Alternative Reality: True, False or Somewhere in Between?

Alternative reality is an opinion that may or may not be supported by facts.

A new phrase, alternative reality, entered the language with the Trump administration. It is used to describe statements often issued by the president that he may believe to be true, but do not correspond with reported facts or commonly held beliefs. Where is this term on the spectrum between truth and falsehood?

Before accusing someone of telling a lie, the definition of lying must be established. A lie is when a person makes a statement that he knows to be untrue with the intention of causing harm to another. If a person on the stand in court lies to place blame on another person that is a punishable legal offense. However if a person states something that they honestly believe to be true, but turns out not to be, that can be an honest mistake. The innocent lie is a known untruth, but told to provide comfort to the person, such as a dying patient, or to support a person who might have stage fright before they perform.

An alternative reality may be either true or a lie, depending on the nature of the statement and circumstances. A color-blind man might describe what he sees in extreme detail, but his view of the world is quite different from that of a person who can see colors. The color-bind person’s description of the world is accurate and true as he sees it.

Even among fully sighted people, the mind can play tricks on vision as to sometimes see objects that are not there, but in color or shape resemble something else that is deeply ingrained in memory. A passing person on a street may look so much like a recently deceased relative as to provoke shock or surprise. What might appear to be a wallet on the kitchen table may turn out to be a piece of wheat bread. A person may truthfully relate what the mind thinks it has seen or how he remembers the events of the day, but these statements may not be factual.

Beliefs are also neither true nor false. They may be strongly and truly held, as in many religions; but they may or may not correspond with facts. Demagoguery is where one person by force of personality persuades his followers to follow his beliefs with a call to perform some societal action. The opinions that he promotes are often based on opinions, rather than facts. Often there is a mix of truth, half-truths and lies in his message. Hitler is often used as an example of a demagogue who persuaded millions to follow him along a path to World War.

Wishing something was/is true does not make it so. Everyone wishes the world were a better place from environmental, social and economic points of view and many have different opinions on how this desirable result can be obtained. Wishing without action brings no results, and expressing an alternative reality may be used as a way to portray this new, more perfect, world for all to see.

What does alternative reality mean? “It all depends,” to use the lawyer’s favorite expression. Nothing is meaningful without the contextual information of who, what, when, where, why and how. This phrase does have a meaningful use in modern society once it is properly understood.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is also a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.