Friday, January 27, 2017

A lie is a lie, even when the president says it

From Charles M. Blow's column in the New York Times yesterday:
Trump does not simply have “a running war with the media,” as he so indecorously and disrespectfully spouted off while standing on the hallowed ground before the C.I.A. Memorial Wall. He is in fact having a running war with the truth itself.

Donald Trump is a proven liar. He lies often and effortlessly. He lies about the profound and the trivial. He lies to avoid guilt and invite glory. He lies when his pride is injured and when his pomposity is challenged.

Indeed, one of the greatest threats Trump poses is that he corrupts and corrodes the absoluteness of truth, facts and science.

It is no coincidence that the rise of Trump is concurrent with the rise of “fake news.” It is no coincidence that his rise comes during an age of severely damaged faith in institutions.

And now that he has been elected, Trump wants absolute control over the flow of information, to dictate his own version of facts rather than live with the reality of accepted facts. Trump is in a battle to bend the truth to his benefit.

He hates members of the press because, when properly performing, they are truth seekers rather than ego-strokers. The press may sometimes get things wrong, but it most often gets them right. A truly independent press is not stocked with political acolytes but political adversaries.

This doesn’t sit well with an administration that wants to be perpetually patted on the back and never rapped on the knuckles.

After Trump and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, got called out by the press for lying about Trump’s inauguration crowd size and viewership, Spicer limped back to the mic and whined of Trump’s press coverage: “The default narrative is always negative, and it’s demoralizing.”

No, sir, the default is to call a lie a lie; lies are negative because they are the opposite of the truth; and Trump continuously lies. ...

And Trump for his part continues to rage about three to five million illegal votes causing him to lose the popular vote in November. This, too, is a lie. A lie. Not the euphemisms you hear on television, like “unsubstantiated,” or “unproven,” or “baseless.” It is a lie, pure and simple.

But Trump won’t let it go. His pride is hurt, his vanity tarnished. The man who prides himself on winning lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes, the biggest popular vote loss by a winning candidate in American history. That stings.

So, even after his lie is reported and rejected, he continues to perpetuate it. This is what makes Trump qualitatively different from our leaders who came before him: He believes that truth is what he says it is, and the only reason it has yet to be accepted is that it has yet to be sufficiently repeated. ...

We all have to adjust to this unprecedented assault on the truth and stand ready to vigilantly defend against it, because without truth, what’s left? Our president is a pathological liar. Say it. Write it. Never become inured to it. And dispense with the terms of art to describe it. A lie by any other name portends the same.

I only disagree about one thing. The default - at least in the news media - isn't "to call a lie a lie." Even today, even with Donald Trump, it's common for the national news media to use euphemisms.

"Lie" is so harsh, right? And they're still desperate to get along with the man and the political party who control our country and lie pretty much nonstop. Even after all this, their first instinct is often appeasement.

Democrats, too. Through most of the past eight years - certainly in the early years of his presidency - Barack Obama bent over backward to appease the Republicans. But Republican leaders had agreed before he'd even taken office that they'd do nothing our first black president wanted, no matter what it might be or how badly America was hurting.

The Democrats even adopted the Republican health care plan, only to see every Republican immediately turn against their own plan. Every Republican.

Today, Democrats in the Senate are still voting for Donald Trump's terrible cabinet picks - not all Democrats, not even a majority, but enough that the Republicans can call it "bipartisan" approval. Will they never learn?

I don't want the Democrats to be carbon copies of Republicans, no, but it would be nice if they understood that this is politics. I don't want politics to be the only concern of Democrats, as it is for Republicans. But it would be a nice change of pace if Democrats understood the contest they're in.

Republicans are playing kick-boxing, while the Democrats are playing tiddlywinks. We've seen how that plays out, haven't we? We've watched this game for decades now. Will the Democrats never learn?

Of course, Blow was talking about the news media, but I have to wonder the same thing about them. When will they learn that the president needs them more than they need the president?

If Trump gets mad and cuts off access, then interview the people who oppose him. It's not your fault if Trump's people won't talk to you. If Republicans refuse to talk with you, then talk with Democrats. How long do you think Republicans will hold out then?

You have the upper hand here. They need you more than you need them. They know that, so why don't you? And note that this would be the case even if Donald Trump wasn't polling at 36%.

