+
Most Shared

7 times in history alternative facts fooled us and how we can avoid them in the future.

"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period," said press secretary Sean Spicer during his first time in the White House briefing room. That claim: totally false.

According to the D.C. Metro, "subway entries Friday, during President Trump’s inauguration, totaled about 570,557 in a 20-hour period," which is lower than the totals of the previous three presidential inaugurations.The Women's March, held the day after the inauguration, saw more than 1 million entries.

"You're saying it's a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that," said counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway in a heated interview with "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd.


Predictably, "alternative facts" have been all over the internet this week.

Even Merriam-Webster issued a brilliantly worded rebuttal to Conway's creation of "alternative facts."

"Alternative facts" aren't a new political tool. They've been used throughout history by people in power to maintain control and status. But each time we've been able to debunk these myths in the name of progress.

Here are seven times throughout history alternative facts were used — and later proven false:

1. Alternative fact: The world is flat.

Oftentimes alternative facts are accepted as truth until real facts and information can be sought out and proven, much like with the first global explorers who took to the seas in search of new lands.

What you see below was considered common knowledge during the Middle Ages. The Earth was "flat."

The Greeks discovered the Earth was round. Everyone outside of Europe believed it. It wasn't until the late Middle Ages that everyone inside of Europe finally caught up.

Washington Irving wrote “The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus” in 1828. From the title, you'd think it's a biography but in reality, it was mostly fiction and said that "Europeans learned from Columbus’s trips to the New World that the planet was round."

Because of this storyline and others like it, children were taught that up until Columbus, everyone thought the world was flat.

Photo by George Pickow/Three Lions/Getty Images.

Actual fact: The world is round.

Ancient Greek astronomer Eratosthenes is credited with discovering the spherical nature of the Earth in 240 B.C., 700 years before the Middle Ages and 2,000 years before Washington Irving picked up his first pen.

2. Alternative fact: Jesus was white.

The world's most famous refugee is often historically depicted as a blue-eyed, pale-skinned messiah:

"Sacred Heart of Jesus" via N. Currier/Library of Congress.

Actual fact: Jesus would not have been white.

Assuming Jesus existed, the BBC documentary "Son of God" used modern technology to show us what he would have actually looked like, based on ancient skulls of Semite people from the same era and geographical location.

Image from "Son of God," BBC.

3. Alternative fact: Slavery is a good thing.

In the 1820-30s, politicians in southern states defended slavery by professing the "positive good" of it and how important it was for the American economy. They claimed it allowed Africans to be civilized because white masters were letting them learn from them. (I did not make this up.)

Actual fact: Slavery is awful, inhumane, and wrong.

It took a bit longer in the U.S., but the British began the process of outlawing slavery and the slave trade in 1807. The moral ineptitude of treating humans like property and even valuing them as 3/5 of a person is a dark side of American history. It all finally came to a head with Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. This eventually helped end the Civil War but claimed up to 750,000 lives,including Lincoln's.

Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

4. Alternative fact: Jews are the reason for Germany's problems.

Jospeh Goebbels was Hitler's minister of propaganda. Goebbels was a master of illusion and he used the murder of a German diplomat by a young Polish-Jew to launch the massive campaign to end Judaism. He did this by convincing the masses that the Jews were responsible for all of Germany's problems.

Image by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Actual fact: Germany needed an excuse to go to war in order to fix their economy that hadn't recovered from the last war.

The incarceration and murder of over 6 million Jews was the result of the German people looking the other way and believing in the above mentioned alternative facts. They had lost a lot of land in the previous global battle and were more than happy to launch into the worst war the world has ever seen. But we learned that lesson and hopefully will never let something like that happen again.

Image by Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images.

5. Alternative fact: AIDS is a gay problem.

White House press secretaries shouldn't make fun of minority groups ... but in the '80s, Larry Speakes was caught on tape espousing crude homophobic jokes when asked about the AIDS crisis. This sentiment carried over to mainstream thinking, with people assuming only gay people got AIDS.

Actual fact: AIDS can be transmitted in many ways.

About half the people who have died from AIDS in the U.S. since the epidemic began were gay men. Is that a large percentage? Sure. But the alternative fact created the perception that HIV/AIDS was not only a disease solely among gay men, but also one that it was only sexually transmitted.

6. Alternative fact: Iraq had WMDs.

We have been at war for 15 years because of this alternative fact.

Photo by Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images.

Actual fact: Nope. They didn't.

"The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction reports that the intelligence community was 'dead wrong' in its assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities before the U.S. invasion," according to CNN.

7. Alternative fact:  Trump's inauguration had the largest, hugest, most "bigly" crowds ever.

Actual Fact: Photographic evidence.

Left photo by Lucas Jackson/Getty Images, right photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

Each of these examples was a heavily pushed alternative fact created by the ruling religion, class, race, military, or administration. But each was debunked.

Sometimes with technology. Sometimes with pure math. Sometimes with common sense, and sometimes with compassion. We are better off as a (round) planet because of it.

It's important to be critical of the media you consume and not listen to the loudest frequency on your social media feed (even if it is behind the seal of the president). With many unbiased, impartial news sources available at our fingertips through a free press, it's important to take advantage of them.

So next time the White House press secretary tells you something hilariously untrue, just know that in less than four years you can cast an alternative vote.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

YouTube star MrBeast sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery to help them see again

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up."

YouTube star sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery

Blindness touches people's lives around the world and YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson, more popularly known as MrBeast, is trying to do something about it. Donaldson made it his mission to help 1,000 people regain their eyesight with the help of Dr. Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida.

Levenson has been operating a program called "Gift of Sight" for over 20 years. The program provides free cataract surgery to uninsured people who are legally blind for free, so long as they meet certain criteria. Levenson had never heard of Donaldson, and he almost hung up on him when the YouTube star called to ask about a partnership.

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up," Levenson told CNN.

After figuring out that Donaldson was indeed a real person who wanted to help others, the duo called around the Jacksonville area to determine the people who needed help the most. They got their list of clients from free clinics and homeless shelters, which covered the United States portion of the surgeries.

Keep ReadingShow less

A mom makes sensory sand by putting Cheerios in a blender.

A parenting influencer who goes by the name @ellethevirgo on TikTok has shared a brilliant hack that can turn a simple box of Cheerios into a fun sensory sand experience. The great part is that the sand is edible, so you don’t have to worry if your child puts some in their mouth, which they will inevitably do.

The recipe for Cheerios sensory sand is pretty simple:

Keep ReadingShow less

Gaël Monfils makes tennis a must-see.

Tennis isn't always the most entertaining sport to watch, especially if you're not particularly interested in seeing a ball get slapped across a net at 1,000,000 mph approximately 17,000 times. You could probably get whiplash or eye strain if you focused too hard on it. While some people love the sport, others need a little more than grunts and sneaker sounds to capture their attention.

If you're in the group of people who need to be entertained, look no further than Gaël Monfils, a professional French tennis player that has earned the nickname, "The Entertainer." Monfils turned pro in 2004 and has multiple championship matches under his belt, and yet he still takes the time to be...extra while playing.

In a compilation video uploaded to TikTok, we see the 36-year-old tennis player dancing after hitting the ball across the net just out of his opponent's reach. But of course, he also doesn't hit the ball like your average player, either. In one part of the video, Monfils jumps up extremely high and bicycle kicks as he hits the ball with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

Keep ReadingShow less