Alternative Facts: Fiction or America’s Future?

    I recently purchased a copy of George Orwell’s “1984” on Amazon. It was a book that I should have already read, given the current political climate, but it arrived in the Colgate mailroom around the same time Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s Chief Strategist, told the media to “shut its mouth.” Mr. Bannon went on to say, “the media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the President of the United States.” While Mr. Bannon clearly does not understand the public outcry against the new president, he is correct about one thing: the media is, in a way, a political party.

    Since this nation’s early days, news and propaganda have driven its political systems. The Federalist Papers are, at least in part, responsible for the ratification of our current Constitution, and the First Amendment in that Constitution protects the right to free speech and press. The Washington Post exposed the Watergate scandal and caused the only presidential resignation in our nation’s history. The media has always been the American whistleblower, the only check that is not an official branch of the government.

President Trump, however, has resented and manipulated the media since the beginning of his campaign. He kept the press in a cage during his rallies, a clear intimidation tactic, and rarely held press conferences. After being elected, he and his administration have displayed a blatant contempt for journalistic freedoms and factual integrity, painting lies as “alternative facts.” This is reminiscent of Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth,” a governmental branch of the reigning party (under the leadership of the totalitarian “Big Brother”) that is “dedicated to historical revisionism,” essentially altering the past to fit the administration’s future.

    On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump omitted Jews in his statement, instead recognizing the “innocent people” affected by systematic anti-Semitism and genocide. While it is true that eleven million people were killed during the Holocaust and only six million of them were Jewish, Jews were the Nazis’ main victims. (President Trump appears to be uncomfortable with popular majorities.) This “historical revisionism” is made more frightening by the fact that it took place both in the White House and in the pages of Orwell’s novel.

    While the current administration’s vehement opposition to the truth is frightening, it is a reminder of the vital importance of the press to the American political system and its people. I firmly believe that the logic of the moderate press will impede Trump, who displays a blatant antagonism towards anyone who opposes him, as well as the human decency of the majority of his constituents. This election has highlighted a small, hateful sector of the American population, but it has also ushered in a new era of protest, social awareness and, hopefully, political action. So long as we continue to watch our own Big Brother, Orwell’s fiction will not become fact.