Category Archives: Death of Truth

Why is belief is all-important?

 

Kurt Andersen in his book FantasyLand argued that it was necessary to go back 500 years to explain the New World. He started with the new religion that was born—Protestantism. It was of course just a version of the old Catholicism, but it had some important innovations that had important long term consequences. Martin Luther was particularly vexed by,

the regional archbishop, in order to cover the costs of celebrating his elevation to cardinal, has encouraged local Christians to pay money to be forgiven their sins (and the sins of deceased loved ones), thereby reducing or eliminating the posthumous wait in purgatory.”

 

After all it really didn’t make sense that paying money for prayers would put us in front of the line in heaven.

Luther was also upset by the holy relics found in his local church. Most of them of course were fake. The relics included:

 “a piece of straw from baby Jesus’s manger, threads from His swaddling clothes, a bit of Mary’s breast milk, a hair from adult Jesus’s beard, a piece of bread from the Last Supper, and a thorn from His crucifixion crown. The young theologian, appalled by the church’s merchandising, writes an impassioned three-thousand-word critique in proto-PowerPoint form, nails it to the door of the church on All Saints’ Eve, Halloween, and for good measure sends a copy of his screed to the archbishop himself.”

 

The church had been selling fake news. It’s not popular now; it wasn’t popular then.

The manifesto that Luther published in 1517 also had a profound effect. Andersen described its genesis this way:

“Luther’s main complaint had been about the church’s sale of phoney VIP passes to Heaven. “There is no divine authority,” one of his theses pointed out, “for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately [when] the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.”

That didn’t have much to say for itself either. But Martin Luther had 2 extremely important ideas that actually had some long-term pernicious effects. The first of those ideas was that,

clergymen have no special access to God or Jesus or truth. Everything a Christian needed to know was in the Bible. So every individual Christian believer could and should read and interpret Scripture for him- or herself. Every believer, Protestants said, was now a priest.”

 

This allowed everyone to create his or her own truth. While I am no advocate for relying on authority, this idea had some dangerous consequences. Some people in time abandoned the notion of truth entirely, or at least substituted the idea that anyone could claim truth for any idea, no matter how hair-brained.

Luther had a second important concept to bring forth. This was the idea that belief or faith was all-important. It did not matter what one did, if one had the right faith or belief. You could not buy your way into heaven but why were beliefs or faith so important? I have never quite understood that. Maybe someone can explain.

 

Andersen describes the new attitude of Protestantism this way:

“…out of the new Protestant religion, a new proto-American attitude emerged during the 1500s. Millions of ordinary people decided that they, each of them, had the right to decide what was true or untrue, regardless of what fancy experts said. And furthermore, they believed, passionate fantastical belief was the key to everything. The footings for Fantasyland had been cast.”

 

Good ideas are not often enough to launch a revolution in thought on their own. In Luther’s case he took advantage of an astounding new technology—the printing press. As Andersen said,

“No new technology, during the thousand years between gunpowder and the steam engine, was as disruptive as the printing press, and Protestantism was its first viral cultural phenomenon.”

 

Reminds me of the disruptive effect modern technologies like social media have had. Are we on the brink of another revolution in thought? What will it’s long term consequences be?

Facts are not stubborn enough

 

The election of a new president in 2016 was the culmination of a 500-year history of disparagement of reason. That is the point Andersen wants to make in his book FantasyLand. As he said,

“Despite his nonstop lies and obvious fantasies—rather, because of them—Donald Trump was elected president. The old fringes have been folded into the new center. The irrational has become respectable and often unstoppable. As particular fantasies get traction and become contagious, other fantasists are encouraged by a cascade of out-of-control tolerance. It’s a kind of twisted Golden Rule unconsciously followed: If those people believe that, then certainly we can believe this.”

 

Andersen argues, that a 500-year history of denigration of facts and reasoning in favour of belief without reasons has gradually led us to our particular modern circumstance where some can claim, truth is dead. He puts it this way in his inimical style:

“Each of the small fantasies and simulations we insert into our lives is harmless enough, replacing a small piece of the authentic but mundane here, another over there. The world looks a little more like a movie set and seems a little more exciting and glamorous, like Hitchcock’s definition of drama—life with the dull bits cut out. Each of us can feel like a sexier hero in a cooler story, younger than we actually are if we’re old or older if we’re young. Over time the patches of unreality take up more and more space in our lives. Eventually the whole lawn becomes AstroTurf.”

 

That history has landed us squarely and uncomfortably in FantasyLand. It is a world where we can believe whatever we want. Again, our wants are supreme. In the 1700s John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things.” But the fact is they are not stubborn enough. Fantasy can trump facts. No one knows that better than Trump.

 Instead of being bound by facts, as Andersen says:

 

“…we are freer than ever to custom-make reality, to believe whatever or to pretend to be whomever we wish. Which makes all the lines between actual and fictional blur and disappear more easily. Truth in general becomes flexible, a matter of personal preference. There is a functioning synergy among our multiplying fantasies, the large and small ones, the toxic and the individually entertaining ones, the ones we know to be fiction, the ones we kinda sorta believe, and the religious and political and scientific ones we’re convinced aren’t fantasies at all. Scientists warn about the “cocktail effect” concerning chemicals in the environment and drugs in the brain, where various substances “potentiate” other substances. I think it’s like that. We’ve been drinking bottomless American cocktails mixed from all the different fantasy ingredients, and those various fantasies, conscious and semi-conscious, intensify the effects of others.”

 

Andersen does not deny that fantasies are abundant elsewhere too. A quick look around is all you need to realize that. Yet, for some reason, fantasy does seem to be deeper and more powerful and all consuming in America than anywhere else in the world. As Andersen said,

“This is not unique to America, people treating real life as fantasy and vice versa, and taking preposterous ideas seriously. We’re just uniquely immersed… nowhere else in the rich world are such beliefs central to the self-identities of so many people. We are Fantasyland’s global crucible and epicenter.”

America is awash in fantasy and the world is awash in America. This is Andersen’s précis of 500 years of American history that has brought it to become the lord of fantasy:

“America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, by hucksters and their suckers—which over the course of four centuries has made us susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem hunting witches to Joseph Smith creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to Henry David Thoreau to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Donald Trump. In other words: mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that steep and simmer for a few centuries; run it through the anything-goes 1960s and the Internet age; the result is the America we inhabit today, where reality and fantasy are weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled…how deeply this tendency has been encoded in our national DNA.”

 

The result is the modern world. Goya says “the sleep of reason brings forth monsters.”  The modern world is here to prove him right.

 

That is the real problem.

Why do we so often prefer fantasy to reality?

 

According to Kurt Andersen, we live in a world of fantasy, often paying scant attention to the world of reality. After all, the real world is a lot less fun and much more troublesome. Why bother with reality?

 

Canadians share many of these fantasies, but here is one example mentioned by Kurt Anderson in his book FantasyLand that is particularly American and less Canadian:

“We stockpile guns because we fantasize about our pioneer past, or in anticipation of imaginary shootouts with thugs and terrorists. We acquire military costumes and props in order to pretend we’re soldiers—or elves or zombies—fighting battles in which nobody dies, and enter fabulously realistic virtual worlds to do the same.”

I do not want to suggest that Canadians are immune to these fantasies. It is just less common here. We must remember that most of Andersen’s book was written before the tumultuous events of 2016 when the people of the United States, through the zany machinations of the Electoral college, elected as their president a man who breathed fantasies as the rest of us breath air. Andersen described that change this way:

“And that was all before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.”

 

Why did this happen? That is the really interesting part. Andersen’s book explores why and I found that exploration endlessly fascinating. But he did give a short answer:

“The short answer is because we’re Americans, because being American means we can believe any damn thing we want, that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else’s, experts be damned. Once people commit to that approach, the world turns inside out, and no cause-and-effect connection is fixed. The credible becomes incredible and the incredible credible.”

 

The even shorter answer, I would submit, is Americans wanted to believe that. In the American ideology wants are supreme. Facts are puny.

Andersen says the historic institutions that kept unreason at bay have over the last few decades in particular, been eroded. It is not just American democracy that has paid the price. The American people have as well. They have lost their way. Instead of helping to constrain unreason this is what happened:

“Yet that hated Establishment, the institutions and forces that once kept us from overdoing the flagrantly untrue or absurd—media, academia, politics, government, corporate America, professional associations, respectable opinion in the aggregate—has enabled and encouraged every species of fantasy over the last few decades.”

 

Many of those institutions are commonly mocked and we all pay a very high price for that. Most of us are complicit. And it is not getting better. That means that things are likely to get much worse.

 

Promiscuous Devotion to the Untrue

Kurt Andersen in his book FantasyLand diagnosed the problem as an attitude. This is how he described it:

“What’s problematic is going overboard, letting the subjective entirely override the objective, people thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings were just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, every individual free to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, each of us free to reinvent himself by imagination and will. In America those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts.”

 

Andersen believes, as I believe, that the roots of fantasy are deep and it is important for us to understand them if we want to understand where we are at in the modern world. As he said,

“Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the last half-century, Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation, small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become. The cliché would be the frog in the gradually warming pot, oblivious to its doom until too late.”

And the consequences of giving ourselves over to fanciful thinking are not innocent. They are very dangerous and we are paying the price now. We are paying it bigly. As Andersen explains:

“Much more than the other billion or two people in the rich world, we Americans believe—really believe—in the supernatural and miraculous, in Satan on Earth now, reports of recent trips to and from Heaven, and a several-thousand-year-old story of life’s instantaneous creation several thousand years ago.

We believe the government and its co-conspirators are hiding all sorts of monstrous truths from us—concerning assassinations, extraterrestrials, the genesis of AIDS, the 9/11 attacks, the dangers of vaccines, and so much more.

We stockpile guns because we fantasize about our pioneer past, or in anticipation of imaginary shootouts with thugs and terrorists. We acquire military costumes and props in order to pretend we’re soldiers—or elves or zombies—fighting battles in which nobody dies, and enter fabulously realistic virtual worlds to do the same

And that was all before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole.

America has mutated into Fantasyland.”

As a result of this attitude, 500 years in the making Americans, and to a lesser extent their little cousins, Canadians, have come to believe in a large host of wildly extravagant  beliefs, when you really think about it. About 2 out 3 Americans believe that angels and demons are active in the world. About a half believe that a personal god is looking after them no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary. At the same time about a third of Americans reject the science of climate change even though 97% or more of scientists assure them it is real. In fact many Americans believe climate change is a hoax or an evil communist plot against them. About 25% believe that vaccines cause autism. These are just a few of their wild beliefs. We will look at lot more. About 20% believe that the government adds secret mind controlling technology to television broadcasts. None of these beliefs are benign. They all have consequences. The problem is that Americans and Canadians too, have what Andersen called a “promiscuous devotion to the untrue.”

America has mutated into FantasyLand

 

Kurt Anderson wrote a book that touched on many issues I have been thinking about lately. It is called, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire. It describes how a country has gone crazy. He calls it a 500-year history. He goes back to the founding of America. He says during that time the changes in America have been astonishing, but often largely unnoticed because it has happened so slowly. As he said,

 

Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the last half century, Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation, small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become. The cliché would be the frog in the gradually warming pot, oblivious to its doom until too late.

 

I think Anderson is exactly right. The war on truth is fueled by a centuries long abdication of reason in favor of faith that has resulted in a persistent American (though not just America) determination to believe without evidence since the time of the Puritan arrival in America.

In recent times the fantasies people have come to believe in have constituted a tsunami. Surprisingly many of them, believe, that the country is under peril from a government that together with its co-conspirators “are hiding monstrous truths from us–concerning assassinations, extraterrestrials, the genesis of AIDS, the 9/11 attacks, the dangers of vaccines, and so much more.” I have heard these from intelligent people. What has led to this? This is what interests me.

The result has not been pretty. It is damn ugly. As Anderson describes it,

“We stockpile guns because we fantasize about our pioneer past, or in anticipation of imaginary shootouts with thugs and terrorists. We acquire military costumes and props in order to pretend we’re soldiers–or elves or zombies–fighting battles n which nobody dies, and enter fabulously realistic virtual worlds to do the same.

And that was all before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.”

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.

 

I want to emphasize at the outset that fantasyland is everywhere. Not just in America, but it has truly blossomed in America, and I believe that has happened for some important reasons. Part of goes back there to their history as a nation. People lust after crazy stuff!

 

Why is that?

The war on truth: How it All Began

 

I think one of my first blogs was one of the most interesting, but I don’t recall it generated much interest. I posted it 3 years ago. See http://themeanderer.ca/fantasyland-for-real

It was based on an interview I heard by Charlie Rose with someone I had never heard of before—Kurt Andersen. As soon as I heard Andersen expounding my ears perked up. I was hooked. About 6 months later, I bought the book he wrote called  FantasyLand: How America Went Haywire—a 500 Year History. Andersen put into words things I had been thinking about but had never organized into careful thought.

In the first chapter of the book, Kurt Andersen, described an extremely interesting political operative. This was Karl Rove the “mastermind” behind the election of George W. Bush who came up with a remarkable statement that is highly relevant to this examination of the death of truth. This is how Kurt Andersen described it: “People “in the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore.

Rowe was saying we are in a post-truth world. Truth does not matter any more. Could this be true? There certainly was a lot of evidence that many people thought that way. Particularly, it seemed to me, in the United States. Of course this phenomenon is world wide but particularly virulent in the United States.

A good friend of mine said something similar: “Americans only have light contact with reality.” He actually told me I said that. I wish I had. First of all, it seems eminently true. I hope to provide an abundance of evidence in this blog. But even more interesting is why? Why are Americans so economical with the truth? Even more important, why do they not even care?   According to the Washington Post Fact Checker, president Trump hit the 20,0000 mark on July 9, 2020, for lies and misleading statements. The Washington Post called it “a tsunami of untruths.” While that is remarkable, even more amazing is the fact that Americans don’t care! That is the real surprise.

I am not saying Canadians are a lot better. After all, Canadians are just Americans on valium. Europeans have the same problem but to a lesser extent it seems to me.

That great twenty first century philosopher Stephen Colbert described the American phenomenon this way when he opined on a word he made up—truthiness. It wasn’t quite truth. It was sort of like truth. Colbert said this on his famous Colbert Report before he took over the Late show on network television. As part of that report he played the part of a right-wing populist character. He said he would use the word “truthiness” whether it was a word or not. After all, as he said,

“Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what isn’t true. Or what didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941 that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart…Face it folks, we are a divided nation…divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart….Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”

And that is where many in America, and Canada too, are at. We  are impatient with facts.  Many of us  are governed by what we want to be true, not by what is true. And that is exactly the problem.

And this phenomenon, according to Kurt Andersen is not something new. As he said, “this complicated American phenomenon I was trying to figure out had been not just decades but centuries in the making.” It was 500 years old.

Andersen was trying to figure out what happened to America. Me too. I just want to add Canada to the mix. We are not that different from our big brother as we often want to think.

How did we get here? What does it mean? That is the question I want to look at in future blogs.

 

The Smoking Gun

 

I will never forget how as a young lad going to law school the Watergate case was unraveling. Watching the hearings on television was mesmerizing. even when things started getting rough for Nixon, I thought he would survive the onslaught. There was evidence leading to deep suspicions that he had been involved in a cover-up, but there was never a smoking gun. Never that is until the tapes were discovered. President Nixon had amazingly tape-recorded for posterity all his discussions with his henchmen. When that was discovered the sharks starting circling. When people listened to the tapes there was a smoking gun. Nixon’s gig was up. He was done.

I got exactly the same feeling this week when I heard parts of the tapes released by Bob Woodward as a result of 18 taped interviews with President Trump. I thought this was the smoking gun. Trump was done.

Donald Trump admitted that he did not tell the truth to Americans as thousands were dying. They could have avoided thousands of deaths had they known the truth. Yet, since then has there been an uprising as there was for Richard Nixon? Not yet.

Why have more Americans not called this out? Frankly I am stunned. How could Americans countenance their president lying to them about the dangers of Covid-19 while people—particularly young people—were going out and taking chances they should not have taken and likely would not have taken had they known the truth that their president already knew, but had assiduously hidden from them for the sake of protecting his own political fortunes at the expense of American lives? Surely this would do it! The people would rise up in fury. Even his own supporters would abandon him. I really felt that last week. Yet it did not happen. Now I feel like a fool (again).

Why did that not happen? With some introspection I think I know. The critical difference between now and 1972 when Nixon was under examination consisted of two facts.

First, in 1972 the American political world was not as strictly divided into 2 polar opposite camps as it is today. In 1972 when Republicans looked at the damning evidence against Nixon, a couple of Republican Senators visited Nixon at the White House and said he had no alternative but to resign. Nixon’s support among Republicans had vanished. The game was over. That could never happen now. Today, most believe, “our side” can do not wrong.

Secondly, in 1972 Nixon was originally a popular president. He had won the election in a landslide. But—and here is the critical difference—Nixon was not worshipped. Nixon attracted no theological devotion. That is not the case with Trump. Trump was right when he said he could go to Times Square, commit a murder, and loose no support! This is not absurd; it is the truth. That is devotion that only beloved religious leaders receive. Trump attracts true believers!

Just like no free-thinker, no matter how wise, smart, or profound could ever hope to defeat the resolution of a religious followers of Christ, or Mohamed, no one could persuade a Trump follower to forsake him. His position is secure. Theological devotion is rock solid. Political support is far from that.

That is a pity. Truth does not matter any more. The world has changed. That means a leader like Trump can do almost anything and still count on the support of his devoted followers. That is a terrible thing for democracy and freedom. Truth should still matter.

Truth Matters

 

I admit I have been on a bit of a harangue about truth. I have been picking on Donald Trump and that is too easy a target. It is like shooting fish in a barrel. But we must remember that he has millions of supporters. Perhaps 50 million Americans or more support him. Many think he will still be President of the United States after the next election. So Trump—no matter what any one says is important. He is important because so many people support him.

One of my friends told me he thinks Trump haters are lazy and ignorant. He said they find the most simplistic explanations that just don’t bear any resemblance to the Trump supporters he knows. He calls the Trump haters lazy and arrogant. I think he is right about them. Many of them are exactly that. No matter what Trump says or does they reject it. However exactly the same thing could be said about Trump supporters.

And he knows many. Well I know some Trump supporters too. Some of my American friends are Trump supporters. Some of my relatives are Trump supporters. Some of these are intelligent people. I respect them. But that does not get them off the hook.

The most recent revelation that Trump lied to the American people about the risk of the Covid-19 epidemic and endangered millions of lives is important. It is no secret that Trump has been a recurrent liar. Everyone knows that including his supporters. They discount the significance of those lies. They say they are an acceptable price to pay for all the good things Trump does such as appointing judges they like and cutting taxes to juice the economy. They have shrugged at the lies and overlook the shenanigans.

I want to remind my friends that lying has consequences. Sometimes it has very serious consequences. When voters don’t care about whether politicians tell the truth or not, that can cost lives. People die. In some cases many people die!

More than 190,000 Americans have died of Covid-19. That is more than 3 times the number of Americans that died during the Vietnam War and I was always appalled by the lying of the American political leaders that led Americans to support that war when they might not have done so had they known the truth.

I am not saying all Trump supporters belong to the “basket of deplorables.” Some of them are good people. In fact “there are good people on both sides” of the Trump debate. However, I submit Trump supporters are partly responsible for the unnecessary death of thousands of Americans who were misled about the dangers of Covid-19 by their president. I do call them misguided and I call them negligent.

That negligence has serious consequences. Allowing political leaders to get away with lies for the sake of getting judges you like or taxes cut is a very high price to pay. Such actions by Trump supporters has enabled and even encouraged the president to put Americans in danger. Thousands have died as a result. Millions have had their health compromised. These are serious harms.

This damage is not so remote that his actions can be excused. This is reasonably foreseeable harm as we lawyers say for which the person who caused the damage would be liable. It is Trump supporters more than Trump detractors who are lazy and arrogant. They are reckless with the lives of others.

As reporter Carl Bernstein said about Trump , “he has allowed the loss of life for his own narrow political purposes.” That is a pretty serious charge. Then Bernstein added, “and it is the most devastating cover-up in history.” And this is coming from the man who broke the Watergate story together with Bob Woodward. The two are back on the world stage again.

When truth dies the consequences can be serious. Lies have consequences.

Trump encourages Fear and panic while saying he wants to prevent fear and panic

 

Donald Trump has admitted on the Woodward tapes that he “played down” the dangers of Covid-19 when he already knew it was “deadly”. He lulled Americans into a false sense of security when he knew the dangers were real. As a result thousands of Americans did not take the precaution they could have taken had they been told the truth. I can’t think of a worse indictment for an American president. It is like the American presidents who lied to the public about the real reason for the War in Vietnam and the real state of that war while young men and women followed them and their generals into battle and died. I can think of only one word to describe such actions: egregious.

Trump did not deny lying. Instead he claimed he lied so Americans would not panic. While this is much less believable than the claim that he did this so Americans would not know how badly he had led the fight against the pandemic, he showed no hesitation at encouraging Americans to fear violence on the streets of America from the forces of antifa and Black Lives Matter. Trump’s entire political strategy is to spread fear.

