How to Spot an Alternative Fact

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In the troubled times we inhabit, it can be hard to know how to identify an alternative fact as opposed to a regular street-wear fact. This handy guide should help the casual observer spot an alternative fact from a distance, and act accordingly.

The first trait you might associate with alternative facts is that they dress exclusively in apparel from Hot Topic, the mall-based retail store that once catered to many forms of alternative identities: goth, emo, straight-edge, hardcore, and all forms of post- categories, save for post-capitalism. You would be wrong.

In recent years, Hot Topic brightened their light bulbs from those typically found in dungeons and hall closets to appeal to a wider crowd of light aesthetes. In the process, many consumers strayed from the alternative mindset and were into more mainstream forms of entertainment merchandise, such as Ariana Grande cat ears and Snoop Dogg dogg ears.

It’s just interesting to think about a place in the mall where fans of the alt-metal band Korn used to buy chains for their jeans can now be the place where fans of Taylor Swift buy “edgy” lipstick. Imagine if it was the same person, once a fan of Korn, now a fan of Taylor Swift. Absurd? Maybe. But this is not an article about the business decisions, consumer demographics, and life changes that Hot Topic has fostered in recent years. It’s just something to think about.

No fashion choice will necessarily prove that you are dealing with an alternative fact, so it is important to look for other things that can be a signifier. When you are talking to an alternative fact, carefully observe their responses to your words. For instance, if you state an opinion or personal experience and immediately face resistance, you might be dealing with an alternative fact. Take this example that your dedicated journalist recently encountered in a public setting:

Your dedicated journalist: “Nice weather we’re having.”

Alternative Fact: “I guess, that is, if you like sunny days.”

Your dedicated journalist: “I mean, I have been dealing with a lot of allergy problems lately.”

Alternative Fact: “No you haven’t. You just think allergies are bothering you. It’s probably just in your head, but go ahead, keep complaining about things that aren’t real. The world loves hearing about how hard you have it.”

Notice that the first statement by the author was merely a subjective observation of the weather that didn’t call for dissension, and yet the alternative fact felt compelled to disrupt the parameters of polite conversation to argue against the positive aspects of the sun. In the second statement, the author expressed a personal experience with allergies, and the alternative fact not only did not take the personal experience as fact, it straight up accused the author of exaggerating, imagining, and complaining. Infuriating, no?

Of course, not all alternative facts are this open about being alternative. Some will make hyperbolic observations in a casual manner. You might hear them telling friends that they just came from a party with literally hundreds of people, even though you were at the party and it was actually only five people and not even a party at all but a study session for an upcoming midterm.

It’s not prudent to call out these alternative facts when they make these kinds of claims. That’s what makes them alternative. You might think you’re going to hold an alternative fact accountable for a bad joke by saying something like, “Hey, Tim, listen: no one thinks you’re funny. I’ve never heard anyone laugh at one of your jokes, not even when you’re repeating a funny joke that someone else came up with. Your delivery is all wrong, and you do this weird thing with your upper lip when you start telling a joke, and in general it just makes people really uncomfortable.”

But Tim’s response will have none of it. “People laugh at jokes in all kinds of different ways,” Tim will say. “Maybe people are laughing hard on the inside. You don’t know. You don’t know anything. People laugh in different ways.”

What’s Tim’s deal? Does he really perceive reality like a funhouse mirror, distorting experiences to serve his aims? Is he a pathological liar? Is he screwing with you?

No, man, he’s just alternative. And it may be inexplicable, but no more inexplicable than a Korn fan turning into a Taylor Swift fan over the span of a lifetime. Is it plausible? No. Possible? Unlikely. But has it been planted in your brain for consideration?

You can bet your favorite jean chain on it.

This article was written by Ben Taylor. Find more of his Hot Topic rants on Twitter @therealbenshady

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