Monday, June 18, 2018

The Pinocchio President

I’ve been concerned about the Orwellian nature of the language espoused by Donald Trump and his administration and subsequently regurgitated by the media. If George Washington was the president who could not tell a lie, then Donald Trump is the president who cannot tell the truth. Trump’s lies as president began with his inauguration, a sparsely attended event compared to previous presidential inaugurations, which he described as having crowds that “looked like a million-and-a-half people”(there weren’t) and “went all the way back to the Washington Monument” (they didn’t). Trump sent his beleaguered press secretary Sean Spicer to launch the opening salvo in what was to become a never-ending attack on the press in an attempt to discredit the news media by arguing the press had deliberately misrepresented the size of the inauguration crowd and that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” It wasn’t. Not even close.

The media brought out photos of Trump’s inauguration’s sparse crowd and compared them to the jam-packed crowd at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Who are you going to believe, Trump or your lying eyes? On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway why President Trump would send his press secretary out to tell such an obvious “falsehood”. The ghost of George Orwell stirred in its coffin at the use of the word falsehood. For months, the news media employed every euphemism it could to avoid saying one simple three-letter word: LIE. The president of the United States lied. He did it repeatedly and compulsively. Donald Trump is a serial liar. He is a compulsive liar. Yet the media were slow to tell the truth about the liar-in-chief.

Kellyanne Conway’s response was “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.” Truth in the Trump Era was no longer absolute. A fact used to be something that was incontrovertibly true; under Trumpspeak, there are facts and there are “alternative facts.” George Washington did not have to lie about chopping down the cherry tree; he could merely have stated an alternative fact. The Washington Post reported President Donald Trump told more than 3,000 lies in his first 466 days as president — Which means on average Trump lies more often each day than he brushes his teeth. CNN reporter Chris Cillizza calculated Trump tells between six and nine lies per day.

Yet many in the media still resort to tired euphemisms to sugarcoat the Trumpspeak. “The president’s statement was factually inaccurate.” No, he lied. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman wrote “Trump told two demonstrable falsehoods.” No, he lied. The New York Times also referred to Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories as “unconfirmed accusations.” It’s time to call a spade a spade. Lies must be labeled as such or else many people will not accept them for what they are. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important to the state to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the state.” Words of wisdom from Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister.

The Pinocchio president uses his lies strategically to discredit the press, the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department, the American court system, and any other American institutions that serve as bulwarks against authoritarianism. And unfortunately the media have fallen into his Orwellian trap by adopting the Trump lexicon. Perhaps the Pinocchio president’s most famous phrase — even more famous than Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook”— is “There was no collusion.” Trump is referring to allegations that he and/or his campaign conspired with the Russian government to fix the election in his favor. Trump continually uses the word collusion and the media talking heads argue over whether or not Trump is guilty of collusion — thus allowing Trump to frame the question in his terms. Trump knows he can never be found guilty of collusion because there is no such thing as the crime of collusion. So argue about whether or not there was “collusion” all you want; in the end, even if there had been, collusion is not a crime. But conspiracy is a crime and there is ample evidence to conclude reasonably that Donald Trump and his campaign team conspired with Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 American presidential election. But no one is talking about conspiracy because Trump has phrased the issue as one of “collusion”… Thus proving Donald Trump is not only a liar, but a crafty liar. 

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