President Trump has turned compulsive lying into an art form and is using it regularly as a tool of the state. More than any other U.S. president, Trump has played fast and loose with the truth. He is the master of the “tall tale”, the gross exaggeration, half-truths and outrageous and obvious lies. Trump has made an active effort to promote his own unique and often unsupported alternate versions of the truth and discredit all those who don’t see it his way. Those in the mainstream new media that disagree with his version of the truth, he calls purveyors of “fake” news. After all, according to Trump, respectable mainstream news establishments like the New York Times and Washington Post are a monolithic group of liberal intellectual snobs and elitists, who hate him so much for not being like them, that they can’t be trusted to write an honest word about him. However, Trump’s attacks on the news media have historical precedents and could have come right out of the world’s greatest dictators’ playbook. When Trump calls the press the “enemy of the people”, he aligns himself with some of the most infamous dictators of all time like Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, who made similar remarks. This is a strategy used successfully by autocratic rulers to weaken the power of the free press, create doubt about the veracity of its reporting, and use that doubt to hammer home their alternate version of the truth. In order to make sure Trump’s version of events dominates public opinion, he needs to discredit all who disagree with him.
Trumps use of the “Big Lie” strategy, comes straight from the writings of none other than Adolph Hitler. In his book, “Mein Kampf”, (My Struggle) which according to his wife Ivanka, was once a favorite bedtime reading for Trump, Hitler stated that most people are used to telling small lies, but a large majority of people feel too ashamed to tell big lies. Hitler concluded that when most people hear big lies, they tend to doubt that anyone would lie so outrageously, and unconsciously seek to find some truth in that lie. This gives some degree of credibility to what is basically a complete lie. Trump has clearly internalized this lesson. So if you’re going to lie, he apparently believes, do it in a big way and keep repeating it. And never, ever, back down unless you are absolutely forced to. Trump is clearly a lesser evil on the red devil scale than was Hitler, but that doesn’t prevent him from using some of Hitler’s most effective propaganda strategies.
Trump’s embrace of the term “alternate truth”, is perhaps the most insidious type of lying he does. Only a pathological liar and an entitled mega-rich brat could distort the truth the way he does. He often dismisses carefully researched news stories by well-respected journalists, as “fake news” while presenting either blatantly false or totally unsubstantiated right wing conspiracy theories as the “real” truth. An example of the “Big Lie” technique, is his complete denial that Russia had a significant role in trying to undermine our 2016 elections. The U.S. intelligence community did painstaking research before declaring nearly unanimously that the Russians indeed were guilty of blatant and comprehensive interference in our elections. The Mueller commission, headed by Robert Mueller, whom most agreed was about as unbiased and trustworthy of an investigator that could have been chosen, clearly concluded that the Russian government was culpable for election interference, and even indicted a number of Russian operatives. Against the best judgement of his own intelligence community, Trump insisted and still does that the Russians basically didn’t interfere in our election. To this day, he promotes a debunked theory that it was actually the Ukrainians who did so. This is exactly the explanation being pushed by the Russian KGB. Trumps “buddy-ing up” with the likes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, shows that he is most comfortable with dictators and may even be paying Putin back for his role in helping discredit Hillary Clinton, allowing Trump to win a narrow victory.
Trump’s view of the world is relentlessly partisan, which allows him to ignore and discount facts coming from those he sees as being against him. He uses the term “Never Trumpers,” to describe civil servants like William Taylor, Fiona Hill and George Kent, who testified against him in the impeachment hearings, even though they had served under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Civil servants are strongly encouraged not to make their political views known, to avoid the perception of bias. There is no evidence that any of them has ever made statements expressing dislike for Trump. He has accused his own FBI of conducting politically biased investigations and wire-taps of his associates, many of whom were convicted of criminal activity. He is breaking new ground in terms of paranoia and indiscriminately attacking anyone who he feels might harm his image. His no compromise attitude toward both friend and foe who disagree with him leaves no possibility for civil discourse with those in our government who disagree with him, be they Democrats or Republicans, nearly eliminating the chance for compromise, and making the country basically ungovernable by creating perpetual gridlock in a congress without a Republican majority in the House.
Trump seems to view truth as a malleable thing like gold, to be twisted and molded into whatever shape he wants at the time. He has convinced himself that this is the correct way to look at the world, and because he is so wealthy and powerful, he appears to believe that others should suspend their disbelief and go along with him. Like the makers of highly choreographed action films, he doesn’t want his audience to do too much thinking about whether his words and the stories they tell makes sense or not. Some of his obvious lies, like saying that his inauguration drew the “biggest inauguration crowd of all-time, much bigger than Obama’s” are based mostly on ignorance and wishful thinking, but many others are meant to obscure his many misdeeds. His standard method of avoiding any responsibility for his many aides and appointees that wound up in prison, or on trial, is to say something like “well, I barely knew him and I didn’t really talk to him much”. Yeah, right… Lying appears to come to him as naturally as drinking his morning coffee and sending off silly conspiracy theory Tweets.
It is interesting that Trump has gotten away with saying more outrageously politically and morally incorrect remarks than any U.S. President in history. How do you think it would have gone down if President Obama had said something like, “Yeah, so I grabbed her by her private parts.” The Republicans would have had a field day making racist remarks and Obama would still be apologizing. How about if Clinton had said “Well, some of those Klansmen are really very fine people.” I don’t think that would have gone over well with his black supporters, among others. But because Trump is not a politician, but a sleazy businessman from the rough and tumble world of the NY high end real estate business, so most people including the news media have come to accept a far higher level of reprehensible comments and downright lies, than would be possible coming from the mouth of a real politician. To his most rabid supporters, it doesn’t seem to matter what he says, as long as he doesn’t cross the line by insulting God, Jesus, the military, college and NFL football, the NRA, country music, or right-to-lifers. He has proven that if he can press the right buttons that divide people along racial, cultural, or socio-economic class lines, he can get a decent percentage of the population to believe without question in almost any idiotic lie and half-truth that he utters. He has gotten formerly friendly neighbors throughout the country to go at each other’s throats and to stop listening to one another’s opinions in a respectful manner. He has encouraged a bunker mentality where people believe that everyone is either with them or against them. He has sought to discredit those in the media that actually check and verify their facts before making them public as being part of some elitist left wing conspiracy, while glorifying those that spout totally unsubstantiated alternate facts and opinions.
Trump appears to have tapped into and is exploiting our widespread feelings of mistrust toward government, intellectuals, the mainstream press and toward those we know who disagree with our individual points of view. When people no longer trust their institutions like the press whose job it is to expose the truth and protect us from being lied to and manipulated by the government and major corporations, we are setting ourselves up to be lied to and manipulated by a master liar like Trump, who has the advantage of the prestige and visibility of the office of the Presidency. We must do whatever we can to keep our country from disintegrating into a totally trust-less society, in which truth is measured by whomever has the greatest fame and financial resources to relentlessly promote their own self-serving version of reality while seeking to discredit and silence all those who disagree.