Last week the mainstream media devoted huge resources of time and space to comparing photos of President Obama's inauguration audience to photos of President Trump's inauguration audience. Apparently audience size matters because major news media all over the US wouldn't let go of the subject for an entire week. Their claims that Trump had a comparatively tiny audience became so important to the newly elected president that his press secretary, Sean Spicer, devoted his first press meeting to attacking the media he will have to work with for the next four years over what he claimed were false representations.
The press fought back by saying the story was important because Donald Trump lied when he said through Spicer and his own tweets that his audience was as big as Obama's -- that it was, in fact, the biggest ever -- and that it stretched all the way from where he stood to the Washington Monument. Many in the media claimed the president was lying and that the president was clearly obsessed with himself for making such a big deal out of this and spending his nights tweeting about it. They said the president was attacking the media for simply reporting the truth that it is obliged to tell.
The following photos will show who was really obsessed and who was driving this story to the undeserved importance that it got:
Can honest photos lie?
Sometimes it is not the lie you tell but the truth that you manipulate that creates the lie. Here is the photo comparison that went around the world last week where it is perfectly obvious which president had the larger inauguration crowd:
Oh my gosh, who cannot possibly tell from looking at these photos that Trump's small hands clearly also translate into small audiences? The Obama crowd has packed the place, but Trump's minuscule clusters almost look like they're huddling for mutual support. Both photos are completely true. Both were taken at essentially the same time. There is no photoshopping. So, clearly the dozens, if not hundreds, of mainstream media outlets that ran the comparison photos or other photos very much like them, were telling the truth! The new presidents audience is practically nonexistent.
Oh, but wait a minute ...
... and scroll down ...
Here is another photo taken of Trump's audience at the time of his inauguration:
Well, no wonder President Trump said that, from where he stood on the capital steps as he gave his inaugural address, his audience packed the mall from the capital building all the way to the Washington Monument. Is this even the same event as the one shown around the world by many major media corporations?
As it turns out, the only thing the fakestream media's comparison photos actually reveal is whose audience -- Trump's or Obama's -- arrived first!
The comparison photos were each taken about an hour before the inauguration speech began. The third photo of the huge Trump audience was taken at the time of the inauguration. It was all a matter of timing. To explain why Obama's crowd surged into the mall an hour or so earlier than Trump's, consider the following likely explanations:
- Obama's crowd gathered on a bright and sunny day. Trump's crowd attended on a rainy day. People don't like to stand in the rain, so perhaps Trump's supporters have enough sense come in out of the rain for as long as they can until the event is ready to begin.
- Obama's audience had more reason to arrive early. They were attending a unique historic event -- the inauguration of America's first Black president -- in which position of the audience on the lawns of the mall is on a first-come-first-serve basis. People wanting to attend might reasonably think they would not even find standing room at a first-of-its-kind event and so would go extra early to make sure they reserved a space for themselves.
- Nearly a hundred protest groups, made up largely of Democrats who said they refused to accept the election results (after castigating Donald Trump for not being willing to say before the election that he would accept the results no matter what) said they were coming with the intentions of diminishing the event. Many of those groups said they would do all they could to block streets and block access points to try to make sure the inauguration couldn't even happen. With such determination and planning, might they have actually managed to slow down people's ability to get to the mall ... just a little?
- With so many protests going on, Trump's supporters might have lallygagged in route to watch some of the action.
- Because of the numerous threats of violence, the security fences set up around the mall had fewer access points onto the mall, through which everyone had to be screened. Couldn't fewer access points have caused it to take longer for the crowds to get through?
Here is a another comparison photo taken of Obama's inauguration during his speech from the same direction as the Trump inauguration speech photo.
Holy smokes! Obama's first inauguration audience is still massively bigger, erupting clear out onto the streets.
Oh, wait a second. That photo, used by many media outlets for comparison with Trump's audience, was taken from the balcony of the Capital Building. The photo taken for Trump's audience was shot from much closer to ground level and was taken from approximately the center of the Obama inauguration photo. Thus, it misses all the audience gathered on the bleachers and is narrower so it doesn't even include the side streets.
Was Obama's audience bigger? Probably, but it's hard to tell from the photos. I think I can see a hint of white space still showing among Trump's crowd in the far distance of the third photo ... if I put a jeweler's loop in one eye. I would imagine Obama's inauguration was better attended because many people waited all their lives to see a Black president, and it took place on a beautiful sunny day. In fact, I would hope it was bigger because it was a major historical milestone. I find it impressive, therefore, that the crowd that gathered to watch the 44th White man to get inaugurated was almost as large as the nation's first Black presidential inauguration in a city with a large Black population.
