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Donald Trump is chatting total shit about the NHS

However commonplace Trumpspeak and “fake news” becomes, he can't just speak facts into existence

After just over a year of Donald Trump's presidency, the fever dream that is his Twitter account has begun to change the shape of our cultural lexicon. We might end our status updates and DMs with a wry “Sad!”, or decry any headline that we don't like as “fake news”. Sometimes, the surreal, beyond-satire nature of what's really unfolding on official White House communication channels is actually numbing. And then sometimes – like today – a tweet sent by the president is so blindingly untrue, and in such bad faith, that it reminds you to be shocked all over again. 

In today's example, Trump pointed to the protests that happened in London this weekend – a direct response to the Tories underfunding the NHS – as an example of universal healthcare being a bad idea. In this fun-house mirror version of the news, the demonstrators were not protesting the fact that their health service was being undermined by the government's austerity agenda. In fact, they were just begging for the end of the NHS. (As you can probably guess, only 10% of British people actually want the NHS to be privatised; and in any case, the protest was explicitly anti-Conservative cuts.)

The tweet was seemingly inspired by Nigel Farage's appearance on Fox News shortly beforehand, during which he made the claim that immigration is the reason the NHS is struggling. “Thank you to @foxandfriends for exposing the truth”, Trump enthused on Twitter without any apparent sense of irony. “Perhaps that’s why your ratings are soooo much better than your untruthful competition!”

Trump's own obsession with truth, combined with his commitment to never telling it, is a toxic combination. His first year in office has shown us time and again that he views facts as fluid, shaping them to his agenda – but if there's a silver lining, it's that people are not as pliable. A study published in January revealed that “fake news” was not quite as influential as the initial wave of reporting in the wake of the 2016 election suggested it was. The truth is (of course) much more complicated, wrote journalist Masha Gessen in The New Yorker, pointing to studies that show that the majority of Americans get their news from diverse sources, rather than there being two distinct “bubbles” of extreme liberal and right-wing misinformation. “If there were indeed two equal-sized information bubbles in this country, one might reasonably expect half the support repealing the Affordable Care Act”, Gessen wrote. “That a majority of Americans support proof that accurate reporting still matters – sort of”. It's worth noting that the majority of Americans want universal healthcare, too. 

Trawling through Trump's claims of “fake news” with the aim of debunking each one is an exhausting and thankless task. But, even when it seems insane to have to correct the blatant inaccuracies, it's important that we keep shouting him down. Jeremy Corbyn was loud, clear, and fast with his response to Trump on Twitter today, which began simply with the sentence, “Wrong”. Even our sociopathic Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt joined the conversation by tweeting in response to Trump, “I may disagree with claims made on that march but not ONE of them wants to live in a system where 28m people have no cover”. Theresa May's Twitter account is – as is often the case during times of heated and accelerated debate – inactive. Her last post is something extremely coded about abuse having no place in politics.

But while loudly disagreeing with Trump's lies remains morally essential, there's solace to be taken in the knowledge that the spread of fake news, and people's faith in it, is much lower than once thought. Fake news is, to an extent, fake news. This is the truth we need to remember, even as Trump-speak dominates the world around us: he might be able to poison the zeitgeist with his neologisms, but he can't speak facts into existence. We know better, and we're smarter than that.