telling the truth usually requires facts

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.





And telling the truth usu­ally re­quires facts. Anyone telling you oth­er­wise is ei­ther very, very stupid—or is trying to get some­thing from you that you re­ally, re­ally don’t want to give up.


AltFact cartoon Beeler

Car­toon by Nate Beeler of The Columbus dispatch.

The fol­lowing is the en­tire guest ed­i­to­rial “Truth, Lies and Numb­ness” by Roger Cohen for the Opinion Pages of the Au­gust 24, 2017, edi­tion of The New York Times. (I have taken lib­er­ties with the layout.)

“You grow numb. You grow weary. I re­call dis­cov­ering a few weeks back that Pres­i­dent Trump had lied about two phone calls, one from the pres­i­dent of Mexico and one from the head of the Boy Scouts. The calls, sup­pos­edly to con­grat­u­late him, did not exist. They never hap­pened. They were pure inventions.

Asked if Trump had lied, the White House press sec­re­tary, Sarah Huck­abee Sanders, said, ‘I wouldn’t say it was a lie.’

I ac­tu­ally re­member shrug­ging. The shrug was ter­ri­fying. This is how autocrats—or would-be autocrats—cement their power. They wear you down with their lies.

They dis­tract you.

They want you to be­lieve that 2+2=5.

They want you to forget that freedom withers when the dis­tinc­tion be­tween truth and false­hood dies.

In a dic­ta­tor­ship there is a single font of ‘truth’: the voice of the dic­tator. Re­member Trump at the Re­pub­lican Na­tional Con­ven­tion a little over a year ago: ‘I am your voice.’

And now his voice is everywhere.

Freedom withers when the dis­tinc­tion be­tween truth and false­hood dies.

There’s the scripted Trump voice, which is fake. There’s the un­scripted voice, which is gen­uine. The two tend to al­ter­nate; call this the chore­og­raphy of dis­ori­en­ta­tion. It’s con­fusing, like having a pres­i­dent who isn’t re­ally a pres­i­dent but in­stead acts like the leader of a rabble-rousing movement.

The Oval Of­fice is a useful prop, no more than that. He’s held eight ral­lies since be­coming pres­i­dent in Jan­uary. The latest was in Phoenix, where he called the media “very dis­honest people.” He led the crowd in a chant of ‘CNN sucks.’ He at­tacked the ‘failing New York Times.’

It’s fa­miliar.

That fa­mil­iarity is menacing

It led me to think of my half-repressed shrug at the be­gin­ning of this month.

Trump has one fun­da­mental talent: a ruth­less ability to mess with people’s minds and turn their anger into the en­gine of his am­bi­tion. A dis­honest pres­i­dent calls the media that re­port on his dis­hon­esty dis­honest for doing so.

This is where we are.

This is the danger that Trump represents.

He said of the Char­lottesville vi­o­lence: ‘There is blame on both sides.’ He equated neo-Nazi bigots with blood on their hands and leftist pro­testers. For this pres­i­dent, they stand on the same moral place. But when the press re­minds him of that, he lashes out.

Phoenix was a re­minder of that.

Don’t shrug.


Notify of
Rate this article:
Please rate this article with your comment.
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x