If you want to compare Trump to another very popular White president, let's look at William Jefferson Clinton's second inauguration:
Now I can see all kinds of wide-open lawn out on the mall. So, it turns out that, when judged against popular liberal presidents, Trump's audience was quite large after all!
And that's how you create fake news through true photos.
First, pick a time of day where photos from the same timeframe happen to work well for diminishing the apparent audience of the president whose inauguration you want to diminish. People will naturally think that taking the photos at almost the same time must surely makes them the fairest possible comparison, never mind that it was before the event was actually happening and that many things about the day were different. Second, pick comparison photos that appear to be from the same angle but that are really narrower and closer in for the president whose inauguration you wish to minimize. Third, present it all as fact ... because it is! Carefully chosen facts to present the story you want to create.
Here's a more important question: Was there even enough difference between Trump's inauguration audience and Obama's to merit making a story out of it, much less spreading the story all over the globe, much less going on about it for a week, much less grilling the president's spokespeople about why the president lied about his audience size as Chuck Todd did on NBC for an entire thirteen minutes, during which he referred to Kellyanne Conway's statements as "ridiculous" and claimed that her "alternative facts" were "falsehoods?"
Todd claims, "I'm curious why President Trump chose to send out his press secretary to essentially litigate a small and petty thing like inaugural crowd size."
Indeed, the difference in audience size (visually anyway) was a very small and petty thing. So, why did the mainstream media make such an endlessly repeated story out of photos that don't even present a true picture? What was their purpose in presenting a non-story as if it were a big story? If I would give them the benefit of the doubt, I'd say that they genuinely believed that photos taken at the same time actually revealed the real difference in audience size, but that they also didn't take any time to check out other times as I did because they were so eager to join those who wanted to diminish Trump's inauguration. After all, this extra research only took me seconds.
I cannot give them that benefit of the doubt though because I found all these photos on a site that playing up the difference in crowd size, but the accurate photo was buried a few photos deep in a slide show, while the false comparison was at the top of each story. So, they could have easily seen that Trump's crowd was larger than Clinton's, larger than Bush's, and very nearly as large as the first Black presidents, but they shoved that onto the back page.
Trump is essentially saying, "I'm not going to let you guys continue to get away with this fake news you keep creating. Every time you do it, I'm going to knock your heads together so that your audiences can start to see how unfairly biased you really are."
It's not petty for the simple reason that Trump and his team know the media will continue to create such fake news throughout the entire four years of his presidency unless he doesn't take them to task as brusquely as possible (his style anyway) to make it clear they will never simply "get away with it." He's going to do his best to make sure they damage themselves every time they go fake.
In fact, the mainstream media must be obsessed with taking down Trump because several of their anchors nearly broke down in tears when Trump won, and Chuck Todd couldn't let go of it for the entire thirteen minutes of the above interview. Conway kept trying to talk about other things Trump did, and Todd kept clinging like a dog on a pork chop to this one fake-news story in order to make his claim that the president and his spokespeople were lying when they said the crowd was enormous.
As Conway summarizes, "As for this issue of crowd size, I think it is a symbol of the unfair and incomplete treatment that this president often receives."
She notes that Nielsen ratings showed fifty percent more people watching Trump's inauguration than watched Obama's second inauguration (when being the first Black president was no longer a unique historic event that would hugely skew popularity). The combined estimate could be the basis for Trump saying that both the audience present at the event and the viewer audience were the largest in history ("both," not "each;" in other words, when added together). Trump's Nielsen count was above average for inaugurations, but the Nielsen ratings were not mentioned in any of the many mainstream stories about audience size and not a fact that Todd was even willing to acknowledge ... because it didn't fit into his agenda.
Todd responds by merely going back to drilling Conway as to why Trump sent Spencer out on his first press conference to "utter a provable falsehood."
Some of Todd's statements:
- "The first time he confronts the public, it's a falsehood."
- "It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office on day one."
- "Alternative facts are not facts; they're falsehoods."
- "You sent the press secretary out there to utter a falsehood on the smallest, pettiest thing!"
- "What was the motive to have this ridiculous litigation of crowd size?"
- "Why a provable falsehood ... that now calls into question everything the secretary states?"
If it's such a petty topic to litigate publicly, why does Todd spend almost all of the thirteen minutes going back to it? Why did major media spread the misrepresentative photos all over the nation and make a huge deal out of them? Just as Conway states, Todd wants his audience to hear that Trump's estimate of audience size is a falsehood. He particularly wants them to hear that such a falsehood "calls into question everything the administration will say from this point on." That seems to be his goal in drilling into this.
