Trump lies

Mr Trump cannot be dignified, even when he attempts to imitate a dignified man.

CNN’s report from the time gives the detail. The NYT says that in 2001 Serge Kovaleski reported that the authorities had questioned “a number of people” who were allegedly seen celebrating the attack on the World Trade Centre. He did not report the thousands of Muslims Trump claimed to have seen because that was not true. He did not change his story as Trump alleged, because he never supported Trump’s fantasy.

What is a lie? David Leonhardt points out that some would say “Capitalism has worked better than any other economic system” is a subjective statement. He says it is factual. There is a moment where facts, whose denial is a lie, move into a grey area where there is honest disagreement. There are assertions which are the most accurate we can make, which are nevertheless inaccurate- Newton’s theory of gravity is wrong, but the best possible at the time.

There is also dishonest disagreement. Leonhardt’s second factual statement, Human actions are warming and damaging the planet, is disputed and minimised. It’s just weather, the climate has always changed. The disagreement comes to advance the interests of fossil fuel investors, who make money from releasing CO2.

Here is what Meryl Streep said:

An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, passionate work.

There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modelled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

Trump tweeted,

Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him…….

“groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!

Kellyanne Conway said, He has debunked this so many times. Why is everything taken at face value? You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.

Well, what is in his heart? Unquenchable malice towards anyone who questions him, or even inadvertently gets in his way, especially women. Playground insults, no sense of proportion, no dignity, just the arrogance of Idi Amin.

Unfortunately, politics in the US has been pushing the grey area of opinion further and further. No, there are dozens, not millions, of fraudulent votes, but Republicans proceed with voter suppression schemes, requiring photo ID which poor voters may not have. Trump extended their denial of climate change to denial of the ozone hole.

Trump, unsatisfied by big lies, wants lots of little lies. He showed Mr Kovaleski grovelling, he claims, and if his supporters accept his denial of climate change they will swallow that. Some of his lies depend on knowledge of detail: the intelligence services did not decide whether the Russians influenced the election, because that is not their job, but he tweeted, Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched! Before, he had denied the Russians were involved. Enough of the populace will swallow this, happy that their man is winning.

Our shared understanding of the truth is chipped away, and everything is disputed on the battle-ground that is politics. It makes working “across the aisle” near impossible. On The Hill, a commenter said, Babs,baby, haven’t you learned yet that if you hit The Donald he is gonna hit you back twice as hard. Go eat some rare caviar from endangered fish in your carbon spewing mega-mansion, fly around on your private jet while lecturing the rest of us how we are destroying the environment and leave the rest of us alone. Barbra Streisand is on the other side, and that is enough. The anger is so great at the other side that they repeat their own side’s lies as truth, and express self-righteous rage and demeaning insults: another commenter says, Old hags mocking fellow Americans and their country which made them millionaires.

The Hill affects a lordly position above the fray: Trump on Monday added that he had never directly insulted reporter Serge Kovaleski’s congenital joint condition, though he inspired outrage last year by making jerky body motions while criticizing Kovaleski, leading some to conclude he was targeting the reporter’s physical challenges. “Some to conclude”! Oh! But Trump was not “criticising” Mr Kovaleski. That is an obvious false characterisation.

In the interests of balance, here is a video saying Trump never mocked Mr Kovaleski. It has a news report at 2.50 saying an investigator said an apartment full of “suspects” celebrated the 9/11 attack. Not thousands, though, and only allegedly celebrating. “I watched in Jersey City, NJ, when thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.” No you didn’t, liar.

Trump says

Headline in NYT begins, “Trump says”. It is their seventh trending article. It is a mess.

Mr Trump says something which is doubtful. This is not news- in public he lies more than he tells the truth. He says what would serve his interests for others to believe, even if it is blatantly ridiculous, because enough people will take up the lie- three million fraudulent votes! Obama Kenyan!

