Trump and the history of political lies

There has been a lot going around in the media about lies. Perhaps ultimately some good will come out of all this, if people are sensitized to the difference between true and false. Here are just a few examples from the New York Times, going back far enough that Trump supporters really should have known better, if they hadn’t scorned the so-called mainstream media:

A Week of Whoppers From Donald Trump” by Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns, 9/24/16

The Lies Trump Told” by David Leonhardt, 9/27/16 (a lengthy list, that now would be even huger after 4 more months of whoppers)

Donald Trump’s Lies About the Popular Vote,” editorial, 11/28/16 (the lie that 3 million illegal votes gave Hillary the popular vote victory is preposterous, even in the Trump league)

“Truth and Lies in the Age of Trump,” editorial, 12/10/16

A Lie by Any Other Name” by Charles M. Blow (one of the fiercer denunciations: “Trump does not simply have ‘a running war with the media.’… He is in fact having a running war with the truth itself,” etc.)

And lots more; just search New York Times Trump lies.

trump-pinocchioNow an interesting analysis by Dan Barry, “In a Swirl of ‘Untruths’ and ‘Falsehoods,’ Calling a Lie a Lie,” 1/25/17, points out that “To say that someone has ‘lied,’ an active verb, or has told a ‘lie,’ a more passive, distancing noun, is to say that the person intended to deceive.”

So the question becomes, does Trump even know he is lying? Maybe he is so hypnotized by his own self-image, so out of touch with reality as a man who can spend days without going outside his own property, that he just doesn’t realize that what he wants to believe and what other people know may not be the same. It’s the triumph of magical thinking: “I want, therefore it is.”

We also hear that “George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Is Suddenly a Best-Seller” (1/25/17). Well sure: Orwell was a true predictive genius and the world he predicted is struggling to exist, with the likes of Trump and Putin as midwives.

A really good retrospective by Robert Kuttner, “Orwell, Hitler And Trump, Huffington Post, 1/22/17, bears the subtitle that goes right to the point: “Hitler was the first to describe the technique of telling a lie so often that people believed it. He called it the ‘Big Lie.'” Here is just one excerpt:

…Long before Trump, the “mainstream” Republican Party made lies a staple of its arsenal, from its lies about Obamacare to its bogus budget numbers to its false contentions of fraudulent voting.

Trump has embellished this technique by lying, then accusing his critics of lying, until the debate is hopelessly scrambled. Trump manufactures phony stories, then accuses the media of “fake news.”

Adolf Hitler was the first to describe the technique of repeating a lie so often that people would come to believe it. He called it the “Big Lie.”

From his denial of climate change to his denial that Obama was born in Hawaii, Trump has dusted off the Big Lie. But then he goes classic Big Liars one better ― by denying the denial.

As Jonathan Swift wrote in 1710, “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late.” A version misattributed to Mark Twain has it that “a lie is halfway around the world while the truth is putting its boots on.” You get the point….”

Trump’s strategy is to flood the zone — to proliferate so many lies that by the time one lie is rebutted, he has put out several more, and he seems to believe even the lies that contradict previous lies. Ignorance really is Trump’s strength.

Which is more dangerous: if Trump truly doesn’t know he is lying, or if he is a conscious follower in the trail blazed by Hitler and Big Brother?

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