Reede, 22 Veebruar 2019 19:00
Estonian Life No. 8 2019 - Laas Leivat
Early in 2018, when the White House press secretary was instructed to lie to the media about the size of the crowd at the presidential nomination in Washington, when both he and his audience knew that he was lying, we didn’t know that fibbing to satisfy the ego would expand to lying to show control.
The President's 'base', his core supporters, defended their imperfect leader by trusting his avowed motives. Most of us were initially bemused by the large discrepancy that was evident from high altitude photos of a much larger crowd from the inauguration four years previous. We shrugged it off as childish PR spin and a trivial annoyance.
The truth seemed helpless against the White House's insistence of accepting a thing that simply wasn't so. Perhaps, at that time truth could wait.
It's said that public discourse is corrupted by two types of lies. The lie that is intended to deceive is easy to understand. But the lie that is intended to be recognized as a lie is much more insidious. It speaks of wielding power, dishonestly if necessary.
One is reminded of the President's remarks about his meeting with Justin Trudeau to discuss the status of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The US President later bragged about his success in persuading Trudeau that the US suffers severely from a chronic trade deficit with Canada and added that Trudeau didn't know he had no data to to back up that claim. His advisers later had informed him that the trade deficit was not chronic, that it varied from year to year, that in fact the previous year the trade deficit was in the US favour. The President acknowledged this but continued to offer the lie instead. This lie that was intended to be recognized as a lie actually carried an unambiguous message about power. “So I lie. What are you going to do about it?” This brazn self confidence has always been the trademark of the Kremlin.
During an unannounced visit to American troops in Iraq on Boxing Day, the President related to the soldiers how he was instrumental in arranging a pay raise for them. “I got you a big one. I got you a big one. … (government bureaucrats, ed.) said you know we could make it smaller. We could make it two percent. We could make it four percent. I said, no, make it 10 percent. Make it more than 10 percent.” In fact the pay raise was 2.6 percent.
The bald-faced, unabashed lie to mostly young people that are recognized as Americans heroes makes one wonder how a world leader can have such disregard or be so oblivious to the consequences of deceit.
At his numerous rallies the President is celebrated, applauded by loyal supporters. He has never made a wink-wink-nod-nod to his followers and said, “You know I have to play it loose with my enemies. But for you, just hang in there, I'll get around to telling you like it really is”. But actually the people that wear his “Make America great again” as a symbol of true patriotism are treated with the same derision as his opponents.
The mantra, “I’ll build a wall and have Mexico pay for it,” didn’t matter at his rallies with supporters. Fictional promises can still engender genuine emotion. For those that believe in his goodness for America, it doesn’t matter that it’s fiction. Now that the President has to declare a state of emergency to get the funding he needs for the wall seems not to upset his backers that he blatantly lied to them from the start. Facts aren’t needed. Feeling true is more satisfying than being true. And the Kremlin knows this also.
Some 8000 lies have been exposed during the two years the President has served. With the shear volume, initial outrage changes into numbness. Some may logically argue that he wasn’t lying, but just exaggerating, like all politicians do, or unknowingly stating false facts, or the misinformation was quite innocent, or it’s totally acceptable since the President’s came from a cut-throat business environment, etc. There are simply too many of them to have all of his lies casually dismissed this way.
One could be comforted that journalists are fact-checking. While this may make us feel as the champions for ethics and morality in political discourse, outrage and fact-checking doesn't seem to stop his dishonesty.
Perhaps the one aspect of his lying which his ‘base’ has not recognized is the contempt with which the President knowingly, deliberately holds his loyal supporters. By lying to them he effortlessly shows his disregard. He denigrates their true concerns. He dismisses their innocent belief in his honesty.
The President’s contempt he has for his fans is meant for them as being in a class lower than himself. His supporters seem not to understand that the President’s disregard for them in the long run is bound to insidiously poison their relationship of leader-follower. They don't see that it's an 'I matter, you don't' relationship.
Abusive power relationships don't last, not even in an imperfect but resilient democracy. Truth will out.Laas Leivat