OPINION: Nation can’t afford to ward off fact

Jonathan McCollough | Staff Writer

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

That quote from George Orwell’s “1984” is more relevant today that it ever has been, as we can no longer decipher between which facts are real and which are alternative.

During an interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, Kellyanne Conway took “alternative facts” to a whole new level. She claimed that Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqi’s came to the United States to carry out the “Bowling Green Massacre.”

It is true that two Iraqi men came to the United States and tried to support terrorism by sending money and weapons back to Al Qaeda, but the rest of her statement was utter nonsense. Obama never implemented a travel ban, instead he increased vetting procedures and decreased the number of refugees that we took in for a short period of time. More ridiculous than this falsehood was citing the Bowling Green Massacre, which was a made up event that never happened.

This was false information made up to push an agenda. It was propaganda reflective of something that would come from the Ministry of Truth, not the United States Federal Government.

The media called her out for this of course, but to an alarming number of people it didn’t seem to matter. After all, “the media is the opposition party” as said by Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon.

That’s not to say that the media is doing a great job; left-leaning sources have been responsible for a great deal of misinformation as well.

On February 1, right-wing commenter Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at University of California Berkeley. Prior to the event starting, protests erupted, and he was forced to cancel the event due to unsafe conditions.

This story gained major traction in the media and many sources were reporting this incident as if it were somehow Milo’s fault that protests and violence erupted that night rather than the people actually causing it. The Mayor of Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin, went as far as to call Milo a “white nationalist” despite the fact that there’s video evidence of him denouncing white nationalism. While I strongly disagree with just about every aspect of Milo’s message, I can’t support libel and false claims against him.

I use these two examples because I think it’s very important to recognize that this battle for truth is not a war between the left and the right – not just one side is throwing out lies. Healthy skepticism is essential to being an informed citizen, not skepticism solely based on what side or what narrative a story supports.

I say this because on February 6, Donald Trump tweeted something that should be incredibly concerning whether you’re on the right or on the left.

He said that “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election.”

Trump is correct in pointing out that many election polls were highly inaccurate as the vast majority of polls said that he was going to lose the election which ultimately was untrue. The media was generally correct in predicting the popular vote, which Clinton won by over 3 million votes, but state by state polling was not nearly as accurate.

But to use the election polls as evidence that all polls that go against what Trump says are wrong is absolute madness. He is locking people into their echo chambers and supporting their one-sided thinking that discredits any opposing views regardless of what factual evidence is available.

He is essentially saying that anything pro-Trump is good, and anything to the contrary is fake. Trump is continuing the trend of delegitimizing anything in his way, and it has been alarmingly successful thus far.

Whether you love Trump or hate him, it is crucial that you do not fall into this trap. Have healthy skepticism, but do not believe that anything coming from a source you do not like is fake.

This is not a call to support liberals or conservatives; I’m not saying people should move left or move right.

This is a call to not wall yourself off from fact, because if that happens, you’ll become just another puppet to the party that Orwell tried to warn us about.

jmccollough.chronicle@gmail.com