31 January, 2019

Let sneaking presidents lie

Many have observed that when it comes to defending his policies, President Donald Trump likes to just make shit up. Shit like this:
Many have also observed that normally this would be a big deal, and lamented the fact that in 2019, it’s not as big a deal as it perhaps should be. It’s true that in normal times, such shameless falsehoods would be a big deal. But these are not normal times.

The one true skill Donald Trump has is his ability to change the story. His willingness to say things that are so obviously stupid with such regularity means there’s always something new to be shocked at. The previous shocks are forgotten.

In the essay On Bullshit, Harry Frankfurt argues that the liar needs to recognise and accept the truth on order to say the opposite. The bullshitter just doesn’t care either way. He could have been writing about Donald Trump.

It doesn’t matter whether Trump bullshits because it’s in his interest or because it’s in his nature. The fact is, his blatant disregard for the truth makes a convenient distraction from his blatant disregard for the rule of law.

At a time when thousands of federal employees were having to choose between rent and food due to a completely unnecessary government shutdown, Trump successfully launched a thousand hot takes about the White House serving cold hamberders. However delicious an allegory the story may have been on Trump’s character or 21st century America in general, it wasn’t the most important thing going on. It was just easier to write about. That’s Trump’s talent.

Pay no attention to the 800,000 furloughed workers behind the curtain
It’s enough to make you believe that Trump really could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Here’s how he would do it: First, he’d shoot someone. Then, as the police and ambulance were on their way, he would tweet something like,
“Mexicans faked the moon landing becos it’s really made of mozzarella cheese!!” 
And suddenly everyone would be saying, “That’s not true! OMG, you’re so stupid!” while the victim bleeds out.

The level of Donald Trump’s malfeasance is so deep that we need to prioritise. Yes, it’s shocking and sickening that the president of the United States can lie with such ease and abandon. What’s even more shocking and sickening is that this isn’t the worst thing about him. At a time when there is reasonable suspicion that the US head of state may be acting on behalf of a hostile foreign government, either wittingly or unwittingly, who cares if he pulls figures on illegal immigration out of his ass? You know it’s bullshit. I know it’s bullshit. Even he knows it’s bullshit, or would if he cared. But there’s still only so much people can think about in one moment, and as long as people are talking about whether he really knows anything about Mexican immigration (spoiler: No. Duh!), they’re not talking about whether he’s a criminal or a traitor.

If America had a president truly deserving of the title, the steady stream of untruths would indeed be scandalous. We so far beyond that now as to render the bullshit trivial. Stay focussed.

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