Monday, June 6, 2016

Answer To A Question By Kevin Drum

Kevin Drum asked how you handle someone like Donald Trump who, when presented with the outrageous things he said, actual quotes, lies about having said what he is documented to have said. He noted that Jake Tapper tried and failed to get Donald Trump to own up to having advocated that Japan have nuclear weapons because North Korea has nuclear weapons.   Tapper quoted the section of an interview Trump did with Chris Wallace in which he said that in therms about which there is no possible question that he said it.  Only to have trump deny he said it.  Instead of pressing him on the issue Tapper "moved on".  If it was because he was afraid of one of Trump's tantrums or him getting attacked by Trump on the campaign trail or if it was just that he had to fit more in before the next pod of commercials was scheduled, the fact is that he let the lie stand.

I think that the way you handle Trump would, at the most basic level, require a total change in how the media, itself manages the difference between lying and telling the truth.  They could start by not promoting lies told by powerful and rich an connected and glamorous people.  But that would require that they do something voluntarily which, if they cared about that, they'd do anyway.  There is nothing more obvious from the half century of giving the media a license to lie than the fact that they won't stop lying unless there is a real, financial or existential consequence to their lying.  They could choose to stop lying at any time, they could choose to stop repeating and promoting lies at any time.  The fact is they choose not to stop that and now they are having to deal with the consequences of having stuffed the collective mind of America with lies and playing fast and loose with the truth and have created a cultural indifference to that, they find that they are confronted with their own product, Donald Trump.

How you could do that is the beginning of my answer to Drum's question.

By repeatedly saying that not only is he a liar but that he is a pathological liar who wants to be president of the United States with the ability to use the American military and other parts of the government to do what he wants to. That they are too chicken to do that in today's media tells you everything you need to know about how degenerate our media is. And everything you need to know about how it has created a country in which a frightening number of people can't distinguish the truth from blatant lies or who even care about it.

Really, the Trump phenomenon didn't come out of nowhere, it was cultivated by the media which, now, can't handle him - if by "handling" you mean get him to admit that he's a liar with the damning proof right there to be quoted to him or shown to him on video.

The idea that the truth was relative and largely what you wanted it to be has been promoted to the American public by the media, lying on behalf of Republicans. That theory of lying, that it was no big deal if it would get you what you want is a consequence of choosing ideologies that assert that to make up the allowable range of serious, academic and cultural thinking. Cynical pursuit of self-interest is at the heart of it and cynical self-interest is the prime directive of the American media.

It's no accident that two of the biggest figures in Republicanfascism are media products with little to nothing about them, Reagan and Trump. If Trump hadn't been on TV playing the role of a New York City bully and kingpin of corporate piracy he'd never have gotten as far as he has. That the media has sold him, a quintessential New York City bully and braggart fascist strong man to a large part of the New York City hating population shows that they can sell any piece of crap to a population raised on Clint Eastwood movies, horse and cop operas.

What people consume as information forms how they think about it, pretending that that didn't matter is a line of lies that has been sold to us by the free-speech, free-press industry for the past century. Well, it turns out that what people are fed as information does matter, it is decisive in whether or not people can cast an informed and moral vote on the basis of information and achieve self-government and something like democracy. If they're fed lies with the best strategies of psychological manipulation available, we get the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and, now, Donald Trump. Really, lefties who sold those lines about "more speech" instead of preventing the media from lying for its own profits are as much to blame as anyone, many of them worked in the media, as well, so they were promoting their own self-interest as they said that. Well, where's the "more speech" that protected us from the George W. Bush regime? The Koch-FOX produced Tea Party? How did that "more speech" prevent things from degenerating to the point where it is a real possibility that we could get a Trump or Cruz presidency?


  1. In answer to Drum's question: I think you lay it out there as clearly as possible, and force Trump to lie again and again.

    If he doesn't throw up his hands and say "You got me! I'm a liar!", it's because in the real world it never works like that. I've actually had people lie about me in my professional capacity (not just back-fence gossip lies). I've had them lie about what I did and what I said and why I said it. Lies told about me concerning what I did in public meetings, where there were witnesses who know the truth.

    That didn't stop the lies. You can't stop lies. "A lie is half-way 'round the world while truth is still getting its boots on" is as true now as it's ever been.

    What you can do is what Tapper did: make the liar lie again on tape, in public, before an audience. We cannot eliminate liars from our public discourse: they have always been with us and, like the poor, always will be (ours is a fallen state, as Christianity teaches).

    All we can really do is expose the liars. You're never going to convince the supporters of Donald Trump that Trump isn't worth supporting, or that he lies as easily as he draws breath. But that's not your target audience; it's all the other people, paying attention to Trump for this first time.

    His brazen lies are not going to do him any good. The liars I encountered had their supporters. But if I could have exposed their lies as easily as we can expose Donald Trump's lies, and as publicly, their effectiveness would have withered away.

  2. I'm pretty horrified that a liar as blatant and extravagant as Donald Trump has gotten this far in the political process. He's as bad as the worst of those in the 19th century. It's terrifying that he's this close to the presidency.