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.
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.’
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.