Trump Does Not Lie, This is a Lie
“Don’t you realize you are sharing false news? This isn’t real. This never happened. These statistics are completely made up. There’s no sources here. They never said that. This isn’t a thing.”
“Do you not understand that in sharing this, in saying these things, you yourself are participating in the spreading of literal falsehood through the world? That because you are relaying this thing which is not true to all of the people who listen to you and trust you, you are engaging lying?”
“Why would you lie intentionally? Why do you do this? To get a rise out of me? To make me angry and indignant so I speak up or feel compelled to jump in with the ‘Well, actually…’ that you know I have trouble resisting when I see a patent falsehood? Are you expressly trolling me with these things you are sharing?”
“No. This is wrong. That is a lie. Here’s links to unbiased peer reviewed evidence that counters this. Here’s links to all the fact checking sites that have debunked this. Will you be less likely to share future lies because now you know that this that you shared were lies?”
If any of the above sounds remotely familiar to you as something you’ve said, you probably have a friend or family member you care about who at some point in time was happily taken in by a piece of the dictionary definition of propaganda. They shared it on social media, or over lunch, email, or on a call with you. The item being shared contained some kind of outrage, some form of emotional appeal designed to bypass critical thinking and go straight for the anger centers of the brain, prompting the need to spread it in a viral manner.
The above are paraphrased responses from myself to shares from Breitbart, CNS News, Townhall, Newsbusters, Dailycaller, WND, and other merchants of falsehood from a conservative friend. The friend in question is young, tech-savvy, smart, reasonable, and rational. He is not by any means the caricature stereotype of an angry, old, ornery teafolk bumpkin, nor does he exist at the height of economic privilege with a humble background and upbringing similarly mirroring your author’s. His response to these challenges when they occurred was invariably to brush off the notion that anything wrong or untoward was occurring.
“It’s not my fault. I’m not lying. I’m just relaying the information here. Don’t shoot the messenger, and if you have any problems with it, tell me why you think it’s wrong. It’s up to you and each individual to judge what is true and what is not.”
At no point in time did he, or others in a similar role ever consider that in serving as an resonant point where the signal of intentional deceit and emotion-driven fabrication was amplified and boosted by his efforts did he accept his role in the process. Upon seeing a headline that affirms the bias, the compulsion is to share. Ask questions later (if at all), and instead react. The short-circuit that occurred when the cognitive dissonance kicked in was not recognized for what it was, let alone identified in retrospect. True or not, it is true to the sharer in the moment. And it is far better not to dwell on the distant past of several minutes ago where fallacy and sham news was exploded to the global scale through what amounts to a practically involuntary share. The amount of effort in the sharing was minimal, so why should responsibility to the veracity of the matter be of concern?
Donald Trump suffers from the same malady. He isn’t lying when he says he got the biggest electoral landslide, or Obama wiretapped him, or his inauguration crowd was bigger, or a terrorist attack happened in Sweden, or, or… or. Those aren’t lies, you see. He is simply serving as the conduit, in his mind. He is just relaying to us the briefest, most urgent takeaways from the news and content he is digesting from his television watching and his extremely limited reading. Blameless, he operates within a realm where responsibility does not exist for his service in reverberating a fallacy or “alternative fact” to a point where what was not reality before, now is to those who believe him in spite of what their eyes and ears tell them.
Trump is not the liar telling lies any more than the inside of a great bell is the clamor ringing forth from it.
Trump is not the liar telling lies any more than the inside of a great bell is the clamor ringing forth from it. He is, in his perspective, simply the medium by which the truth is distributed from those who have it (like IJR, Gateway Pundit, Info Wars), to those who need it. It isn’t up to him to parse fact from fiction – that task has been accomplished by those with time for such trivial nonsense. Trump is not inside the bubble, he is the very substance of the bubble. He just happens to be one of the best, shiniest, most efficient reflective tiles the echo chamber is built with, and responsibility for the contents of the sounds devoid of veracity bouncing back and forth inside of it are not by any means things he needs to concern himself with.
In order to lie, goes his reasoning, he must be the originator of the thought. If the thought came from elsewhere, the onus of the truth of it is not his to bear. “I just hear things”, he says. “everybody is saying,” “most people said,” “a lot of people thing,” “I’m hearing that…” Trump had an interview with Time Magazine yesterday. This is what he said that really stuck out.
TIME: “But you would agree also that some of the things you have said haven’t been true. You say that Ted Cruz’s father was with Lee Harvey Oswald.”
TRUMP: “Well that was in a newspaper. No, no, I like Ted Cruz, he’s a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn’t, I didn’t say that. I was referring to a newspaper. A Ted Cruz article referred to a newspaper story with, had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast.”
TIME: “That gets close to the heart…”
TRUMP: “Why do you say that I have to apologize? I’m just quoting the newspaper, just like I quoted the judge the other day.”
The concept fails him. How can it be his fault, when he was just dutifully relaying what he had heard, or read, or was told? The buck stops elsewhere, with great intent for Mr. Trump. In this, Donald Trump is not a liar by any means. He’s helping us, he thinks, by sharing these urgent things that we should be outraged about. But the reality is that he’s just a big, stupid, orange tool that cleverer liars are using for influence and pageviews.
There is a silver lining, however. The friend referenced above did eventually stop sharing fabricated stories meant to outrage. I asked him why – what lead him to this conclusion? He cited that the lack of ability to prove what he was sharing was true was a factor. The futility of sharing it and the disbelief in response. Disillusion with politics and politicians was also a consideration. Finally, it was the realization that he shared almost nothing in common with the extreme right-wing lunatic people putting those stories out. I had initially suspected that the influence of his family had an impact, but it didn’t.
While this experience with my friend may serve as anecdotal, it might well also serve as a blueprint for how it may be possible to cause Trump to stop sharing patent falsehoods with the fevered frequency he does. Contemporary psychology would point to the possible influence of Melania or Ivanka, or Trump’s sons as possible paths back from the dissemination of untruth – but the course above would indicate otherwise. The path towards pushing Trump away from functioning as conduit lies through alienation of him with the extremes of his party, the pointlessness of his Twitter tirades, and the apparent use and exploitation of his efforts by those whose lies he spreads. Through maximizing effort on these vectors, it may be possible to reduce, or at least disincentivize the gross deception with which Trump communicates to America and the world at large.