Monday, September 26, 2016

The Word You’re Looking For

The press — or at least some of the mainstream outlets — have come to the obvious conclusion that the truth is not with Donald Trump.

This weekend the New York Times posted “A Week of Whoppers from Donald Trump,” and we’re not talking Burger King:

All politicians bend the truth to fit their purposes, including Hillary Clinton. But Donald J. Trump has unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random — even compulsive.

However, a closer examination, over the course of a week, revealed an unmistakable pattern: Virtually all of Mr. Trump’s falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction. Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, described the practice as creating “an unreality bubble that he surrounds himself with.”

The New York Times closely tracked Mr. Trump’s public statements from Sept. 15-21, and assembled a list of his 31 biggest whoppers, many of them uttered repeatedly. This total excludes dozens more: Untruths that appeared to be mere hyperbole or humor, or delivered purely for effect, or what could generously be called rounding errors. Mr. Trump’s campaign, which dismissed this compilation as “silly,” offered responses on every point, but in none of the following instances did the responses support his assertions.

It’s behind a paywall, but you get the idea: he lies about everything.

The Washington Post did the same thing: a week’s worth of “dubious statements in an ‘alternative universe.'”

An examination by The Washington Post of one week of Trump’s speeches, tweets and interviews shows a candidate who not only continues to rely heavily on thinly sourced or entirely unsubstantiated claims but also uses them to paint a strikingly bleak portrait of an impoverished America, overrun by illegal immigrants, criminals and terrorists — all designed to set up his theme that he is specially suited to “make America great again.”

African American communities, he said, are in the worst shape they have “ever, ever, ever” been — notwithstanding the days of slavery and Jim Crow. The U.S. military is “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.” Terrorists are winning, and the United States is losing, he said, because “all of these young people in our country and other countries are looking up to” the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Trump is expected to employ this approach, in both style and substance, at the first debate between the two major-party candidates on Monday night. Expecting that the moderator, Lester Holt of NBC News, will serve as a real-time fact-checker during the debate, Trump has repeatedly said that Holt should not do so. (Trump initially criticized Holt, saying: “Lester is a Democrat. It’s a phony system.” But after reports surfaced that Holt has registered Republican, Trump said he thought the moderator would be fair.)

Trump’s tactics, and his disregard for the truth in numerous cases, drove his primary opponents to fits earlier this year and last. An exasperated Jeb Bush said Trump was creating an “alternative universe.”

Add to this roster the Los Angeles Times and Politico, both with exhaustive lists of Mr. Trump’s wild ride.

Notice, however, that all of the publications are careful to avoid the words “lie,” “lying,” or “liar.”  Perhaps their legal department cautioned them that using those words would subject them to possible legal action, so they went with “false” and “falsehoods,” probably because “factually challenged” was too many syllables.  But anyone older than the age of four knows that when you intentionally say something that you know is false and do it for the purpose of misleading or evading the truth or the facts, it’s a lie.  In court under oath it’s called perjury, and it’s a felony.

I get why the mainstream media has been reluctant thus far to call out Mr. Trump and his minions for their breathtaking leave-taking of the truth and reality and their propensity for exaggeration and bullshit.  As I’ve discussed before, it’s out of a sense of presenting the election as some kind of balanced contest between two candidates of two major parties, both given the benefit of the doubt that they are somehow equal in stature and that at some point they will stretch the truth.  The given is that “All politicians lie.”  Well, no shit, Sherlock.  So do most people regardless of their station or occupation.  But in this current cycle, Mr. Trump has raised it to a high art; his like shall not pass this way again — we hope — for a long, long time.  So the obligation of journalism must therefore take it upon themselves to do more than just report the facts with some kind of imaginary illusion of objectivity and report the undisputed truth about the lying.

The second reason is that the journalists may have some fear that if they actually call out Mr. Trump and his Republican enablers, they may lose precious connections or sources within the party and the halls of government.  They will be hampered in doing their job if they can’t pick up the phone and call their version of Deep Throat.  But that’s the risk all journalists take and I think they need to calculate the risk against the chance that if they allow Mr. Trump’s juggernaut to roll on unhinged and unhindered, there may be more at stake than a free lunch with their inside source.  And they may have to actually get out there and do some real reporting instead of retweeting.

The saving grace of this watershed reporting is that it is happening in September.  If these were published on October 26, it would be way too late; early voting has already started.  And now that the ball is rolling, perhaps other publications and outlets will pick up on it instead of leaving it to fringe bloggers and their mom’s e-mails.

H/T to Steve Benen.

One bark on “The Word You’re Looking For

  1. Sadly, a lot of his rabid fans could give a rat’s ass about truth – specially the sort that say they would like the South to rise again in Civil War if Hillary wins. But I do at least hope it will convince Bernie Bros to vote for Hillary.

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