“When a fact begins to resemble whatever you feel is true, it becomes very difficult for anyone to tell the difference between facts that are true and “facts” that are not.”
“Alternative facts aren’t facts, they are falsehoods.”
“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
“Perception is a dynamic conflict between the attempts of an outer world to impose an actuality on us and our efforts to transform this actuality into a self-centered perspective.
Perception is a confrontation between an inward-directed vector of external reality compelling awareness and an outward-directed vector of physiological, cultural, and psychological transformation.
Where these vectors clash, where they balance each other, is what we perceive. This in sum is my view of perception.”
Source: Understanding Conflict and War – Volume 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field
I have had this piece in my draft folder for months but I pulled it out because yesterday I heard for the first time “alternative facts.”
Not ‘non-truisms’ but real actual ‘alternative facts’.
This is a bastardized version of the false branding concept of “perception is reality.’
My belief is that at some point a long long time ago Trump read the back of some book about branding <because he has never read a book> that said “perception is reality” and he was off to the races creating a hollow universe of ‘perceptions’ in which he could skate along the superficial surface toward riches & fame.
Today, Trump and his merry band of liars, are now taking the perception business to a whole new level of absurdity.
Let us be very clear on some basic Truths:
- Alternative facts live only in an alternative universe.
- Perception is not reality.
As someone who has dabbled in marketing professionally “perception is reality” truly galls me.
It is an ugly lie.
And it is even uglier because in an untrained, inexperienced mind … or a misguided lack of moral individual … it can be used to defraud people – unintentionally or intentionally.
Perception is perception.
Reality is reality.
And perception is reality only, and ONLY if you permit it to be so.
Here is a fact.
Perceptions, by definition, are hollow things unless they are truly a reflection of reality.
And how can you know if this is true? If you puncture perception it deflates to whatever reality is. That is a ‘full honest perception.’
Let me be clear <because any real business person who has worked on any consumer brand in the world understands this>.
When you float on the superficial surface of a “perception based Life” you can only get away with it until people get interested enough to actually interact.
Because interaction is when the piper gets paid. As one famous advertising person said “nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.”
I am not suggesting perceptions, and managing them, is not a viable marketing objective nor am I suggesting that perceptions aren’t important. What I am saying, not suggesting, is that you learn very quickly in the business world that perceptions MUST align with reality or you are screwed. Reality must deliver upon perceptions offered & promised.
Trump can tell me he is intellectual, smart and knows the best words but every time his reality, his actions, deliver hollow simplicity, idiot thin-skinned responses and odd word salad verbiage I start questioning the perceptions he is asking us to believe.
The only people I have ever seen try and exist in a ‘perception is reality’ universe have been marketing hacks <who didn’t know any better> and con men <who knew better but wanted to make money and run>.
Perception is not reality and trying to create a universe based on perceptions is a hollow world.
Unfortunately in the universe we live in the new American president, on day one … to and … well … beyond for the foreseeable future I imagine … will constantly be trying to convince us reality is not reality, perceptions are what he and his merry band of liars say are truth, alternative facts exist and there is some alternative universe that he, and they, can only see.
We seem to be entering a new era in which truth is what Trump and his administration wants it to be.
Trump was a historically dishonest presidential candidate and his merry band of surrogates <liars> have displayed a persistent commitment to lying – needless lying or necessary lying.
Trump is a man who creates his own reality and lives in it … and he and his surrogates are asking us to live in it. Okay … not ‘ask’ … he is demanding it.
As his inauguration speech suggests … you will believe in his reality and will live in it … and therefore you will be demanded, not asked, to follow his lead within it.
You & I, America … and the rest of the world will have to decide whether it will accept this alternative universe or convince him his reality is actually a hollow universe of perversely wrong perceptions.
There are a number of risks at hand.
One is basic society construct – reality is no longer fact based but ‘feeling’ based.
The other is that Trump anchors this alternative universe based solely on some warped perceptions and therefore those who elect to follow will follow the pied piper <allegiance to him above all> and not to any ideology, values or principles <not even the US Constitution … because he becomes the sole arbiter of what the Constitution “means to say to us”>.
Trump is not a normal phenomenon and his alternative universe of false perceptions and alternative facts should not be normalized by something as simplistic a “politicians have always lied” and “we can never trust the media.”
Politics has always had a tenuous relationship with truth but even in that environment there are limits.
As Jonathan Last wrote in the conservative paper The Weekly Standard … “you can obfuscate, you can misrepresent, you can shade the truth to a ridiculous degree, or play dumb and pretend not to know things you absolutely do know. But you can’t peddle affirmative, provable falsehoods.”
