Donald Trump Is The Target Of His Own Deception
Alternative facts feed an alternate reality
As President, he began lying his second day in office. Not a big lie, not a lie that made any difference politically, just a pointless little lie in response to a truth he did not want to acknowledge. “My crowd was bigger than Obama’s in 2008, the biggest ever” is what he sent Sean Spicer out to tell the press. Pictures comparing the crowds quickly went viral while reporters and pundits speculated on who the president was trying to convince with such a display.
Way back then, those seven long months ago, we were still debating if President Trump was a mad genius and if these public stunts were meant to distract from some nefarious plan he had running behind the scenes. We know now that there is no lever-pulling shadow cabal, no deep state, no secret master plan. Despite what Alex Jones may claim, twelve-dimensional chess is not this President’s style.
President Trump cannot keep his inner monologue to himself, much less complex maneuverings. Even as this inner voice spills into the public realm, the lies remain; small, pointless, and nagging. At first, it seems plausible that the President is pandering to his base, but there is no political upside to them. He gains nothing from this behavior except the utter shredding of his credibility. Nevertheless, he has persisted.
All Pain And No Gain
These little pointless lies pepper the Trump presidency and cover some of the oddest subjects. Back on January 9th, a thousand years ago, then President-elect Donald Trump sat for an interview with The New York Times. He covered an extensive range of topics, including just how popular his inauguration would be.
“There will be plenty of movie and entertainment stars. All the dress shops are sold out in Washington. It’s hard to find a great dress for this inauguration.”
Leaving aside President Trump’s rather insulting dismissal of the pantsuit as appropriate formal wear, this claim turned out to be blatantly false, as several calls to boutiques revealed rather quickly. One could attempt to argue that emphasizing his popularity and success is part of the signature blend of self-promotion that has served President Trump so well. But his base has never been big fans of the Hollywood elite thus the potential upside seems limited at best. Seeking the approval of movie stars, however, has always been a habit of President Trump and the dress comment makes a lot of sense if Trump’s target was his own ego.
We then have the saga of President Trump’s speech at the Boy Scout jamboree, reprehensible for the content it directed at such a young audience. Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh was forced by the speech into the uncomfortable position of apologizing for inviting the sitting President to speak to the Boy Scouts.
This spurred another of Trump’s little lies. Seemingly driven by this apology President Trump made a claim that the head of the Boy Scouts personally praised his speech as “the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” A glaring contradiction to the apology issued for the speech by that same head mere days before. When the claim was double checked with the Boy Scouts, the organization denied having any contact with the President after his speech. White House spokespeople eventually adjusted the statement saying President Trump had actually heard privately from “multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership.”
President Trump has a noted penchant for campaign style rallies and the adulation his supporters direct towards him from the crowd. A feedback loop is often created as the crowd’s support emboldens Trump who then makes even more brazen statements which in turn further excite the crowd. Comments made by Trump long after the roar of the crowd has faded, however, are hard to justify as him being merely desperate for approval. There was no crowd demanding he attempt to set the record straight with regard to his boy scout speech.
Lastly we come to perhaps my personal favorite of President Trump’s little lies: the cover of TIME Magazine. Hung in several clubs owned by President Trump, the above TIME cover lauds him for a breakout hit in his television show “The Apprentice.” The cover and praise of President Trump’s accomplishments dated back in 2009, is a fraud according to analysis and a spokeswoman from TIME. We are left wonder if the covers were created at President Trump’s request or to placate him and either option leaves a vague feeling of nausea in the wake of its consideration.
Alternative Facts Feed An Alternate Reality
In several clubs, the fraudulent cover hangs across from other covers featuring verified accomplishments of President Trump. While President Trump owes much of his success to inherited wealth, there is plenty of praise of Trump that is real and he could tout without fear of fact-checkers. Yet President Trump lies about his height, apologetic phone calls from the New York Times, and fake celebrity friends. These narrative embellishments extend to his company and properties which bear his name. False plaques commemorating Civil War battles that never happened, a 58 story Trump Tower that through the power of “Trump Arithmetic” became 10 stories taller, and that women are his for the taking. These lies are the gilding covering a far more modest frame.
Who we are sits precariously balanced atop the narrative we spin for ourselves out of our past experiences. The President may be gaslighting his base, but he’s able to do so with such sincerity because the initial target of his lies is himself. Throughout this piece, the word ‘lie’ is used often to describe statements made by President Trump and is done so deliberately. Using ‘lie’ implies that the deliverer of the statements is uttering falsehoods with the intent to deceive. We would argue that President Trump does indeed intend to deceive, although it is unclear if the intended targets of the deception are us, himself or both.
The President’s little lies create a safe space and keep at bay inconvenient truths. The lies stream forth in a fountain as Trump relentlessly attempts to spin the world so as to be able to reconcile his personal identity with the reality that confronts him. There are bigger lies, dangerous lies that radicalize a political base, create targets, and justify indefensible political positions, but his little lies should not be ignored. While small, they outline a pattern of behavior and a man whose relationship with the truth will always come second to his relationship with himself. For the average private individual such habits would be reprehensible but unable to produce much effect, unfortunately, Donald Trump is currently our president.
The problem is that we share a reality (a least I’m assuming we do) and each of Trump’s little lies is an attempt to spin reality to fit more comfortably with his personal identity. Far from little, these are actually violent assaults upon the world we hold in common. Our personal world views eventually run head first into reality and we are forced to gaze at truer versions of ourselves than we would like to acknowledge. It is a common part of growing up. For whatever reasons (I suppose wealth and privilege) Donald J. Trump missed this step and at 71 it is far too late to expect him to grow up now. The little lies will continue as Trump wages a war on reality in an attempt to make it a more comfortable and habitable place for him while making it all the more inhospitable for the rest of us.