In an era of fake news, where netizens sometimes struggle to separate credible reporting from propaganda, there is a new catchphrase, courtesy US President Donald Trump's counsellor, Kellyanne Conway: “alternative facts”.
The phrase slipped out during an interview with TV network NBC's public affairs program Meet the Press, in which she was defending the evidence-free claims of White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe”.
It was widely reported in mainstream media — and spread via social media — that the crowd size at Trump's inauguration was not as large as it was for Obama's in 2009:
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 21, 2017
The minute Conway said that Spicer was presenting “alternative facts” and that there was “really no way to quantify crowds”, journalist Chuck Todd called out the claims as “provable falsehoods”. He also said that if Spicer could lie about such a small thing, it “undermines the credibility of the White House press office”. Conway accused Todd of being “overly dramatic”.
Facebook user Keith Francis quipped:
Ringling Brothers closed down in anticipation of the competition from the American government.
Artist Christopher Cozier was so stunned, he publicly posted this status update:
So…my world view is formed by ‘alternative facts’
Trinidadian calypsonian David Rudder, who regularly brings joy to his Facebook followers with his clever commentary, posted this amusing status update, in which he compared himself with popular soca music star Machel Montano:
My show had ten more people that Machel's show, but the nasty media would never say that.
When I started to count the amount of women alone in attendance I reached a-bacchanal seven thousand, then I got tired. But the media would never say that. Ask my publicist Kelly Ann Converse, my little all star who will go through hoops for me, she go tell allyuh.
Facebook user Nigel Thompson applied the “alternative facts” concept to rationalise Trinidad and Tobago's spiralling crime rate:
20 days 35 dead.
COP [Commissioner of Police]: serious crime is down.
Laura Dowrich-Phillips, who is black, decided to have some fun with the hashtag on a personal level:
I am a red [light-skinned] girl with a tan #alternativefacts
Franka Philip, meanwhile, mused:
Kellyanne Conway was which character in Harry Potter again? Or is she a horcrux?
Many social media users were concerned rather than amused, however. As one member of the Trinidadian diaspora put it:
alternative facts… (?!)
2017's mandatory reading list – the complete works of george orwell.