Trump's post-truth era

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Is Trump a liar? Maybe not--and that's even scarier, writes Andrew O'Hehir. He wonders, "how are we to categorize Trump as an unquenchable fount of untruth, who by the Washington Post's count passed 3,000 "false or misleading statements" as president more than a month ago?"

Is he a liar, a bullshitter, a gaslighter, a prevaricator, an ignoramus or a delusional sociopath whose relationship to the world of observable reality and established fact is at best "transactional"? I see two viable answers to this question:

1. It's the wrong question.

2. Yes.

"The second answer is correct," writes O'Hehir, "because Trump uses all those tactics and more, sometimes in ways that seem calculated and sometimes on what looks like pure instinct." He also observes that "Trump has displayed little or no concern for the truth," for example in the 1989 Central Park Five case. "Trump didn't care whether those five young black and Latino men were guilty or innocent," he continues:

The facts of the case were beside the point; their lives were beside the point. (Black lives quite literally did not matter.) Those men were no more than sinister extras in a psychodrama fueled by pure emotion -- fear, rage, bitterness, confusion -- in which questions of law or fact were irrelevant.

For many white New Yorkers and white Americans of Trump's generation, the Central Park rape case seemed to symbolize a moment of societal collapse, and to epitomize a racial, generational and existential threat. Their city, and their country, were being taken from them by roving bands of dark-skinned criminals: It's precisely the anarchic, hellish social vision Trump repeatedly laid out during his presidential campaign and during his "American carnage" inaugural address.

Crime has dropped steadily in the three decades since then, but Trump still suffers from an "obsession with gruesome, violent crimes -- with rape in particular -- and his nightmarish fantasies about hordes of animalistic invaders bent on destroying America:"

I suspect that was also the moment when Trump clearly understood that he possessed a certain dark gift: He could tap into a deep current of popular rage and discord -- at least in a certain proportion of the population -- and channel it for his own purposes. The vicious attack on Trisha Meili, and the victimization of five young men who didn't do it, began the process that made Donald Trump president. Along the way, of course, he also orchestrated the cynical hunt for Barack Obama's birth certificate, endearing himself to the paranoid right. Correctly understood, I think that's a later chapter in the same narrative.

That history also provides an invaluable key that helps unlock the nature, meaning and purpose of Trump's ceaseless torrent of lies, which brings us back around to my original question about whether or not to call them lies. And to my first answer: It isn't an interesting or useful question.

Thus comes the situation we face in the post-truth era:

His followers either believe that everything Trump says is true and everything the media says is fake news, or understand that he's a blowhard and bullshitter who gets the libtards' undies in a bundle and love him for it. In either case, standing there with a ledger counting up all the things he says that are false or misleading or simply not nice is playing an assigned role of schoolmarm in a drama Trump is directing.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on June 23, 2018 12:39 PM.

Trump's zero-tolerance mess was the previous entry in this blog.

queer culture and radicalism is the next entry in this blog.

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