aNewDomain — Pres. Donald Trump’s opponents often call him a liar, saying that almost every pronouncement he makes — verbally or on Twitter — is a lie.
Just today, after all, he defended his lack of public response to news of fallen American soldiers in Niger by saying that former Pres. Barack Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers.
And yes, there are countless examples of Trump telling some maor whoppers. Some of the more egregious examples include:
1. Former US Pres. Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
Trump was the loudest proponent of this unbelievably blatant falsehood, and probably did the most to perpetuate it before and during his campaign last year. (Read the searchable Trump birtherism Twitter archive here.)
2. The inauguration crowd as Trump’s Jan. 20, 2017 swearing in was the largest since John F. Kennedy’s in 1961, and it dwarfed those that followed, too.
That one is ridiculously false. Trump’s inauguration crowds were among the smallest, if not the smallest, official counts show.
3. Trump won the popular vote, but because five million people voted more than once or
voted illegally or voted in the name of dead people, the numbers don’t show it.
That “illegals” voted at all is a total and blatant falsehood. There is zero evidence that even one undocumented foreign worker even voted.
4. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, hundreds of jubiliant Muslims cheered and celebrated in the streets, which Trump said he saw with his own eyes.
Again: No, never happened. Perhaps Trump was just imagining the scene. Or maybe it was wishful thinking. A guy can dream, can’t he?
It’s worth noting, too, that in the case of the nonexistent celebrating New Jersey Muslims, Trump’s story has evolved over the years In 2001, he said he actually saw the Muslims applauding the Twin Towers attack. But last summer, he revised that by claiming he’d only seen it on TV.
So why do I say Trump’s not a liar?
Which brings us to my point. Trump may lie a lot — even constantly — but he isn’t really a liar — or, rather, just a liar.
According to the definition Princeton prof Harry Frankfurt gives in his classic 2005 book, On Bullshit, there’s a lot more to it than that.
According to Frankfurt, Trump doesn’t really classify as a proper liar because lying necessitates knowledge and understanding
of and grudging appreciation for the truth. You can’t purposely circumvent the truth, as liars do, without knowing what the truth is beforehand.
If Trump were a true liar, by this logic, that would imply that Trump actually knew that his inaugural audience was smaller than
Obama’s, but he consciously decided to claim that it was way yuger.
Yet Trump seemed genuinely surprised when a reporter told him right after the inauguration that in fact his crowds were among the smallest.
If that really was the case, then Trump was not a liar, at least in this examples. He likely falls into another category of people altogether — the category that Frankfurt labels ‘bullshitters’
Unlike liars, he writes, Bullshitters may not even realize that what they are saying or writing at the time is false. They just disgorge whatever pops into their heads at any given moment.
By that definition, Trump is a bullshitter. But, because he must sometimes know the truth he denies (like when he claimed his son never met with the Russians except to talk ‘adoption,’), which makes him a liar, too.
But wait, there’s more …
Bullshit as “Carelessly Wrought
Trump is notoriously undisciplined, according to aides and others who’ve commented on his style off and on the record over the last few months.
And it is a lack of discipline that characterizes the Bullshitter and the bullshit he purveys. Bullshit, he points out, is not planned — and it it is not “carefully wrought,” says Frankfurt, adding:
“The notion of carefully wrought bullshit involves, then, a certain inner strain. Thoughtful attention to detail requires discipline and objectivity. It entails accepting standards and limitations that forbid the indulgence of impulse or whim.”
Magical thinkers are delusional, believing that what they believe is true simply because they believe it, in spite of no corroborating evidence to support their fantasies.
If I am convinced that spaceships hover outside my bedroom window, it has to be true because I believe it to be true.
Of course, when it comes to rampant falsehoods, Trump may well suffer from a sort of multiple personality disorder, on top of his oft-identified narcissism, egocentrism and his late night manias.
Like all politicians, Trump panders to his base, of course. But on Twitter and on television, he panders almost exclusively to the base. Anyone else would at least ocassionally bring someone with different viewpoints into the tent, but not Trump.
He has a devoted following in his Trump base which, shockingly, appears to be about 35 percent of Americans of voting age.
Some of his untruths are undoubtedly calculated to appeal to that base, demonstrating that they will believe (or pretend to believe) anything he says or writes, no matter how absurd or outlandish. Why? It’s just .. because.
A shot from the (corpulent) hip
Maybe it’s because he knows he has them in the palm of his hand with tiny fingers. Or maybe it’s because he’s constantly shooting from his corpulent hip. Perhaps it’s because he came to the office so poorly informed about how things work and seems to have no interest or desired to fill in his many knowledge gaps. Whatever the reason, he just tosses blatantly wrong or misleading stuff right off the top of his freakish-hairdo head.
Those crazy untruths as he concocts them, seemingly on the fly, are aimed right at that adoring Trump base. They’re all in and will buy it no matter what, or so they have so far.
Why? Because like him, they’re all id. That’s the part of the personality that, according to Sigmund Freud, is all about self-focused “I want it now” style desire.
They seem to have other psychological characteristics and issues in common, too, of course. As professional psychologists now openly note, Trump has all the markings that characterize a narcissist. But the thing is, narcissists as a group tend to be delusional about themselves and the world around him.
Though it’s impossible to paint 35 percent of the US population with a single psycho brush, it’s an easy leap to suppose that delusional and magical thinking runs rampant in the base. These are the people that believed the #PizzaGate controversy. And many of them, including, even, Trump’s choice for NASA director, would rather believe that Noah carried dinosaurs rather than believe the fact (it isn’t a theory) of evolution.
Many would rather believe that most of the world’s living scientists are trying to dupe them, rather than believe the scientific data underlying climate change.
Still more believe that Hillary Clinton sold most of the nation’s uranium stores to Russia when she was US Secretary of State — and that Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta practices black magic in the form of what they call #SpiritCooking.
More still refuse to believe the country’s own Congressional Budget Office (CBO) when it calculates how many working and middle class Americans will lost health insurance in the absence of Obama care, saying to themselves and everyone else, “well, our Trump wouldn’t do that. He said we’d have the best insurance ever. And I believe him.”
To be fair, many of them for whatever reason really do not seem to realize Trump is lying constantly to them and everyone else. Or they pretend not to realize. Either way, they obviously don’t give enough of a shit to question the crap he’s spewing.
Why? They just like his style. That’s the common refrain you hear from this base, and they repeat it ad nauseum.
That’s what, in the end, I think it is wrong to just dismissively call Trump a liar, compulsive or otherwise. As we’ve seen, sometimes Trump knows he’s lying, other times he’s just delusional and saying what he wishes were true. And sometime he just wishes.
What we’re seeing, truly, is three faces of [de]ceive.
Trump’s a liar, sure. But he’s also a bullshitter. And he’s a magical thinker, too.
It’s a truth-bereft Trifecta. And Trump is its unmatched champion. It’s a sport he wins at so much, really, that he must be tired of winning by now.
ForaNewDomain, I’m John Barry.