Why Trump cannot be allowed to win his war on reality

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We live in treacherous times, times in which even the most basic building block of open debate and thought — the existence of an objective, agreed -upon reality — is being challenged and undermined. Where this ends I do not know, but the historical precedents are ominous.

As an example, here’s Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes in a radio interview this week, when asked about outright lies being spread by our president-elect and how it’s perceived by the Trump campaign and of course by the incoming Trump administration:

“On one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, ‘No, it’s true.’ And so 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 truth. There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.

“And so Mr. Trump’s tweet, amongst a certain crowd — a large part of the population—are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and that there are no facts to back it up.”

As we’ve discussed before on the site, Trump’s claim that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the past election — and voted for Hillary Clinton, thus explaining away his 2.5-million-vote deficit in the popular count — has no basis in fact. It originated in a claim posted on Twitter by one obscure man who has since refused to offer any proof to back it up or to explain the methodology by which he reached that conclusion.

Nonetheless, his claim gained exposure when it was promoted on the Infowars conspiracy site run by radio host Alex Jones, the same Alex Jones who believes that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a government hoax perpetrated to build support for gun control. In his version of reality, 20 first- and second-graders didn’t die a violent death in that school, nor did the six teachers who tried to protect them. What the rest of us saw as a terrible tragedy was in fact a performance by paid actors, including the grieving parents of those kids.

And if you or I say otherwise, well, that’s just our opinion.  It’s worth noting that after the election, Trump took the time to personally call Jones to thank him for his support.

Corey Lewandowski, another close Trump intimate, expounded a bit further on the issue of truth vs. fiction in an appearance at Harvard University this week. Sure, a lot of things that Trump said might not have been true, Lewandowski acknowledged, but the mistake was in thinking that it mattered:

“This is the problem with the media. You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally. The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes — when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar — you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

As Lewandowski sees it, it’s foolish to hold a candidate to be president of the United States to a higher standard of truth than you would hold, say, someone sitting next to you in a bar who’s about to down his fourth beer and who is explaining to you in sincere tones that the Sandy Hook shooting was really a government plot.

To apply Lewandowski’s point, Trump didn’t literally mean that Clinton should be prosecuted and jailed, that there would be an actual 2,000-mile wall on the border with Mexico or that Mexico would pay for it, or that he would tear up the Iran nuclear deal on his first day in office, or that Ted Cruz’s dad helped to kill JFK, or that he was going to take on Goldman Sachs and the Wall Street elite, or that he would protect Medicare and Medicaid. These were just things he said, not things he actually meant.

These are strange claims, especially coming from a campaign that made “Lyin’ Hillary” a catchphrase among its followers. And in the spirit of the times, I suppose you could argue that the statements by Hughes and Lewandowski are themselves not to be taken literally or factually.

However, that gets a little more complicated when Trump himself publicly joins the game, as he did in his remarks yesterday at a Carrier plant in Indiana. Basically, and I’m sure inadvertently, he confirmed everything that his surrogates had said.

In his speech, Trump told the crowd that he had been watching a TV news show about a week ago — “I won’t say which one, because I don’t want to give them credit, because I don’t like them much, I’ll be honest” — when they interviewed a Carrier employee about the company’s plans to move to Mexico. Here’s how he put it:

“And they had a gentleman, worker, great guy, handsome guy, he was on, and it was like he didn’t even know they were leaving. He said something to the effect, “No, we’re not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we’re not leaving,” and I never thought I made that promise. Not with Carrier. I made it for everybody else. I didn’t make it really for Carrier.

And I said, “What’s he saying?” And he was such a believer, and he was such a great guy. He said, “I’ve been with Donald Trump from the beginning, and he made the statement that Carrier’s not going anywhere, they’re not leaving.”

And I’m saying to myself, “Man.”

And then they played my statement, and I said, “Carrier will never leave.” But that was a euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in. Because they made the decision a year and a half ago.

But he believed that that was — and I could understand it. I actually said — I didn’t make it — when they played that, I said, “I did make it, but I didn’t mean it quite that way.”

Of course, in that same speech in which Trump explained that he hadn’t really meant what he had point-blank said, he also pledged point blank that “companies are not going to leave the United States any more without consequences. Not going to happen. It’s not going to happen, I’ll tell you right now.”

Except of course it is going to happen.  It’s happening right now, in the very place where he stood. While Carrier has agreed to keep 850 jobs at its Indianapolis plant rather than move them to Mexico, it has also made clear that it is still committed to moving another 1,300 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. And despite what Trump said, the company faces no consequences for doing so.

