Lies, Damned Lies, and Donald Trump


You have to understand the nature and purpose of political lies.

It’s not just about advancing an agenda by fooling people into believing something that’s not true. This is just the most simple, most unsubtle reason for political lies.

The true intent, the ultimate goal, the final result, is far worse.

Simple Lies

The first form of political lie is the Lie To Convince. Telling people, for instance, that Iran had weapons of mass destruction, and had some connection to the 9/11 hijackers–those were specific lies told for the purpose of creating support for an unprovoked invasion that G. W. Bush had planned to commit even before he was elected president. These lies were told because these were the causes that needed to be true to justify a policy that had already been decided. The plan existed. What needed to be put into place was a way to obtain public acceptance of that plan. The reasons were invented to that end.

This is the same con run by the Nigerian Prince email scammers who create a false narrative for the purpose of convincing marks to send them money. It’s been the staple of snake-oil salesmen throughout all time, or of Don Juans and seductresses. Proclaim exactly what would have to be true to elicit the response the scammer desires. Play upon desires or fears (or, occasionally, a sense of duty) as an attempt to have a convincing reason for others to do or to allow acts they would not otherwise perform or permit.

The point here is: a specific lie (or a collection of lies) told to bring about a specific policy, a one-for-one transaction between the victim’s morals and the criminal’s desires.

That’s one level of political lie. Another is the Lie To Excuse. It’s the tale a child tells with his face still covered in chocolate cake. It’s the chutzpah of the matricidal murderer now pleading for mercy since he’s an orphan. It is Larry Craig’s “wide stance”, or Richard Nixon’s  eighteen minutes. It’s a lie told to deflect blame or to claim innocence. It plays upon the target’s sense of fairness, or plays with the target’s limited ability to obtain knowledge about past events.

As with the Lie To Convince, it is a one-for-one: a single lie or set of lies told in exchange for absolution from a specific crime.

Donald Trump has trafficked in both of these forms of lie. He’s told a series of lies about Muslims: that thousands celebrated in the streets of New Jersey after 9/11, or that “they” are pouring into our country un-vetted. These are Lies To Convince, told to create support for his Muslim registry and ban policies. Similar fear tactics are intended to defend policies of deportation and border terror targeting Hispanics.

Trump tells fewer Lies To Excuse because he usually doesn’t bother with after-the-fact excuses. Confronted with past crimes, he waves them off or deflects (more on that later–remember this, because it matters). The excuses he gives mostly involve ongoing transgressions he intends to continue into the future, like the one about being audited to explain why he hadn’t (and wouldn’t, and, of course, won’t ever) release his tax returns.

Both of these forms of lie can be extended, and can be used on larger scales. But both are relatively limited, since they apply to specific situations, either preemptively or in hindsight. This is, however, all small potatoes. These are the lies of small fry and minor felons. The real juice is much, much bigger.

What the above forms of lie generally don’t convey is blanket permission to sin in any and all ways yet undefined, or retrospective pardon for crimes still uncovered. Before we get there, we have to understand the nature of specifically political lies–how they work, why they work, and what is their intent.

Next: “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!”

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