaching their ugly fingers into our community.

We are living in a time where we must be cognizant of what is factual and what is simply untrue. More importantly, the Editorial Board encourages all students to commit to perpetuating the truth. Only the truth can set us free and allow us to see what is just. Read verified publications like The Amherst Student, The New York Times, Washington Post, which have a commitment and history to finding the truth, no matter how difficult that truth may be to process. Fact-check the articles that you find on social media through verified sources such as PolitiFact. Second-guess the statements that President Trump’s administration makes. We are living in a time where we can no longer take the truth for granted. Rather, we must actively seek out the truth and seek justice accordingly.