Trump and Truth
“And lying she knew was a sin.”
Tom Lehrer, — An Irish Ballad
A number of parents have written asking for suggestions as to how they can explain to young children why the life of the lie has improved so dramatically in the United States in recent months. That is because since they were very young, children have been told that becoming friends with the lie is a bad thing. Times have changed.
The lie has acquired an air of respectability of which it could not have dreamed ten years ago. Its success and prominence are attributable to two things: the internet, that has not only given the lie new respectability but facilitated its promulgation; and the election of Donald Trump, who can be counted as one of the lie’s best and most prominent friends. That is not to suggest, however, that there is nothing but good news for the lie. There is in fact a cloud on the horizon. But first, its successes, and there have been many.
Almost all children have seen first-hand how the internet has enabled the lie to instantly and widely spread its message. All that is needed is that the lie be placed on a computer, followed by the depression of the “send” key. More difficult to explain to the child will be the battle between the lie and the truth, a battle that the lie is clearly winning. That is because the lie’s biggest proponent is about to become the president of the United States. The lie’s friendship with Mr. Trump is well known. Mr. Trump has given prominence to the lie of which it could only dream before he was elected.
One of Mr. Trump’s best known collaborations with the lie involved the invasion of Iraq. When the invasion took place, Mr. Trump publicly expressed support. When it became obvious that the invasion has been a mistake, he and the lie simply said what he’d said he’d not said. Another successful Trump collaboration with the lie occurred after the election. Acting as the lie’s spokesman, Mr. Trump said with some self-satisfaction on November 27, 2016, that: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” By actual count, of course, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.6 million votes and there was never a suggestion, nor proof, that there were people who voted illegally in large numbers. To give this lie an aura of respectability, the lie invoked the assistance of none other than Mike Pence, who will soon be vice president of the United States. Speaking of the lie’s success in recruiting Mr. Trump as its spokesman, Mr. Pence said: “The American people find it refreshing that they will have a president who is willing to tell them what’s on his mind.” (When counselling a child on the child’s relationship to the lie, the parent should explain that if caught in a lie in school, it will be of little help to explain to the teacher that the child was simply trying to be refreshing.) The collusion between the lie and Mr. Trump is well documented and hundreds of examples of their successes can be found on countless websites.
Although the foregoing suggests that the lie is alive and well and prospering with its presidential friend, it has cause for concern. There is a growing body of thought that says we live in a fact-free world. This was revealed to us by Scottie Nell Hughes, a CNN commentator and Donald Trump supporter. She was interviewed on The Diane Rehm Show and, in that interview, made the astonishing statement that: “One thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they’re not really facts. Everybody has a way, it’s kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true. . . . There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts.” It is obvious that in a fact-free world there is no place for the lie.
Reince Priebus, soon to be Trump’s chief of Staff, was asked in an interview, about Trump and the lie describing non-existent voter fraud. Mr. Priebus responded that the lie and Mr. Trump, working together: “pushed the envelope and caused people to think in this country.”
Thanks to Mr. Trump, people in this country have been forced to think repeatedly. Ninety-two things said by the lie and Mr. Trump, were catalogued by the Washington Post. Sixty-four out of 92 were given Four Pinocchio ratings. Of course, in assigning Pinocchio ratings to Mr. Trump and the lie, the newspaper is relying on facts. If, as Ms. Hughes suggests, there are no more facts, then the lie will no longer be a player because there will be no more facts that can be used to refute the lie. It will be enough to make one long for the day when the lie had a role to play because there were facts.