Here is the surprising truth to add.
Journalism has always had a good relationship with truth but even in that environment there have been missteps which create a false narrative that journalism, as a whole, is dishonest. The majority of journalists are not dishonest, every viable publication in existence has a standard of honesty & proof and while they may tend to a more liberal skewed perspective … truth is truth and facts are facts and they treat both with reverence <because their existence relies on that>.
This ‘perception is not reality’ truth is going to be challenged like it has never been challenged before.
I will give you the easiest way to puncture a reality/perception gap. Get someone to envision the repercussion of acting, or not acting, upon the perception. What does the day after look like, feel like and … well … be like.
This helps meet the challenge created by false leaders who exaggerate crises or create them with the intent to subvert, and pervert, the constitution, the judiciary process and the system itself.
This helps meet the challenge created by false leaders who offer simple solutions for complex problems.
“The simpler past seems more attractive than today’s complex reality, and so people vote [thanks to] inchoate frustrations. They choose simplicity and locality over complexity; identity over internationalism. Politicians promote themselves by giving voice to this. Hence, in addition to Brexit, we have calls for Scottish independence, Catalan independence, and so forth.”
And maybe that is where perception gains traction in a complex world. If complexity doesn’t show simple benefits, or maybe the real benefits are difficult to align in a cause & effect way, perception starts beating reality.
It will until reality catches up to the false promises & false simple solutions offered by perceptions.
The alternative universe can only last as long as … well … the alternative universe can stave off the real universe.
Just as alternative facts can only last as long as the real facts can get their shit together and get in the game.
I would note that Trump’s alternative universe isn’t so much about his lying <although that is truly the shiny object we focus on> but rather he’s just wrong in a simplistically naive way about almost everything <and even on the things he has a valid point on and I could construe as ‘right’ he unnecessarily cloaks it in ambiguity & hyperbole so that even his right is wrong>.
He rambles aimlessly about anything that happens to pop into his brain and is convenient for him to say at the time. He is not typically deliberate about his lying he is simply authentically living in his own alternative universe and explaining that universe to us.
The universe itself may be one bigly lie but his explanations are truth about the universe.
Trump is a rambling, bombastic narcissist. He’s never pretended to be anything else. What you see is what you get. His integrity resides solely on authentically communicating the big Lie <although … in his mind … in his universe … it is the big Truth>.
Oddly this seems to mean, at least to the everyday schmuck like me, that an authentic liar has more integrity than a calculated communicator.
He is genuine in his belief of this alternative universe.
His perception is actually his reality <just ponder that scary thought for a moment>.
That is bizarre.
Trump and his merry band of liars use a variety of truth-blurring techniques <i call it “chaff”>.
Their objective appears to not only be to control by creating doubts about what is real and what isn’t, but also to create an alternative universe in which whatever he does actually looks like it makes sense.
To quote President Trump himself … Bad! Sad!
There is a much bigger lesson here for everyone beyond whether our new president is capable of telling the truth or whether he, and his followers, even care and accept alternative truths as reality … perceptions are NOT reality.
Perceptions should always be held accountable.
People should be always be held accountable for the perceptions they create and offer.
In the end I come back to the beginning.
Here is what I think as an everyday person.
Envision the day after your perception is faced by the harsh truth of reality.
Will you be scared?
Will you be excited?
Will you be happy, sad, or somewhere in between?
Good on you if you come out of these questions excited, happy and looking forward to the reality which perceptions suggested it would be.
Just make sure you treat what you perceive with care.
Here is what I think as a business & marketing person.
The gap between perception and reality is the “death trap.”
‘In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream …’ It’s a ‘death trap,’ a ‘suicide rap.’
‘I want to guard your dreams and visions.’ ”
Born to Run
Perceptions create expectations. Expectations are developed to meet personal dreams & visions.
If expectations are not met in reality … people swing back angrily upon the ‘perception creators.’
Creating false perceptions is a suicide rap.
Creating false perceptions is a death trap.
Many of us business folk have the scars to prove this.
Treat what you ‘build’ as perceptions with care.
Perceptions are simply that … perceptions.
Facts are facts.
Reality is truth.
============ postscript ============
In the piece above I said “authentically living in his own alternative universe and explaining that universe to us” and today he once again states “I would have won the popular vote if it had not been for the 3 to 5 million illegal votes.” Just another example of an alternative universe being authentically explained to us <and most of us wondering what universe he lives in>.