Letters from the Editor: Shattered Mirror

What you think of the parties or candidates doesn’t matter anymore. Who you voted for is irrelevant. Over the din of partisan chatter and his recently-past election cycle sent a message, loud and clear, and the repercussions will be our burden for years to come.

Welcome, students and community of UAF, people of Fairbanks, to the post-factual era.

Trump gave us a taste of his smoke-screening ability prior to the inauguration; he’s seized credit for business moves and factory openings that took years to plan, launched personal attacks on critics and generally behaved like the buffoon he was before Nov. 8, all the while diverting attention from his cabinet selections. This behavior has persisted after taking the oath of office.

The new president seems to think he’s still on the campaign trail, making stump speeches and having mouthpieces parrot his talking points. The obsession with image continues as well, publicly obsessing over inauguration attendance numbers, attacking the press, alluding to a renewed conflict in Iraq and offering so-called “alternative facts” to counter reputable data.

Here’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind going forward: “alternative facts” fit the definition of neither word.

That being said, the press is proving all too easy to manipulate in this case. To use such an overtly Orwellian phrase would seem to be stupid at best, but it’s an attention sink—a point of focus so juicy that most reporters can’t turn away. While the media furor has centered on press conferences and mouthpieces, the administration has been hard at work. Executive orders have been signed to erode the Affordable Care Act, ended subsidies for government-backed home loans and made moves to renegotiate terms from or withdraw from trade treaties. That’s not a full list and there’s plenty more to come.

Whether or not you think these are good moves or bad is hardly my point. The point is that they are being made, but the focus in the zeitgeist is persistently on the noise rather than the actions. This is a failure of the press to point the spotlight where it should be—on actions rather than rhetoric—and it’s arguably what helped Trump win the presidency in the first place.

Fact-checking is absolutely vital and should be exercised whether the erroneous claim has to do with protest attendance or the age of one’s university. But don’t get too caught up in minutiae. If one source turns into an echo chamber of fluff over substance, seek out another. Do not allow yourself to be led astray: by the left or the right, by a sitting president or by the news organizations that should be holding him to task.

Not all journalists will be so easily bamboozled and those of us with the wherewithal will continue doing our jobs to the best of our abilities. Pick the best of those sources, do some research, and make your own decisions. That’s as much as I can hope for. – Spencer Tordoff

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