In Defense of the Truth


With daily attacks on the media and a blatant detachment from reality, relics of fascism have appeared in the Trump administration. Although most attempts to fabricate information have been quelled by the media and fact checkers, appreciation for the truth may be in jeopardy. From Sean Spicer’s erroneous statements about the crowd size at the inauguration to Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump’s made up terror attacks, the administration is clearly afraid of the truth. Because so far, the truth has not worked out for Donald Trump. The truth was that the attendance of the inauguration was exceptionally small. The truth was that Donald Trump’s electoral win was narrow compared to that of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. And the truth is that the White House is in shambles.

In an era of “alternative facts”, the existence of the free press is more crucial now than ever. Media outlets, whether they are conservative, liberal, print, or digital, must work together to ensure Americans receive accurate information by condemning the Trump administration’s neglect of the truth.

The notorious “alternative facts” incident, the fabricated Bowling Green massacre, and the lies about the crowd size at the inauguration are the most notable attempts of the Trump administration to disillusion the American people. Perhaps it is the sheer number of lies and falsifications that cause the other attempts to conceal the truth to remain in the shadows. An early instance of truth concealment occurred after one of Sean Spicer’s first press conferences. He declared that the public should assume that the administration’s information is correct until it can be discredited. In reality, the opposite should be true. The media must substantiate information disseminated by a political enterprise before it can be regarded as accurate. To many, this was an alarming sign of impending fascism. To most, it was business as usual.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Photo via CNN)

The aforementioned Sean Spicer incident had no tangible ramifications and instead was a disturbing foreshadow of the future of the free press. In contrast, the press secretary’s lesser known suggestion that the perpetrator of the mosque shooting in Montreal last month was an Islamic terrorist was a flagrant attempt to justify Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban. At a press conference after the attack, he stated, “It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant, and why the president is taking steps to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.” It seems that Spicer is implying that a ban on Muslim immigrants could have prevented this attack.

However, investigation into the shooting found that the actual perpetrator was Alexandre Bissonnette, a white nationalist who espoused Islamophobic views. The administration’s incapability to recognize this shooting as an act of violent xenophobia displayed its unwillingness to confront hatred and bigotry. Furthermore, misleading the public by blaming a terror attack on Arab immigrants was a blatant endeavor to stoke xenophobia and support for the travel ban. The administration’s clear-cut sponsorship of intolerance is not only troubling: it is terrifying.

To strike Islamophobia into Americans, the administration cannot use factual evidence, as there is no basis in the claim that immigration from the Arab world increases crime and the risk of terror attacks. Instead, it uses lies, knowing that its supporters will fall victim to confirmation bias.

More recently, Donald Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton offered Russia twenty percent of the United States’ uranium in exchange for hefty Clinton Foundation donations. This long standing accusation remains unverified, and therefore inappropriate to be said at a nationally televised press conference held by the president of the United States. Not only does this false allegation reveal Trump’s ignorance of presidential decorum, but it also demonstrates the distance to which Trump is willing to go to disparage his political adversaries and improve his public appearance.

Most polarizing American politicians have been polarizing due to their radical views or unorthodox styles, but no one has ever attacked their opponents with lies and false accusations like Donald Trump. It is already clear that Donald Trump lacks composure–he has overreacted to jibes at his ability, competence, and experience by taking to Twitter–but Trump’s incessant need to scrutinize his opponents using personal attacks, disparaging comments, and lies is troubling in another way. It reveals that we have a president who is more preoccupied with his public appearance than his ability to govern. Instead of showing his competence by leading with grace, dignity, and competence, Donald Trump prefers to harshly criticize others.

For example, on the February 16th rally, the president accounted for potential future mishaps by claiming that he inherited “a mess” from President Obama. Donald Trump has used lies to paint a dreary picture of Obama’s America, when in reality, unemployment and urban crime rates continued to decline at the end of Obama’s second term. Perhaps telling bald-faced lies about others is the only way Trump can distract people from the mess he is turning this country into.

It is likely that the Trump administration understands the falsity of their statements; they probably embrace it. The most grave repercussion of denying the truth is not the loss of presidential dignity or even the erosion of constitutional rights. Rather, it is a decline in transparency which, ironically, was an issue that Donald Trump often complained about on the campaign trail.

The country has certainly entered an unprecedented era where falsehoods compete with facts. Although the consequences of the current president’s disregard for truth have been averted due to the media’s sharp, critical eye, the government always possesses more power than private news corporations. The concept of truth should be sacred to everyone: it is what guides our decisions and dictates our actions. Responsible and honest governance requires a special respect for the truth, so misleading the public can and will result in a disaster.

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About the author

Matt Walsh is a V Form day student from Southborough, Massachusetts. He is a member of the Model U.N. club, edits for LEO, leads Openly Secular, plays trumpet, and works on the Lion Term Leadership Committee. Matt is a hot sauce connoisseur, and he loves Tabasco. In his free time, he enjoys sailing, skiing, and playing with his dog, Portia. He plays baseball and runs cross country, and his academic interests include chemistry, biology, Spanish, and government.

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  1. Matthew Chamberlin

    Congratulations on a well written and well sourced think piece. We are living in truly unprecedented times with a non-stop assault on facts, logic and reason. You might want to check out the front page articles about Bannon and the CPAC convention from February 25th’s NY Times as well as my friend Daniel Kreiss’ analysis of the history and intent of the language and actions of this Administration. We’ve seen this before, although not in the US at the highest levels of government, and it never ends well.

    Constant vigilance and the calling out of lies, as you have done so well here, is the only solution. Demagogues all use the same playbook. We don’t need to spy on their scrimmages.

    • Matthew Walsh

      Wow. This flagrant dishonesty surpasses troubling…it’s terrifying. Although it has already begun, I foresee the administration using vague language in addition to “raw dishonesty” to continue this scary trend away from truth. It’s a bit old now, but this editorial describes parallels between Orwell’s 1984 and the Trump administration.

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