Starting with Trump’s statement muddies the waters. The full headline is Trump says intelligence officials delayed briefing on Russian hacking. Did Russian interference affect the US election? That’s a question for historians. What do we know about it now? What are the latest developments? Journalists tackle that. But this is not a new development, only a tweet. Trump tweets, and NYT expatiates, and millions read breathlessly, again irritated by the horror that is their unpresidented-elect. It is unclear whether Trump is receiving the President’s daily intelligence briefing, the article says, but we knew that: he claimed not to need it. Details mount in confusion, one topic or another, about how dreadful Trump is- but mostly a feeling rather than clear evidence, sorted in a rational way. And his supporters do not care. No-one will be swayed by this article.

Donald Trump is racist, and NYT had a long careful article documenting evidence of that. Now, “Racist” is not just a slur people can throw at him, or a feeling they have about him, because we can cite particular incidents. A useful op-ed or feature might categorise evidence of Trump’s lying, its purpose and effects; but this one is not that. We don’t know. National intelligence declined to comment, Administration officials disputed it. There will be a full intelligence report, expected on Friday, on Russia’s interference. That would let people know its extent; but it will be secret, as it would reveal how the intelligence services find their information. So Mr Obama will know the extent of the interference, and even Mr Trump might, if he keeps a rigid wall in his mind between his understanding of reality and the fantasies he spins for others, but not the public, unless someone sitting on his bed who weighs 400 lbs hacks it.

Has Mr Trump a mandate? Did his vote in swing states increase because of actions by a foreign power? What should patriotic Americans think of a president in office by such means? Americans decided to obsess over the Podesta emails, and Americans decided which way to vote- we could not know the result of the election in an alternative universe without the hacking. Did trumped-up scandals about Democrats outweigh in people’s minds the scandal of Mr Trump refusing to release his tax returns, and his lie that he could not because of an IRS audit? Were people influenced by scandals, character, or even policies or issues? Is Cambridge Analytica more responsible, and more dangerous?

Mr Trump is squirting ink, pretending he has a mandate. Well, he would. He seems to think Russian interference makes his mandate less persuasive, so he denies the interference, but his understanding is not necessarily true.

The Russian hacking is so important that daily articles are worthwhile, explaining any developments; but undue attention to Trump’s tweets about anything merely increases his malign influence.

I couldn’t immediately find an article analysing, classifying, enumerating Trump’s lies, proving him a liar. The Jackson Sun, part of the USA Today network, calls him a “black liar” but only fact checks some statements about his charitable foundation. Boingboing reports the Wall Street Journal editor’s refusal to call his clear falsehoods lies, as that ascribes a moral intent to him. Boingboing calls the WSJ editor an “asshole” but does not discuss it. Marion Schneider in Stock News USA says Everyone is hoping for the best and hope that Trump will be a good president in spite of his lying nature. The country and its citizens are relying on him to do his best. Residual respect for the office, and possibly libel laws, hold publications back. The Chicago Tribune and the Daily Freeman have letters calling him a liar. HuffPo has one of those non-story non-articles– Someone said something in a television interview! The headline Carl Bernstein: Donald Trump’s Disdain For Facts Worse Than Nixon was enough to get me to click, and my regret was almost instantaneous. HuffPo’s “reporter” prissily terms Trump’s lies “factually incorrect assertions”. People who make as many factually incorrect assertions as Trump are either fools or knaves, and those who love America and its people should not assume Mr Trump is stupid.

A similar non-article in Good Magazine led me to a facebook post and then this Washington Post “blog post”, which should have been first on Google News. Was Trump lying? The standard that [the WSJ editor] adopts — that there must be a provable intent to mislead — seems woefully inadequate to informing readers about what Trump is really up to here. Sure, it’s possible that Trump continued to believe these things after they were debunked. We cannot prove otherwise. But so what? If we accept that it’s possible to prove something to be false — which Baker does, judging by his own comments — then we presumably also accept that this can be adequately proved to Trump. And so, Trump is telling a falsehood even though it has been demonstrated to him to be a falsehood.

If we don’t call that “lying,” or if we don’t squarely and prominently label these claims as “false,” don’t we risk enabling Trump’s apparent efforts to obliterate the possibility of agreement on shared reality? Even here, there is a rhetorical question rather than a statement. Have the courage of your convictions. The evidence is there. Trump is a liar.

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