In light of the fact that the New York Times recently reported that Trump was guilty of 87 “misstatements, exaggerations, and falsehoods in a week” I thought this post from a while back worth repeating, though, as I say, those who follow this man are convinced that every criticism that is leveled against him is a lie by “those damned liberals.” As I also say, we have lost sight of just what lies are — they are not just those statements we dislike, they are those statements that seek to alter the truth and tend to mislead.
In one of my favorite episodes of “Seinfeld” George is giving advice to Jerry who has been asked to take a lie detector test to determine whether he does or does not watch a soap opera every day. He is seeking to impress a cute policewoman and is afraid the truth will put her off. George is giving him advice because George is so good at lying; it has become a habit with him. He tells Jerry, “it’s not a lie, Jerry, if you really believe it.”
Needless to say, this doesn’t work, because Jerry simply cannot keep up the ruse. But it seems to be working in today’s political scene as the Republican candidate (who shall remain nameless if not blameless) seems to be very good at lying. I suspect he has had a great deal of practice — after all he claims to be a successful business person when, in fact, his businesses have a habit of failing. But I also suspect that he really believes what he says. Or, perhaps, he doesn’t know what he says because he doesn’t listen to himself. His mouth seems to open when his brain is engaged elsewhere — heaven only knows where.
The problem is that his mindless minions who hang on his every word and grammatically incorrect sentence seem to believe whatever he says. One thinks of a cult where the followers blindly follow where the leader leads — or points. And this is a problem because when the lie becomes the norm, then facts are useless, even meaningless. Lying becomes merely a word that is used by the minions to discredit criticism of their leader who can do no wrong. Those “Fact-checkers” who claim to be neutral and only interested in setting the record straight are dismissed as biased and perhaps even in the pocket of the opposition.
Freud talks about the “reality principle” that operates as one grows older, separating fact from fiction, truth from myth. This principle is central to maturity in the human animal. Without it, he or she remains a child living in a make-believe world in which everything goes as planned and there is no pain or suffering. This, of course, is the world of those who continue to insist that there is no Truth (except what comes from one man’s mouth) and where lies are otherwise the norm. Reality is displaced by myth and the leader standing before you is larger than life and beyond reckoning. What others say about him are all lies. Everything he says is solid gold.
What happens in this case — and it is this case which is of major interest since so many seem to be living in this mythical world where one man has all the truth there is and everyone else is an inveterate liar — is that ears are closed to the truth as it relates to the real world: the real world has ceased to exist. The only world is the world in which the man standing before you says whatever comes into his head and it is taken for the truth, the only truth there is. Everything else is a lie, the only lies there are.
Philosophers will tell you that truth is attached to statements that correspond with facts in the real world. Thus, if I say the cat is on the mat, this is true if, and only if, the cat is, in fact, lying on the mat. But when the “successful businessman” standing before us tells us that the truth is what he says, and what he alone says, then the cat disappears and the only reality is the reality created by this man’s words — such as they are. We hear what he wants us to hear and nothing else. Our minds become closed to the fact-checkers because we are told they are biased. The word “lies” attaches only to those things said by those who oppose this man. The paradox is that he lies when he says that others lie. But we are no longer able to distinguish between the lies and the truth — except when it is pointed out to us by our Infallible Leader.
The Seinfeld line reminds me of a line from the movie “Frost/Nixon,” about David Frost’s post-Watergate interviews of Nixon. At one point, Frost (at least in the movie) asks Nixon if the things he did or authorized during Watergate and the coverup were not crimes. Nixon replied, “when the president does it, it’s not a crime.” That’s the same mentality, actually an extension of “it’s not a lie if you really believe it.” Nixon started out by believing his own lies, his own B.S. on all kinds of topics and then self-deluded himself into believing serious crimes were OK.
Many presidents lie, as has been noted in recent days in the news. LBJ lied on Vietnam. JFK on Cuba. FDR lied at various times throughout World War II. But there’s perhaps a difference about lying or withholding truths during wartime in the interest of saving troops’ lives, and a deluded sort of existence in which decisions, policy and, indeed, a person’s whole past — as Trump’s early business career has been proven to be — are based on lies. Trump makes up his own reality, believes it, and lives in it, but so many others have to live with the real-world results. And, unchecked, it leads to an escalation in lies, an escalation in the consequences for those lies.
Nixon finally got busted, truly busted, because people in his inner circle finally had enough. John Dean especially. I have seen little evidence there’s anyone in Trump’s inner circle with the courage or brains to do so.
You said it! ” Trump makes up his own reality, believes it, and lives in it,. . .” The question is whether or not his minions give a damn!
Hugh, the debate showed what happens when you lie and try to explain for 90 seconds. On the birther issue, he has fabricated a story that HRC started the birther issue because an advisor of hers raised the issue. But, did you hear HRC going on talk show for five years with a mission to question the integrity of the President’s birthplace? So, this hurt Trump and it should and will continue to do so if he keeps talking about it.
The other comment was on climate change being a hoax. He said last night he never said this, but the examples are many and from his own hand. He tweeted it numerous times, spoke of it numerous times and has said in his first day of the Presidency, he will tear up the Paris accord on climate change.
I hope voters who are considering him or on the fence paid attention last night. Keith
Yes, it’s the fence-sitters we must put our hopes in. And a huge turnout in November to vote. I fear that Hillary’s backers will become complacent…
Two good outcomes from the debate. It may galvanize her voters. It may also sway a few who were undecided.
His lies … and his attempts to deny he ever said certain things … would be comical, could be the basis for a hilarious comedy series … were they not so potentially disastrous for an entire nation, arguably the leader (perhaps laughingstock these days) of the western world. I don’t know whether to …. laugh? …. cry? …. stand on my head in hopes that I will awaken from this nightmare? … or drink wine and eat ice cream.
Wine, definitely wine.
I agree! 🙂
And lies cut both ways – Paul Simon; “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest….”
A wise man, Paul Simon!