Recording Editorial History 7/16/2018–afternoon

“Why People Believe in Lies”

We are all desperate to understand and make it in the world.  We try hard to form solid beliefs about who we are and what we are meant for, and why, exactly, we are here in the first place.  Now I have no intention in this particular commentary to get into the theological issues inherent with these questions.  I disbelieve all of them, but that is not the point here.  I want to know why, exactly, people believe contrary versions of truth.  And there is no clearer example of this phenomenon than in the supporters and opposition movements to President Donald Trump.

Now if any of you have read some of the previous examples of my editorial history, you might have picked up that I believe Trump to be a crook, a sham, a con man and a fool.  But, believing this, it becomes imperative to realize why some people are so incensed by my viewpoint.  I wish to understand ‘the other side’ (although I proclaim there to be millions and millions of ‘sides,’ percolating between far left and far right–the same thing, in the end: radicals with apocalyptic visions of the future).  In doing so, perhaps we might be able to come to some sort of moderate agreement on why we believe what we do.

Donald Trump stated in an interview with ABC News that “It’s okay {for me} to lie since people agree with me.”

Pause and think about that statement for a moment, regardless of which political line you fall across.  And I don’t want to do that tired “what if Obama said that–” or some other equal and opposite partisan insight.  I want to ask you what you would do if your father or mother told you that; if a teacher in school said it was okay to lie so long as you can convince people that it’s true.

In business, no doubt, lies can sometimes help you get ahead, and at other times land you in prison.  Business lies are more likely exaggerations on a project not yet undertaken and promoted, with earnings projections instead of the reality of actually making something work.  But we can bypass this with the cynical conclusion that “all business people lie,” or “all politicians lie,” as though that lessens the harm.

Now people who believe Donald Trump think that, somehow, this notorious liar is the only one telling the truth.  Despite the written evidence, despite the damning witness testimony, the supporters shut all of this out and label it a broad conspiracy out to destroy Trump.  Know why?  Because Trump says so.  He uses friendly agents on favored media outlets–remember, they are “the enemy of the people–” to promote his excuses and the fans eat it up.  It is like rooting for the Yankees or the Cowboys or the Golden State Warriors today or the Lakers and Celtics of yesteryear.  I make this sports analogy with serious intention because that is really what we have been divided into by the force of these lies.  Fans rooting for their favorite team to win a close game, complete with all the arrogance of a dedicated team booster.

And it isn’t as though the opposition to Trump is any (or at least much) better.  They, without specific evidence, advance their beliefs in the criminality of Trump and all his minions as though everything had already been proven.  They shout with rage and march through the streets with strange inflatables and signs saying all sorts of different things that mean exactly the same thing.  Sometimes the signs are duel-sided white boards in order to change the rant, or to occupy a brand new cause.  And they shriek hatred while condemning what they believe is the President’s hatred.  And of course this is nothing new.  The only difference is that the current president is so thin skinned that he cannot take any form of criticism as anything other than a personal attack.

And so the president rages.  With his authority he invents brand new conspiracies and contradicts just about everything he says, I believe, for the sheer fun of watching the results.  I don’t think that Trump believes in anything, that it is all a marketing ploy to outrage people in order to provoke another side of outrage and unravel the nation into uncertainty with poisoned minds.

People are willing to believe anything if it supports their darkest desires.  Some might even know–those wishy-washy, considerate folks who say things like, “I know he’s a liar but–”  And the ‘but’ is meaningless.  It is a bald justification for an acknowledged act of corruption.  Any justification for this fails.  Most conspiracy theories are exaggerations or outright lies (although, let us admit, there would not be so many crazy ideas about how things truly are if there weren’t some very crazy things that have happened throughout human history).  They are invented to distract and dissuade a very gullible public that the truth isn’t really true.  This is a non-partisan act, with every party and religion guilty.  And yet we still wonder why people believe things that contradict the truth as we see it.  And in that statement lies the real problem.

‘The truth as we see it,’ as though there were numerous variations on what is real available.  And that is the fragmentation of our culture, the future shock of the internet offering whatever opinion you wish to side with.  The ‘fake news,’ which is a real thing.  Commentators–little more than angry sports radio talk show hosts slamming down the phone on someone they disagree with and then lambasting their opinions without giving them a chance to respond.  And that is what news talking heads do.  There is no more broadcast information, but a gang of people arguing over minutia and very broad issues.  They scream over one another or shout them down like crazed college students finding their voice for the very first time.

The news contributes to this breakdown of the truth by offering any idea you want to believe.  They are all there, from one extreme to another.  And the president, condemning the press, needs the press more than anyone ever has.  He needs, of course, his personal propagandists, but he also needs the rest of the press, even the last few remaining strangled true press, in order to have a recognizable enemy.  A liar calling liars liars.  This is the space we have been reduced to.  No wonder people have lost the meaning of real . . .

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