The mainstream media focused obsessively on this petty topic because it hopes to diminish and discredit Trump from the onset. (If you repeat fake news long enough, it becomes a fact in people's minds.) Todd says what he wants people to think just like an attorney argues a point before the jury that he knows will be ruled out by the judge because all that matters is that the seed is planted in the minds of the jury.
Todd even laughs at Conway, as if scoffing at her response, when she says crowds are hard to quantify, and she retorts that the way he laughed at her is symbolic of the way Trump's people are treated by the press. Clearly, the comparison pictures that numerous major networks, websites and newspapers chose to focus on do not present a fair or balanced view of Trump's audience size, and it was THEY, not Trump, who whipped up this petty controversy in the first place.
As Conway says at the end, the only reason Trump and his press secretary responded as they did is because of comments like Todd's when he concluded that Trump's statement about the size of the crowd calls into question everything he will ever say from this point on. When the press tries to stake out that much political ground from such a petty difference in opinion by claiming a brand-new president is uttering falsehoods, you have to think they are desperate to bring him down. They're used to presidents who don't want to make enemies of the press and don't want to get into arguments, so they are accustomed to sliding such fake news through as unquestioned fact. Trump isn't going to let that happen.
What are "alternative facts," and when is false, false and fake, fake?
Here was Trump's reply to the mainstream media's misconstrued photos that set them off to calling him a liar on many of major networks and websites:
We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches. I won't allow you or other people like you to demean that crowd and to demean the people that came to Washington, D.C., from faraway places because they like me.
The capital crowd might have been smaller, but it was still huge (especially when you consider the wet weather and the attempt made to prevent the inauguration from happening at all); and if it's true, as Conway states, that the television audience (always vastly greater than the on-scene crowd) was fifty percent greater than the television audience for Obama's second inauguration, then Trump may have actually had the largest inaugural audience in history. It is, at least, an arguable opinion, far from a clear falsehood. There is room for someone feeling good about the envy to think it just might have been the biggest in history if you add up all web streaming, television and the on-site crowd.
I can see where someone like Todd might think that "alternative facts" sounds like a euphemism for "falsehoods" because things are either facts or they're not, right? Well, look at the photos above. Every one of them is a fact, but the conclusion the press drew was a blatant misrepresentation of the event's actual crowd size.
Kellyanne Conway meant that Sean Spicer was presenting some additional facts -- like the Trump inauguration photo I've presented above -- that provide an alternative perspective. As it turns out, maybe taking photos at the same time of day for comparison, when that time is not the actual time of the inaugural address, presents a false impression. (I mean, why not use photos from four hours before the event when the only people there were the set-up crews?) What matters is not how big the audience was an hour or two before the event but how big it was when the new president was actually inaugurated and then gave his speech.
Since Todd ends by claiming Conway and Trump were attacking him with some "weird Twitter feed you guys are obsessed with," you be the judge as to who was obsessed and who was doing the attacking throughout the television interview.
Is it any wonder the media's approval rating is worse than Trump's, though they harp about his approval rating all the time? (By the way Rasmussen Reports says Trump's approval rating is 59%, not the roughly 30% that the mainstream media keeps quoting. Rasmussen is a conservative organization, but their polling for this election put Clinton ahead by 2% the day before the election, which is about where most had it.)
The attempts to forge fake news into accepted fact by frequent repetition are enough to make me think seriously about spending half as much time on economics and starting a new website dedicated to filleting fake news wherever I find it. I have no problem with the media attacking Trump if he does lie because fair is fair, and I hate lying politicians. But fake is also fake; and I hate lying news even more. I expect lies from politicians. They've been doing it for centuries; but the news back in the days of Walter Cronkite made some attempt not to simply run smear campaigns based on misconstrued facts and attempted to overcome their own personal biases in order to be objective.
This week, the biggest fake news was from the mainstream media via a true photo that showed the National Mall more than half empty. The lie came by indicating that photo provided evidence of audience size for Trump's inauguration -- fake news that was made much worse when they followed it up by accusing the president of lying when he claimed his audience was huge.
That's my opinion. Please state yours below.
Still need more evidence of the media faking it with true photos?
Here's a video shot by an attendee. You can see Trump speaking in the video, so you know the timing. Notice the end of the video when the photographer zooms up on the far end of the mall. You can see only a thin white space that is clear of people near the media tent that was set up under the Washington Monument. Pretty much PACKED OUT!