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Lie after lie

July 2, 2019

While it seems every day brings a Trump lie I had not previously seen, each lost in the sea of others, two recently made news that may be worth noting merely because they so typify how he uses them to maintain power and support.

The first is Trump’s lie that the FBI did not warn him, during his presidential campaign, that the Russians were trying to infiltrate his organization. The second is his lie that Obama tried to meet with Kim Jong Un and was spurned.

What characterizes these lies? 1) They are designed to make Trump look good. 2) They verge on the absurd. 3) They are easily debunked. 4) The government and media spend time debunking them. That is, the mainstream media debunks them. Don’t expect that from Fox News. 5) Despite that, they carry and will continue to carry considerable traction with Trump’s supporters. 6) Trump uses these lies to reinforce themes that drive his supporters. 7) Such as the notion that Trump is the victim of the deep state, pushing the notion that government institutions all are corrupt. Except their leader. 8) Or the notion that Trump is their hero, doing things no past leader could do. 9) These lies also serve to test and reinforce the loyalty of Trump’s underlings. Barr repeated one of the lies above in testimony to Congress, and had to backtrack that.

Not long past, Americans laughed at strongmen politicians around the world who communicated like this to their people and their underlings, puzzled how such bald-faced lies worked, wondering that they didn’t create endless scandal, ashamed for the underlings who had to acquiesce to them, and certain that our culture was immune to such behavior. Today, we laugh — or cry — at the similarities. That is a large sea change in American politics, in just recent years.

While Trump has mastered that style of lie, he did not create the conditions for it. His lies work only because the movement he rode to power already was trained to them. As ugly as Trump is, the problem runs far deeper than him, and still will be here after he is gone.

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