“You’re entitled to your opinion but you aren’t entitled to your own facts.”
I used to find this quote comforting, as if no matter what else happens, facts will be impervious to even the most dangerous misinformation. Even as the rise of fake news has damaged our collective ability to suss out fact from fiction, the public’s renewed interest in American journalism seemed to at least offer a strong counterweight. But last week’s press conference showed us what it looks like when you fuse a compulsive liar together with the power of the presidency.
Trump proclaimed his own version of the law, facts and journalistic integrity, while the rest of us watched in horror, proving nothing could be more American than the right to make up whatever truth you like best.
America, you DIY, land of self-determination, of course you are entitled to your own facts. Your President-elect just told you so.
Since the election, conservatives have said we should stop panicking about Trump and give him a chance but, after watching the press conference, it’s clear what’s coming is even worse than we feared. We were presented with stacks and stacks of papers, ostensibly proving Trump’s efforts to remove his conflicts of interest but no journalist was allowed to see what was on them or even verify they weren’t blank. Trump even packed the room with paid staffers, on hand to jeer the press and cheer for himself.
Trump’s lawyer presented us with an alternate version of the law, the U.S. Constitution according to Team Trump. Trump called CNN “fake news” and refused to take a question from one of the network’s reporters, Jim Acosta. His staff cheered when they heard this bald faced lie, while incoming press secretary Sean Spicer threatened Acosta with future expulsion. And for the finale, the President-elect ended this charade of a press conference with a reference to his Apprentice tagline, reminding us that this is Trump’s reality now and we just live in it.
It’s uncomfortable to confront the facts. Accepting that Russians could interfere with our election means confronting your own powerless and the myth of self-determination. Last week we learned there are Trump supporters who believe Congress isn’t repealing the Affordable Care Act, they’re just getting rid of Obamacare. Some people would rather believe there’s a child sex trafficking ring happening in the nonexistent basement of a DC pizza joint than admit a foreign entity could affect their vote.
No matter what you do, don’t fact-check a Trump supporter because you’ll just sound like a smug liberal, and smugness, we’re constantly told, is why we lost the election. As if smart people are a liberal conspiracy. As if D.C. isn’t lousy with smart Republican nerds and experts, happy to live, work and play in the liberal bubble of my city. Don’t argue facts. You’re an American and I’m just a sore loser.
For progressives, this constant loop of being told a barrage of lies while experiencing a different reality feels an awful lot like gaslighting by our collective abuser-in-chief. But God forbid we progressives use a term like “gaslighting” because that’s just “safe space” pussy liberal talk. And if we’ve learned anything from Trump’s win it’s that there’s not much worse than a liberal or a vagina these days, except possibly a liberal with a vagina.
We have access to so much information at our fingertips, but what do we use it for? What I loved about the Westworld series wasn’t the maze or the sexbots, but the way it questioned what it means to be human and free. Do any of us control our own destiny? In Westworld, just like the real world, so much depends on what you are able to see.