For the optimists who considered President Donald Trump’s barrage of lies and falsehoods as stratagem, a façade that would he drop post-election campaign and reveal a truly moral and genuine leader, can now up-end their half full glasses, assured with the knowledge that, after the week that has just gone by, President Trump is no closer to aligning himself with objective truths. In his first week as leader, President Trump and his team released statements that varied from the ridiculous, such as his decision to support a spurious claim that three million illegal votes were cast for Hillary Clinton, to the easily falsified. One claim that seemed to be the most frivolous was the size of his inauguration crowd, which in a split photo looked smaller compared to President Obama’s inauguration crowd in 2008. Not only did President Trump purport his crowd to be the biggest of all time, his Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway supported the claim. This leaves the question: why has President Trump made a pointless statement that’s easily falsified?
Before answering this question, a review of how the disputed Inauguration crowd size was reported through the week is required. First, there was Press Secretary’s Spicer’s unbelievable claim that President Trump’s inauguration had the “largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe” (as quoted from the BBC). Yet, nearly all statistics, figures and expert opinions suggest the opposite. Keith Still, a professor at Manchester Metropolitan University is an expert on crowd size and estimated that Trumps inauguration crowd was a third of Mr. Obama’s in 2008. Train trips into Washington also suggest that there were fewer people who traveled to attend the inauguration (5,700,000 were taken on the Metro, the smallest since 2005). Fewer people also watched it on television with only 30.6 million people watching President Trump’s inauguration, which was seven million short of President Obama’s 2008 inauguration. It is unsurprising that Kellyanne Conway was forced to concede on ‘Meet the Press’ that Mr. Trump uses “alternate facts” to which the host, Chuck Todd, replied, “alternative facts aren’t facts: They’re falsehoods.”
So back to the question: why did President Trump use his Press Secretary’s first news conference to promote a pointless and easily falsifiable fact? Two reasons have surfaced amongst various reports, the first is almost certainly true, whilst the second, more disturbing reason, is hopefully nothing more than over-reactive pessimism. The first reason is Trump, being the ultimate narcissist, cannot lose or be portrayed as lesser in any respect, and his obsession with comparing crowd sizes fits with this caricature. This is captured most humorously in Alexandra Petri’s Washington Post Article, ‘The True Correct Story of What Happened at Trumps Inauguration,’ where she writes in ‘Trump Style’ guidelines’ that seemingly requires an endless stream of hyperboles, which all relate to his ‘greatness.’ The second, more sinister reason, accounts for President Trump’s constant lying and false claims at an unprecedented level for any American President (According to Politifact). Potentially, President Trump’s lies could be intimidation tactics, purely used to gain absolute power, even over facts and objective reality. Adam Gopnick’s New Yorker article, ‘Orwells 1984 and Trumps America,’ highlights the terrifying similarities between Orwell’s infamous dystopia and Trumps first week in office. “Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.” If this is true, then honest reporting and media coverage over the next four years remains America’s bulwark in order to prevent the Trumpian world of ‘alternative facts’ from slipping into a reality unchecked.