Now, Trump, Hughes and Lewandowski would probably tell us that if we focus on the literal truth of that statement, we miss the important thing. In Trump’s term, it’s just a “euphemism,”  and it should be assessed not on the basis of whether it’s factual but rather on the intent that it communicates.

hannaharendt

Hannah Arendt

For those who have read Hannah Arendt’s 1951 study of fascism and communism, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” this is alarming familiar. Arendt wrote extensively about the importance of defending truth and fact as bulwarks against government control, and warned against those who attempt “to dissolve every statement of fact into a declaration of purpose.”

She wrote, referring to the growth of fascism and communism in the ’20s and ’30s:

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”

 

As I said, that sounds alarmingly familiar and all too current.

Reader Comments 0

2012 comments
Mary Ann Gardner
Mary Ann Gardner

I laugh every time Bookman makes a liberal statement - I laugh because Trump won \U0001f61c

Bill Mullen
Bill Mullen

I don't trust the print media or the mainstream media I am so glad trump takes his message direct to the people on streaming video on social media the mainstream media is furious that they cannot lie about things he says when he goes around them

Preston Adams
Preston Adams

Bookman is a special kind of stupid. Trump won. Take it....take it....

rimsky
rimsky

Chump is picking a fight with China.  OMG this guy thinks he is still campaigning.  

Chump can fool minority of the mental midget but the whole will stick the middle finger to him.  LOLOLOLOL

Peachs
Peachs

@rimsky Chump seriously needs a war, he has got to cover those lies. Bush did it with 9/11, Trump will have us in the next Viet Nam. Minority no mandate presidents have got to change the subject or be who they are, losers. 

Peachs
Peachs

The great thing about Democrats is now they don't have to talk about it, just let the Republicans show you why they are not the answer. It is happening as we speak, we just need to hold them accountable and not give them the crutch, they fake out the world with.  Let the world realized they have no legs. 

rimsky
rimsky

 I find the emotional hysteria just amazing. Do you hug your pillow when you cry?

What you do just walk through Princeton campus.  You have a terrible comprehension problem.  But do carry on.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Our LibProgs continue to grip the only object that prolongs their denial of defeat - the popular vote.

They have nothing in that claim other then to encourage their own denial.

Trump won, that's it, and the EC is here to stay. 

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

McGarnagle

McGarnagle 24 minutes ago

@td1234

So he passes up Health and Human services, a department that is more closely related to his field of profession and instead takes House and Urban Development. Huh?

td1234

td1234 19 minutes ago

@McGarnagle @td1234 He wanted to take an assignment to do something a little easier like leading HUD where does not require a large level of thinking to do.

-------------

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

To recap TD thinks a renowned doctor would have an easier job dealing with housing,something he has no experience in, than a job dealing with Health

lololol

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@BuckeyeGa


Yeah. its like in college when you take a geology course instead of a hard physics class because it would be a little easier. Same mindset.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@RandroidWillBoy @BuckeyeGa


Determining relevancy based on popularity. Nice. Here's their mission statement. Sounds pretty important to me:


HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business.

dbm1
dbm1

@McGarnagle @BuckeyeGa

In one class I taught, I had covered the most important material and still had some time left before the end of the term.  There were two choices for what to spend the rest of the term on.  I let the students vote.  I think everybody voted for the one they thought would be easier, but most were mistaken about which one that would be.  I learned from this that it's probably better not to let the students in a class vote on something.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Dems are "all of the sudden" pointing out to conservatives that all their past rhetoric about picking winners and losers, subsidizing failing businesses, not letting the markets work, has all gone by the wayside.

If only we could return to that "NEW DEAL" FDR was so fond of. The one where he bought the farm?

schnirt

There's no escaping FDR's NEW DEAL. That sucker's taken on a life of its own.

lvg
lvg

We need a parade of Orange Clowns outside where the electors are voting .

Peachs
Peachs

@lvg we need to parade prostitutes, maybe orange ones. 

Paul42
Paul42

SHEETZ -

With a GREAT title/challenge to the conservatives.

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

So the dopey president elect saves some jobs and DEMS are all the sudden claiming that impedes capitalism...I imagine if he gets those trillions of dollars kept offshore by corporations the DEMS will scream about that suggesting the money was better off offshore...

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

its the cons that have issues with the Carrier deal. I posted several sources over the weekend

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@RandroidWillBoy

Carrier is still shutting one plant and moving it to Mexico, and culling workers elsewhere and replacing them with Mexicans. Talk about a pyrrhic victory!

Peachs
Peachs

@RandroidWillBoy comical, do you really think he is going to do that or even is thinking of doing it?  


How is he going to do it? This is the money power behind his party?  And you will spin it like it was some other reason,he went limp, but I am telling you just like the wall, the repeal of Obamacare, prosecuting Hillary, and leaving NATO, you invested in a con man.  It ain't going to happen. 


