Beware! Entering a fact-free zone
(VANCOUVER ISLAND) One of the many things that pundits, analysts, opinion writers, and much of the public find bewildering about the Trump ascendancy is the observable fact that the Republicans’soon-to-be candidate can repeatedly lie to reporters and the people, be exposed, and simply continue to repeat the lie with no net negative effect on his standing in the polls. Moreover, his cheering section and peanut gallery, Fox News, just keeps on supporting him without even editorialising on the falsehoods he peddles.
Now, we’re not talking about ambiguous statements that could have been misinterpreted, or misleading statements that could be rationalised (although there are plenty of those); no, we’re talking about straightforward, no question about it, flat out, barefaced lying about substantive matters. In fact, The Washington Post has given Trump its highest rating of 4 Pinochios for 70% of fact-checked Trump statements; a new record. Politico measured his lies over 4.6 hours of debates and determined that he lied, on average, more than once every five minutes. Huffington Post counted 71 lies during a single town hall event. The Daily Wire found it easy to put together a list of Trump’s 101 (that’s one hundred and one) most egregious lies.
Progressives and anyone who opposes Trump find this compulsive lying to be enough to disqualify him from any elective office, let alone the presidency. But his supporters are not the least bit put off. Certainly if a Democratic candidate had been caught in even one lie as obvious and as destructive as any one on the nearly infinite list of Trump’s prevarications, it would spell the end of a candidacy. So what gives? How is it that Trump supporters will justify their support for a clearly mentally disturbed demagogue by quoting his lies, even when they know that they are simply untrue. How do they then say that they support Trump because he “tells it like it is” even when they know that he virtually always tells it exactly like it isn’t.
Well, to answer that question, we have to look at his supporters. Among Trump supporters, a large majority are evangelical Christians. Although Trump has not made any particular effort to pretend to be religious, the demographics of his base skew heavily toward evangelicals. And apart from evangelicals, his base consists of people who are willing to believe all sorts of bizarre things. Among the other defining characteristics of his support base are their belief that anthropogenic climate change is a liberal hoax; that the earth is 6000 years old and that man co-existed with dinosaurs; that a blastula is a human being; that Robert Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin is self-defence; that minorities and the LGBT community are the cause of their woes. Why, sometimes they’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast! We have to ask ourselves why on earth they shouldn’t believe that Donald Trump is qualified to be president.
Stephen Colbert’s brilliant addition to the lexicon is an essential word in our analysis of the free pass Trump gets from the electorate: truth·i·ness ˈtro͞oTHēnis/noun informal…the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true
The things Trump lies about seem to his supporters to have a truthiness about them. His flagrant lie that he saw thousands of Muslims cheering and celebrating at the destruction of the Twin Towers is exactly the sort of thing that his redneck followers would like to be true in order to justify their bigotry. Trump tells them the lies they would like to be true; that they are clearly lies is no problem for them because they have spent their lives practising, like the Red Queen, to believe impossible things and that practice has rendered them extraordinarily adept at it. They latch on to the shreds of truthiness in Trump statements like “Hillary started the “birther” movement” because they love to hear more nonsense: every one of the lies that Trump peddles reinforces their prejudices, justifies their bigotry, shores up their belief in the unbelievable. They are the willfully ignorant coprophagists and Trump has a black belt in bullshit.