In the hours following the 2017 U.S. presidential inauguration, the world was introduced to the concept of "alternative facts," a term that quickly became synonymous with a willingness to persevere with a particular belief either in complete ignorance of, or with a total disregard for, reality.' The increasing incidence of alternative facts in the popular and political arena creates a critical conundrum for lawyers, judges, legislators, and anyone interested in deliberative democracy, since it is unclear how rational debate can proceed if empirical evidence holds no persuasive value.
This Essay seeks to use empirical research to demonstrate that conventional means of responding to legal and political misconceptions (i.e., content-oriented speech aimed at those who are believed to have simply failed to hear the relevant information) are no longer capable of fostering and promoting rational discourse. While some of the current difficulties arise as a result of unconscious bias, those types of cognitive distortions are difficult to address directly, and the better option may be to approach the issue from a communication perspective-that is, by focusing on how information is delivered. Not only is that type of response supported by empirical research, it also has the benefit of placing the power of change in the hands of those who most desire it.
S. I. Strong, Alternative Facts and the Post-Truth Society: Meeting the Challenge, 165 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online 137, 146 (2016-2017)