Last week the New York Times published its version of a current Trump-related ubiquitous press exercise, self-consciously examining how to characterize the president’s constant expression of untruths and implicitly also questioning what to call him – the one who says , honks and tweets them. The Times has regularly and bravely published headlines and articles that say Trump “lies” and has “lied.” (The paper’s bravery is selective since in the same piece it described Bill Clinton’s statement to the nation about not having sex with his intern as “dissembl[ing], a fancy circumlocution for lying.) Other media outlets, such as National Public Radio, have intentionally refrained from using L words, going instead with many F words. “Fabrication” not among them, though it may best describe Trump’s repeated false declarations about matters as trivial as the crowd size at his inauguration and as serious and scary as his charge that the press had invented a rift between him and leaders of America’s intelligence agencies. Those he had compared to World War II German Nazi officials in a nationally televised news conference.
The Times’ careful consideration of its and other news organizations’ word choices is a worthy exercise and one that not just the press but each of us would be wise to conduct. The power and importance of labels was brilliantly depicted in “1984” George Orwell’s classic that unsurprisingly has rocketed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. Every American must decide “what the hell is going on,”* what to call it and how to think about it in order to act meaningfully and effectively in response. A person’s modus vivendi and plan of action in confronting a liar will probably not be the same as with a delusional or merely ignorant officeholder.
In formulating our own private or public responses we should ask, “does he know that three million plus undocumented aliens did not vote for Hillary but constantly repeat it?” Or did his possibly sick mind contrive and hold on to that assertion? Or was his obviously petty mind just confused as it became when interpreting 9/11 celebrations in the West Bank town of Nablus as actually occurring in a town west of Manhattan called Jersey City.
Following his own advice, your blogger has concluded that Trump is all of the above and is formulating a plan for what he will do about it. Stay tuned.