Commentary: The era of fake news, alternative facts and post truth

Commentary: The era of fake news, alternative facts and post truth

By Youri Aramin Kemp, BA, MSc, CFM, AFA, ChE

As one would imagine, propaganda and controlling the narrative seems to be very important in today’s political realm. Keeping stories, agendas, pet-peeves and personal convictions relevant seems to be a high priority and rightfully so. If no one knows your issue, story or grievance and how important it is to you and the grand scheme of things the way you see it, then you may as well go and pray about it until things change.

Youri Aramin Kemp was the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) candidate for Garden Hills in The Bahamas and the party’s spokesperson for finance and the economy

The sad reality is that not all things are important to the majority of us. Some things are just important to a few, but that does not mean it does not have the capacity to be magnified to us as important or vital to global existence.

Take for example president of the USA, Donald Trump’s apparent “meanness”. Sure, it seems to be the centre of all that’s wrong in America. But, in the grand scheme of things, what does his apparent meanness towards people in the media and those opposed to him have to do with anything substantially policy related to his agenda? Exactly!

To bring it home to us here in The Bahamas: The incessant prattling about how mean “some” were to the new Prime Minister Dr Minnis when he was in opposition, and even so how some were “mean” to the then Prime Minister Perry Christie and his family.

Some of the commentary did go overboard, none of which came from yours truly at any time, but in the grand scheme of things what does that have to do with anything material to the way The Bahamas is headed? Not very much, quite frankly. In fact, you wonder why this has such a continual push within society, or why it had such an emotional sway over persons who felt as if he was being wronged.

Some would argue that we are well into the era of fake news and post truthism. An Orwellian present day where the story is more important than the substance, and facts are largely irrelevant to the feelings out there in the general public. But, have we ever been in an era where feelings did not dominate the story that was told? I would say no!

Look, I am not here to save the world. I’m not even here trying to save The Bahamas. Both tasks are a lot bigger than my mortal frame can manage. I am not even here trying to save myself with regard to the revelation of fake news and living in a post truth era. I’m simply here covering what happened and chronicling it to whosoever feels it should be chronicled. Some may say that I’m being a part of the fake news cycle by talking about fake news! I love the cynicism as it is the great rinse cycle of dialogue!

Fake news, added to alternative facts, makes living in this post-truth world very, very confusing. Writing that sentence was confusing enough. But it appears to be where we are.

Take for example what “alternative facts” mean. Of course, everyone remembers President Trump’s aide, Kelly-Anne Conway, in her now infamous television interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, when grilled in the veracity of President Trump’s claims that his inauguration crowd was larger than that of President Obama’s. Of course, in this instance, it was clearly false – or so it seems. However, we can have alternative facts presented that are both equally true depending on the question asked, what part of the question should be asked or answered and what time!

Take for example, particularly when presenting statistics that are dependent on variables, you can have separate sets of “truths” borne from the same dataset with just a manipulation of how the variables are inserted. A prime and current example of this is with regard to this is the Congressional Budget Office’s portrayal of President Trump’s costing for the Republican healthcare package.

The costing suggests that Trump’s HealthCare plan would cost exponentially more than Obamacare, it will leave many more persons uncovered and make substantial cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. However, what it does not state was that the CBO’s numbers that projected comfortable projections on all fronts mentioned under Obamacare was some 30% to 50% off target from original projections when first implemented.

The reality is the average citizen will never have all of the facts, statistics, figures, time series for which it is relevant or the methodology on how they came up with the projections at either time. But you are just given the projections from and “authority” that you assume to be independent, but clearly is not even before we discuss if the office is bipartisan or not and to what degree?

Furthermore, giving the perception that the CBO cannot be wrong this time on Trump’s health care alternative (no pun intended), because it is a government bureaucracy and a part of the government and says its mandate is one that is steeped in impartiality, does not make their projections any more assailable then or now. It also does not signify that all of the variables under both sets of projections were any richer, time sensitive with regard to their representation or understated to any large degree.

Of course, in the era of fake news and alternative facts, times are very crazy. Indeed, the post-truth era is one where anything goes; spin means more than substance; and spin means more than substance on false narratives; and false narratives are bolstered by alternative, often times, meaningless, facts that are not germane neither important or, for that matter, relative or relevant to the overall task at hand.

As we move forward, facts will become more and more irrelevant. Sadly. The media has been found wanting on several points and times, and people’s realities are muddled because what is portrayed in the media, and social media, does not add up to what they are dealing with on a day to day basis.

What we have now is what the media wants to cover; what the public officers want them to cover; what social media decides to ignore or cover; and what average, every day people want covered based on how they live. All of these issues are totally separate from each other. Which may be a bad thing, but maybe this is what we need to get back to the centre of what’s best for the society!