There’s a good alt on the rise!
…If anyone should know that it is, as a practical matter, impossible to force a willful individual to stop tweeting, it’s President Donald J. Trump. So perhaps he was least shocked of all to see that, on Tuesday night, a new handle popped up on Twitter: @AltNatParkSer.
By way of introduction, the anonymous founders tweeted: “Hello, we are the Alternative National Park Service Twitter Account activated in time of war and censorship to ensure fact-based education.”
The account is less than a week old. It has issued over 300 tweets — on the Trump White House, on climate change, on the importance of peer-reviewed and factually-accurate science — and racked up 1.24 million followers in the process.
Within days, at least a dozen Twitters claiming to be the rogue employees of the government agencies for which they work appeared, describing themselves as the “unofficial resistance”: @RogueNASA, which already has 628,000 followers; @altUSEPA whose bio reads “Environmental conditions may vary from alternative facts” already has 184,000 followers; @RoguePOTUSStaff, allegedly tweeting from “inside the White House,” has a follower count of nearly 60,000. The National Weather Service, the State Department, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Education, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services,: all have alternative accounts with thousands of followers a pop.
The tone is tongue-in-cheek, but the messaging is clear: Climate change is real. Facts are facts. The public has the right to know the truth. Science should not be dictated by politics. Attempts to silence official means of communication will only spark alternative means of communication. It’s a fitting act of rebellion under a president so taken with Russia: Resistance to Trump, via samizdat-com.
There’s also something satisfying about seeing the word “alternative” used against Trump and not for him, seeing as it was recently adopted by Kellyanne Conway as a modifier for “facts” (her way of defending White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s blatant falsehoods about, of all things, the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration) and co-opted by neo-Nazis as half of their more media-friendly, less-obviously-fascist title of choice, “alt-right.” The alt-NPS Twitter teams give “alternative” back to the public, for its correct use.
Trump and his ilk, like Breitbart-alum-turned-chief-strategist Steve Bannon, stoke distrust in the mainstream media like an abusive boyfriend insisting that no one else in your life really wants what’s best for you like he does. When the president is a pathological liar who does everything within his power to prevent government agencies from arming the public with accurate information, something as simple as telling the truth becomes a radical act.
The Trump administration’s efforts to deny readily apparent truths is, as Masha Gessen writes, a means of “assert[ing] power over truth itself.” But these rogue Twitter accounts are a means of asserting truth over power itself. They are a way of announcing to the president — who is surely paying attention, considering how much time he spends on Twitter — that facts will not quietly be dethroned by fiction.
VIVE LA RESISTANCE!