Well, Trump's lies have been so outrageous that even some of the news media are calling them "lies." Some of the news media. Unfortunately, they're competitors, so some will always suck up to power, no matter what. (And I'm not talking about places like Fox News, which are basically the propaganda arm of the GOP - PR people, not journalists.)

Others in the news media seem to be like the Democrats. They still haven't learned that you can't appease people who won't be appeased no matter what you do. Even complete surrender wouldn't fully satisfy them. Certainly, anything short of that will be met with bitter denunciations and, yes, more lies.


jeff725 said...

Interesting take from a commenter on Alternet. Need your thoughts on this:

Kudos to Moyers for his spot-on diagnosis of this sewer-fire of an administration.

And now there is also some hard, credible evidence emerging that explains the otherwise inexplicable madness leading up to the election; Trump, Clinton, the Russians, fake news, etc.

Listen to the NPR Fresh Air w/Terry Gross interview with veteran Russian correspondent for the Guardian, Luke Harding, which aired Thursday, 1/26/17.

Harding, who has reported extensively on Putin and written several books on Russian espionage, details how the Russian FSB (formerly the KGB) formed an alliance with the American far-right to pursue their common goal: The destruction of the liberal democracies in the U.S. and Europe.

Together they employ a drove of online trolls that permeate U.S. blog sites and right-wing media like Foxnews, to sow disinformation, confusion & destroy faith in Western democracy. During the election they collaborated to elect Trump, who has definite financial ties with Russians, and is almost certainly hopelessly compromised.

This is no bogus paranoid conspiracy you’ll ever hear on Alex Jones (guys like Jones, in fact, seem to be dupes in the FSB strategy). Harding has spent years investigating Russian interference in international politics, espionage and political assassinations. He was expelled from Russia in 2011. His latest book is “A Very Expensive Poison: The Definitive Story of the Murder of Litvinenko and Russia's War with the West.”

Harding vividly describes how the American far-right joined forces with Putin to undermine the Clinton campaign and spread disinfo like ‘alternative facts’ and FSB propaganda, such as 'the U.S. is not a democracy' or that 'democracy and voting are wastes of time,' or that 'Democrats are just as bad as Republicans,' etc.

These canards are then picked up and repeated by cynical or naive bloggers who are like 5th columnists in WW2, spreading enemy propaganda. As Harding says, the Cold War is back & this time Putin intends to win.

And, thanks to the GOP, whichever way this sordid melodrama plays out, Putin wins because even if his scheme is exposed & Trump goes to jail, the U.S. has been damaged almost beyond repair.

Bill Garthright said...

Well, Jeff, Vladimir Putin definitely worked to damage Hillary Clinton's campaign and help elect Donald Trump. There is also evidence that Trump, or someone in his campaign, got information from the Russians. (That's just one example.)

I'm not willing to go further than that, though - not without better evidence. Did the right-wing knowingly "form an alliance" with the Russians? I don't know. Republican senators "knowingly" worked with Islamic extremists when they tried to sabotage America's side in our negotiations with Iran. But they probably didn't think of it that way.

Apparently, white supremacist websites have long posted claims from Russian propaganda mills, but is that because they're working with Russia or just because Russian sites back up their bigotry and existing beliefs?

Vladimir Putin's Russia is quite good at propaganda, and they'll use whoever they can. But gullibility isn't treason. (Admittedly, neither is admirable.)

Did Trump know that he was just spouting Russian propaganda? I doubt very much if he'd care, one way or another. It's obvious that he doesn't care about the truth of his claims, and I'm sure that he'd use whatever he wanted, regardless.

Were people within his campaign knowingly working with the Russians? It seems likely that someone was. Again, in that example I pointed out, Trump seemed to be spouting lies copied verbatim from Russian propaganda, and he must have gotten that from someone. But we simply don't know the details - not at this point, at least.

Jeff, I don't want to imitate Trump and his supporters. I don't want to believe something just because I want to believe it, just because it matches up with my existing biases. There is nothing I wouldn't believe about Trump, if it were backed up by good evidence. But unlike Trump, I care about the truth of my beliefs.

This is a very serious issue, though. And I agree with that last line, that Putin wins, either way. He has severely damaged America, and that must have been his goal from the start.