Merely a Liar?

One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths is his ability to tell blatant falsehoods in all manner of ways, but convincingly and often entertainingly.

Because he can do so, is always willing to do so, and because he has absolutely no regard for accuracy, this poses an enormous problem for his opponents – and for the future of the United States. It also raises the question of whether he even knows what the facts are, or what they mean, although whether he does or not is largely irrelevant because it doesn’t affect his actions or those of his followers.

This considerable ability on the part of the former president depends on basic vulnerabilities in human character – most people tend to judge people more favorably when they can identify with them, and we all tend to identify more with people who tell us what we want to believe and who appeal to us by raising our greatest concerns and posturing as the enemy of people and ideas we fear or dislike.

We don’t like facts that threaten our beliefs or self-image, and we’re more likely to support those who reinforce our beliefs and prejudices because there’s a socio-genetic predilection against the outsider or the “other” and a desire to belong that can override almost everything else [why else would so many people believe in religions and faiths that are so patently ludicrous?]. We also generally prefer the simplest answer to the most complex problem, even when that simple answer is totally wrong.

Trump is a master at exploiting these human weaknesses, possibly one of the most effective social manipulators since Adolf Hitler, and, frankly, he’s likely more effective because his hatred of those he dislikes is less obvious and he can use humor, often barbed, masterfully in belittling others.

And, most of all, his opponents underestimate him, partly because they also underestimate the need to belong motivating his supporters and the disdain those supporters have for what they regard as “the establishment.”

Telling his supporters that he lies won’t change anything, not when they have a vested interest in believing those lies. Parading facts that debunk his lies and misrepresentations won’t sway them, because they see those facts as either lies or irrelevant.

Yet his opponents continue to assume that most people will be reasonable and thoughtful and see through the lies and misrepresentations and that facts and accuracy will prevail, despite the fact that there’s no assurance at all of that.

7 thoughts on “Merely a Liar?”

  1. Lourain says:

    Mr. Modesitt, you have a very clear-eyed view of human frailty.
    Having recognized the problem, do you have any suggestions for how to work with Trump supporters?

  2. Darcherd says:

    The only answer I can suggest is that the way to conquer fear, which is what Trump plays to, is by creating hope in its place. Countering lies with facts and figures does nothing to address the underlying fear that is the fertile soil in which lies and conspiracies take root. Only when those fearful people are given hope will they willingly abandon their treasured lies.

  3. KTL says:

    My thoughts are that he doesn’t need to be given a scenario where he either makes the rules for engagement or is able to supersede the civil rules of engagement. That is one major reason why he is either remiss to represent himself in a court of law or is advised not to do so by his attorneys – the judge would not allow him to act as he does in a setting that is mutually agreed to be fair to those that are both defendants and those looking to prosecute. There is no real reason that the venues that are provided to either DJT or his rivals/opponents ought not be as carefully managed as is a more civil engagement in these United states. That would include the pre-agreed option to turn off sound and microphones, have a moderator walk off the stage and end the interview or town hall, control the aspect ratio of the television screen if any guest were to flout the rules of engagement.

    Just because DJT CAN do these things, doesn’t mean media has to let him do these things.

  4. Ernest Wilson says:

    I do not particularly like Trump and definitely don’t trust him and have been voting as an independent for the last 20+ years usually as a Libertarian. However, I would like to see a similar analysis/defense of Biden, who has been lying nd making up stories since before he was even first elected; and seemingly always gets a pass by the media and fellow democrats. Neither should be supported!

    1. I understand your feelings, but the scale of the Trump lies is so massive and so at variance with the facts that there’s not another politician in either party who comes close, not even George Santos. You may not like Biden, but if you look at the facts, there’s no real comparison. Trump is the all-time champion liar of American politics — at least so far.

    2. Grey says:

      I am legitimately curious. What is your best example of a “Biden lie“ that has been ignored?

      (And I mean something material or substantive; more than being skeptical that “Corn Pop” existed, or that his uncle Seamus O’Stereotype actually said some pearl of wisdom.)

  5. Tom says:

    I would love it if “Contrarian” demonstrates a way to change voters minds about “the establishment”. Or maybe mitigate the fear or dislike of certain people and ideas. If the people opposing the tyrants and populists were to behave ethically and avoid lying, would that make a difference to voters choices?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *