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Hullabaloo


Thursday, May 26, 2016

 
"You can believe me or you can believe your lyin' eyes --- or else"

by digby














Jonathan Chait has written one of those pieces that when you finish it you go "ahhh, now I get it."  It's really, really great and a truly important insight. He teases out the relationship between the two most important aspects of Trump's personality: his fundamental disregard for truth or even reality --- and his frightening authoritarianism. They are two sides of the same coin.

Chait writes about Trump's penchant for lying about everything and doing it with impunity on both the big stuff and the small stuff like this:
Where he has broken truly unique ground is in his lies about relatively small, routine matters. As I’ve pointed out before — it’s become a small personal fixation — after Mitt Romney mocked the failure of Trump Steaks, Trump held a press conference in which he insisted Trump Steaks remained a going concern, despite the undeniable fact that the business no longer exists. (His campaign displayed store-bought steaks for the media, not even bothering to fully remove the labels of the store at which they purchased them.) The New York Times actually reported this week that Trump had displayed his steaks, without mentioning the blatant deception. Another such example is Trump’s prior habit of impersonating an imaginary p.r. representative while speaking to reporters. Obviously, the practice itself is strange enough, but the truly Trumpian touch is that he admitted to the ruse publicly, and then subsequently went back to denying it.
He also notes that Trump routinely describes his critics in the crudest and most insulting ways and then immediately changes his tune when that person changes hie or her tube and comes groveling. He uses the example of Rick Perry who he once said should take an IQ test before being allowed to debate and now says is a "good guy, good governor" now that he's come crawling for  role in the party. This is related to the lying in a very specific way.

The question is why?  it's tempting to say he's just a pathological liar which he may very well be.  But what Chait observes is that it serves an important purpose:
Donald Trump is a wildly promiscuous liar. He also has disturbing authoritarian tendencies. Trump’s many critics have seized upon both traits as his two major disqualifications for the presidency, yet both of them frustratingly defy easy quantification. All politicians lie some, and many of them lie a lot, and most presidents also push the limits of their authority in ways that can frighten their opponents. So what is so uniquely dangerous about Trump? Perhaps the answer is that both of these qualities are, in a sense, the same thing. His contempt for objective truth is the rejection of democratic accountability, an implicit demand that his supporters place undying faith in him. Because the only measure of truth he accepts is what he claims at any given moment, the power his supporters vest in him is unlimited.
His followers believe that it doesn't matter what Trump says because they trust him. They don't want to know the details they just know he's going to "take care" of everything. He demonstrates every day that he is unaccountable and that's what they love about him. They know he's lying but every time he blows off the lie or changes his tune or simply says "you can believe me or you can believe your lying eyes" he's demonstrating his dominance. He is saying that the truth is what he says it is.

Chait quotes this chilling passage from "1984" (which he rightfully notes was about totalitarianism not authoritarianism, but operates in similar ways)
The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford were guilty of the crimes they were charged with. He had never seen the photograph that disproved their guilt. It had never existed, he had invented it. He remembered remembering contrary things, but those were false memories, products of self-deception.
He concludes:
Truth and reason are weapons of the powerless against the powerful. There is no external doctrine he can be measured against, not even conservative dogma, which he embraces or discards at will and with no recognition of having done so. Trump’s version of truth is multiple truths, the only consistent element of which is Trump himself is always, by definition, correct. Trump’s mind is so difficult to grapple with because it is an authoritarian epistemology that lies outside the democratic norms that have shaped all of our collective experiences.
The only consistent element of truth is Trump himself who is always, by definition, correct. That's what we're dealing with.  And I'm not sure that our fast paced highly partisan social media is capable of dealing with it.  Our mainstream media certainly isn't. Still desperate to prove they are not biased (and still having old axes to grind) they are flummoxed by the sui generis political figure and simply treat him as business as usual. (Earlier today I watched mark Halperin on MSNBC say that Trump's "energy policy" is going to be a defining feature of the fall campaign. I burst out laughing.)

Read the whole Chait piece. I don't do it justice here. It's a very important insight which I hope the press corps reads and thinks about. You never know.

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