It is the job of the left to make sure the bought and paid for press, that acts offended at us questioning the very thing that got us here, will grow a spine and call them on this, or just get fat.

Paul42
Paul42

@RandroidWillBoy

No, Randroid.

Dems are "all of the sudden" pointing out to conservatives that all their past rhetoric about picking winners and losers, subsidizing failing businesses, not letting the markets work, has all gone by the wayside.

Conservatives have not addressed the reasoning behind their about-face.

Peachs
Peachs

@Eye wonder @RandroidWillBoy What we lose in this micro look is the entire country and what other states do better than Indiana and do not bankrupt the state doing it.  


Lots of examples but the press has let us down.  What Brown is doing for Cal. is a text book example of how a Republican state facing bankruptcy can be saved.  Indiana need to pay attention.  


Could afford Obamacare but can save 1000 factory worker jobs for a few months while Cal. has both Obamacare and a healthy economy, go figure. 

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

@Peachs @RandroidWillBoy


I have not idea what he is going to do..I imagine he will change his position on most of the BS he spewed to get elected.  I do think he will make an effort to incentivize those to bring the money back.  You realize in this sense the carrot will work where the stick won't..those with cash overseas control DC...



Help me understand the bought and paid for press...are you suggesting the press was more in favor of Trump than Clinton?

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

@Paul42 @RandroidWillBoy


The failing auto industry was subsidized.  The tax incentives by state of Indiana will be repaid in 2 years...


They don't have to justify anything....nor do you have to justify the bait and switch tactics of the left...

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

They don't have to justify anything....nor do you have to justify the bait and switch tactics of the left

lololol

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

@Peachs @Eye wonder @RandroidWillBoy


I'm not following you on the Cal/Brown thing relative to Indiana.  If BO saved the same Carrier jobs the NYT's would have 65 font above the fold on front page and you know that....


Obamacare is not working...giving away free catastrophic insurance is what was really accomplished at the expense of small businesses.  

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

@BuckeyeGa


Both are justified by the same thing...DC is run by money not us...


I never asked anyone to justify anything..

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

@BuckeyeGa


Some do but I've not seen a single liberal give kudos on behalf of those 1000 or so families..


I figure if both sides are whining, it's likely a good deal.

Peachs
Peachs

@RandroidWillBoy @Peachs the press works both ways, they have agendas for whomever is paying the bills, came out from both sides at the Harvard debriefing last week.  What the press does not do, any more, is hard work and fact finding, they quote a lobbyist or a disguised lobbyist as fact. 


The 60 Minute thing on the Mississippi golden triangle this weekend was a perfect example.  I watch the whole thing twice and never got the secret sauce that brought the foreign factories to the triangle.  Nothing of the economic waste to employ 6,000 people, who probably will be working in a different state or country in a few years and had their education paid for by the state of Mississippi.  There is a reason Mississippi is historically impoverished, and prostitution will not be the answer. 

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

@Peachs @RandroidWillBoy


When the media became news the news became BS...every single outlet has a lean and pushes it boldly as well as subliminally....


I don't watch much network TV ...didn't see 60 minutes piece..

Peachs
Peachs

@RandroidWillBoy @Peachs @Eye wonder freedom is the answer to economic prosperity.  You have more in California under Brown than you do in Indiana, which has a very hard time attracting Fortune 500 companies to start with because of their views that restrain freedom, yet call that narrow thinking freedom! Confusing the slaves operating under it. 


My suggestion is to encourage free thinking which encourages creativity, and grass root economies that don't cost,like Carrier, much more, with much less results, than the Obamacare you turn down, that would have created 10s of thousands of medical jobs that weren't paid for by the state treasury. 

Peachs
Peachs

@RandroidWillBoy @Peachs this is a lot like Trump branding, the economic development authority in Mississippi mailed it in this this reporter, he branded it CBS and put it out there making a small fortune doing nothing. 

Peachs
Peachs

@RandroidWillBoy @Peachs @Eye wonder standard of living in Cal is better than even Ga.  Unless you like poverty, which some find very appealing or why would they keep electing Republicans. 

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

@Peachs @RandroidWillBoy @Eye wonder


I lived both places and if you measure quality of life in terms of weather and beautiful landscape, it definitely is...but if you measure it by which place is better to raise a family all things considered, GA is much better IMO..


The poverty rate in CA is not materially better than GA..

Peachs
Peachs

@RandroidWillBoy @Peachs @Eye wonder what Cal does is create 21st century businesses that don't have to be attractive to the state, they are there in the first place. So they don't need to attract someone else's half baked cake when they are cooking better product with their own recipe ,already.