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Boston International Socialist Organization hosts discussion on alternative facts

Sam Nighmum and Josh McDuffie speak at the “Separating Facts from ‘Fake News’” event hosted by International Socialist Organization Boston Thursday night, a talk about how to differentiate fact from fiction in the media. PHOTO BY VIGUNTHAAN THARMARAJAH/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

A group of 30 people gathered for a discussion on alternative facts hosted by the International Socialist Organization Boston at the Tent City Apartments community room in Dorchester Thursday evening.

Throughout the meeting, individuals deliberated on the ways in which to distinguish fact from fiction in today’s political climate.

Alpana Mehta, a member of the International Socialist Organization, said before the event that details frequently presented as fact are simply falsehoods.

“We don’t believe that political news is unbiased or essentially fact-based alone,” Mehta said. “This means that sometimes what’s presented as fact is not an actual fact. The danger lies in not knowing history and in discounting the many voices of people who witnessed events.”

Mehta said this past winter’s Women’s March is an example of something the Trump administration tried to skew the facts.

“There is a dispute about whether the Women’s March on January 21 was exponentially larger than Donald Trump’s inauguration or not, and his administration took great pains to show photographs that ostensibly proved that the inauguration was bigger,” Mehta said. “They had to backpedal on these points portrayed as facts.”

The group also discussed article written by socialist writer Danny Katch on April 20 titled, “Separating Fact from Fake News.”

Sam Nighmum, a member of the International Socialist Organization, said during the discussion that individuals are getting involved in the group in an attempt to thwart the potential lies coming from the Trump administration.

“As socialists, we know the government lies and disregards evidence and all that,” Nighmum said. “This isn’t new with Trump. The article starts with the obvious lies that are everyday coming from the administration, and it’s kind of staggering. This is encouragingly something that people are getting active around.”

Nighmum said he is pleased to be engaging in an open discussion concerning “government lies and the roles that those lies play in how to figure out what’s going on in the world.”

Although the media has taken apparent measures to stand up to the government, Nighmum said, this opposition is not directed at the right areas of focus.

“Mainstream news sources have taken up a level of opposition,” Nighmum said. “However, when you see that they’ve accepted the administration’s obvious lies when it comes to presidential things like bombing countries, you know it’s not the lies that they have a problem with.”

Several people at the talk said they learned a lot about fake news as a result of the discussion.

Keith Rosenthal, 35, of Somerville, said the meeting was about more than simply separating fact from fiction.

“The prevailing political perspective in this society takes under the assumption the necessity and goodness of the capitalist status quo,” Rosenthal said. “All the facts are viewed by mainstream parties and media through that lens. For us, it’s about not just separating facts from fiction, but separating the political lens through which those facts are viewed.”

Akunna Eneh, 34, of Dorchester, said it is important to note that news outlets can assume a biased view.

“The section on fake news was really helpful to have,” Eneh said. “I had forgotten ‘fake news’ was Trump’s term, but it was good to talk about it and unpack it. I think it was important for people to say that news is biased.”

Eneh added how vital it is for individuals to engage in conversations surrounding the topics of the media and fake news in order to help each other determine what narratives are truthful.

“The idea that we’re going to believe all media is hard to do, but it’s helpful to get an extent to which people are talking about this,” Eneh said. “It makes me want to talk more about fake news and alternative facts with my friends who aren’t necessarily activists just to see what they’re thinking about it.”

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