Trumping Truth


Donald Trump claimed 1.5 million people were at his inauguration.   Estimates are almost all in the 200,000 range.   He sent his press secretary out to dispute claims the crowd was smaller than Obama’s.  Sean Spicer claimed that the “grass protecting plastic” made it appear like fewer people were there.

The picture on the left is from January 20, 2017.   On the right is January 20, 2009.   There is no way to deny that Obama’s crowd was massive compared to Trump’s.   When his spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway was asked why the press secretary was sent out to lie, she dodged, weaved, and finally said he was giving “alternate facts.”

If the President is so shameless with his lies over something this easy to verify, this obvious, then how can we trust what he has about threats to the country and other issues where we lack first hand information?

People say all politicians lie.  In reality, all people lie.  But not all the time, and often with a particular reason.  President Trump seems to be in a different class – the truth is irrelevant, whatever “fact” would serve Trump, that fact is posited as truth.


To be fair to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, he said he learned his techniques from Madison Avenue – the advertising business.  Truth is most easily subverted if people are being led by emotion.   The desire to believe will overcome the capacity to critically assess.  Those who try to promote truth will be derided as “dividers, traitors, subversives,” or to quote Rush Limbaugh, “Libtards.”

Even those who supported Trump, who believe he’ll do a good job, should be troubled by his lack of scruples.  He doesn’t care if it’s obvious he’s lying, he’ll do so anyway because he knows his supporters want to believe him.   He’s created an emotional connection to his “brand” and that trumps reason.  (Pun intended)

I don’t believe it will work.  The ridicule being heaped on Conway and Trump over these claims shows that the media and the public are ready to fight back.  The Women’s March (which I will write more about) demonstrates the beginning of a global movement.  But it’s essential that all Americans, even those who support Trump be united in demanding truth from our leaders.


Most of us use a different term for “alternate facts.” We call them “lies.”

When I describe fascism in class, I note that fascism is an anti-intellectual, anti-rational, emotion driven way of thinking.  It is relativistic – truth does not exist, all that exists is different perspectives, and those who power can determine truth.  It might be a claim about crowd size, it might be a claim that Jews are a parasitic people.   The fact that the new President is so shameless in lying about things that are so easy to check is in my opinion they most disturbing thing about the new administration.


  1. #1 by Laurel Kaiser on January 22, 2017 - 20:23

    It seems to me that most if not all of these crazy denials of obvious and usually beign lies are set up so we are distracted from the really important stuff we should be noticing. Like maybe our focus should be on some of the presidential acts he has already taken that are costing the “forgotten” Americans money such as increased mortgage insurance, what it is going to cost for trump and family to live in trump tower vs White House (, and I’m sure many other things I haven’t found yet. This group leading our govt right now are masters of the right distraction to avoid harsh facts supporters do not wish to see and can easily poopoo such lies as crowd size, hand size, etc.

  2. #2 by Sarah on January 22, 2017 - 21:57

    Is it okay to panic now, Scott?

    I don’t think waiting for the 2018 or 2020 elections to influence politics through party changes (as suggested in your 11/11/16 blog post) is feasible or warranted. As the well-respected Dan Rather so astutely observed recently, “These are not normal times. These are extraordinary times. And extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

    I side with Mr. Rather’s recommendation, “What can we do? We can all step up and say simply and without equivocation. “A lie, is a lie, is a lie!” And if someone won’t say it, those of us who know that there is such a thing as the truth must do whatever is in our power to diminish the liar’s malignant reach into our society.”

    We have to try to diminish that malignant reach now. Isn’t that what history has taught us? You reference Goebbels. He is the scary past that bears witness to the fact that many a good German was placated by the repetition of false truths. I know you know Germany. And I know Germany. My grandparents immigrated from Eastern Germany.

    Yesterday, millions of people, in our country and around the world, a large percentage of whom were women, took action in expressing their deep concerns of the continued fascist rhetoric and tactics of our newly inaugurated president. We took action, a first step. We will take more steps. It is not the time to be complacent or to be a removed observer.

  3. #3 by Scott Erb on January 22, 2017 - 23:37

    Laurel – I agree completely. Trump is at base a con man, and the art of the con is distraction. I do think people are motivated to try to watch and keep track of what’s happening. His supporters often seem oblivious. But that’s also normal – the “marks” in a con believe long past the time it is rational to since they’ve emotionally invested in believing the con.

    Sarah, thanks for the comment! I think panic is never good, but I don’t think we should wait (and I didn’t want to convey that in my earlier post – sorry). I think the marches yesterday are a big deal, it isn’t just a protest, it is the start of a movement, even a global movement. I’ll blog about that soon. I think Trump is energizing progressives who have been assuming history is on their side and there is no need to get involved. To win in 2018 and 2020 the work has to start now – and yesterday’s marches are for me an inspiring first step.

  4. #4 by Johnny Kelly on January 24, 2017 - 04:28

    I side with Mr. Rather’s recommendation, “What can we do? We can all step up and say simply and without equivocation. “A lie, is a lie, is a lie!”

    EXCEPT when it is “fake but accurate” maybe?

    • #5 by Scott Erb on January 29, 2017 - 21:41

      Exactly. Even “falsehood” is too tame!

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