As Jill Colvin of the Associated Press reported, this is what happened at a Michigan rally after the lies were revealed by Bob Woodward:

“This whack job that wrote the book,  Trump told the crowd. “They wanted me to come out and scream, ‘People are dying, we’re dying.’ No, no. We did it just the right way. We have to be calm. We don’t want to be crazed lunatics.”

Given what Trump has been doing at his rallies this claim loudly rings false. As Colvin reported,

“Trump seemed to have no issue leaning into fear at the rally. He lobbed several unsubstantiated accusations at Biden and Democrats, including charging they want to shut down auto plants — despite the Obama administration’s work to save the industry — and “delay” the production of a coronavirus vaccine. Biden, he claimed, would terminate travel bans Trump has implemented, overwhelming the state “with poorly vetted migrants from jihadist regions” and refugees “from terrorist hot spots around the world.”

Spreading fear is exactly what Trump always does. It is exactly what his entire campaign for re-election is based on—scaring Americans into voting for him. Again, as Colvin reported,

“He continued his racially charged appeal to suburban voters who turned to Democrats during the 2018 midterms, warning that under a Biden administration, “far left lunatics” would be placed in charge of the federal government and courts and American suburbs would be destroyed. “Does anyone want to have a member of antifa as a resident of your suburb? I don’t think so,” Trump declared, telling his supporters, “Your vote will save America.”

What could be scarier than that? So Trump has lied in a sad attempt to get around his earlier lies. Trump’s lies only get more outrageous. Now I am not trying to beat a dead horse. Everyone knows Trump lies. He does it all the time. He probably can’t tell the difference between lies and the truth anymore. There is nothing interesting about that. That is not the point.

The point is how will the American public respond? In particular how will his loyal supporters respond? Will they continue to acquiesce to the lies? Will they again shrug them off? If so, they are revealing a lot of truth about themselves.

Lying while People are Dying

What Trump did by his response to the Covid-19 pandemic and admitted “playing down” of the dangers undermined public confidence in the public health system. He issued directives and then ignored them. He even urged his followers to ignore his own directives. He mocked people who wore masks.

Dr. Craig Spencer was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN about Trump’s lies about Covid. The physician was a Director of Global Health Emergency Medicine at Columbia University. In that position he became experienced at delivering bad news to sufferers of Covid and their loved ones. It’s not easy to tell people their loved ones are going to die. He was infuriated by what Trump did in misleading the public. As Spencer said, “the lies coming from the president are almost impossible to keep up with and correct.” This is what Dr. Spencer said about the Trump: “As a public health professional I am furious.”

On February 26, 2020 president Trump said his administration was doing a ‘terrific job” of handling the pandemic. I’m glad he thought so. No one else did. Dr. Sanjay Gupta a frequent CNN medical commentator had this to say about Trump: “He knew the truth and just didn’t do it.” Instead Trump made not wearing a mask a political statement. As Jamie Gangel said, “He was really paranoid about getting re-elected.” That is what was on his mind.

The terrible result of what Trump did, according to CNN’s Jim Accosta, was that “he lulled the country into a false sense of security.” As a result many Americans let their guard down. And they  paid a horrible price for doing that. It was a scandal. Trump got his supporters to sign waivers of claims they could have against Trump while he misled them about the truth of the dangers. Even on the White House grounds for his convention speech the fans, squeezed in tight without social distancing had to sign a waiver releasing Trump when Trump knew it was dangerous and did not tell them. How would you feel if one of your loved ones died as a result of being misled by the President of the United States. As he admitted on the Woodward tapes, he knew the virus was “deadly” and not only kept quiet about that, he actively encouraged people to attend rallies whether or not they socially distanced. I hope the lawyers of those people are urging their clients to sue Donald Trump for those waivers would likely not hold up in court. That could mean 190,000 lawsuits.

Yet Trump is running his current campaign on a platform of fear. He is deliberately trying to get people to be scared. As he said, “leadership is all about confidence.” Confidence in this context is another word for the flim flam game. Trump did not want to look weak in the campaign.

Carl Bernstein, the other Washington Post investigative reporter in the Watergate file, called the Woodward tapes the “ultimate smoking gun revealing probably the greatest felony of any president in history!” Just as with Eugene McCarthy, over confidence caught up with Trump. Hubris has been the Achilles heel of many a tyrant.

Abby Philip another CNN reporter said, “the president thinks he can create his own reality—the one he thinks fits his re-election chances or political prospects best.”

The important question is whether or not his supporters buy into that “reality.” That is what counts. It will say a lot about his supporters if they do.