Politics and the Trump Language

Political language. . .  is designed to make lies sound truthful. . . . and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

In trying to help their readers understand when a lie is a lie, and when is it something else, (a question brought to our attention by DJT), the media has overlooked one arena in which DJT has come close to seeing the world as others see it.  Of course, this is not meant to belittle the challenge inherent in trying to decide when a lie is not a lie. That this is a challenge is proved by the fact that hundreds of thousands of words on the subject have been written and discussed since the 2016 election.

A typical example is offered by the Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker.  He appeared on New Year’s Day on NBC’s “Meet The Press” and discussed at length the difficulty inherent in labelling an untrue statement a lie.  In addition, he  devoted an op-ed piece in the WSJ  to a discussion of the word and under what circumstances the WSJ would label a statement made by DJT or anyone else, a lie.  And Mr. Baker was not alone in finding it necessary to address the topic.

The New York Times, NPR, Huffington Post and  countless other publications devoted space to letting readers know when a “falsehood” has attained  such a dignified status that the most careful people in the world are willing to bestow on it the honorific of “lie.”  But all the focus on when a “falsehood” can be promoted to “lie”, has taken attention away from one area in which DJT is slowly conflating his facts (that we will henceforth call “untrue facts” (UTF)) with “true facts” (TF), those being facts that are known by others.  That pertains to crowds and how they are perceived.

It has been known ever since DJT burst onto the scene, that crowds form an important part of how DJT sees the world and more importantly, how many people have assembled in a given situation to see him. DJT’s affection for UTFs was first brought to the attention of those who had not closely followed his career, when he entered the presidential race in 2015 and described for an unaware public that in New Jersey “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building [World Trade Center] was coming down.” In a later interview describing the “thousands,” he alluded to New Jersey’s “heavy Arab population.” The description of the cheering multitude came as a revelation to most of the citizens of the United States since the cheering throng had not been remarked upon by the media and anyone else in the United States because it was an UTF.  Nonetheless, it remained a staple in DJT’s campaign even though it was widely accepted that he was the only person in the entire United States, including members of the Muslim community, who were aware of this UTF.   So what we learned from this episode is that DJT could see crowds where none existed.  And that brings us to the point of this piece.

Whereas DJT in 2001 saw crowds where there were none, DJT now sees crowds where all the rest of us see crowds, an obvious improvement.   The only difference now between DJT and the rest of us, is how many people are in a crowd.  Because believers in TF had visible proof as to the size of the crowd attending the inauguration, and DJT who was also there had UTF as to its size, DJT has said there will be an investigation into the size of the crowd.  If the investigation produces a TF as to crowd size, in addition to costing taxpayers a lot of money, it will certainly help DJT in the future evaluate the size of crowds. And herewith one additional fact of some significance.

DJT’s observation of the cheering throng in a state with a large Arab population when the Twin Towers came down, goes a long way towards explaining his controversial order banning Muslims from certain countries from entering the United States until thorough vetting has been completed.  That is because the terrorists committing the 9/11 acts of terrorism came from Muslim countries and, therefore, were probably Muslims.  Thus, it makes sense that people from some Muslim countries be subjected to extreme vetting, since we’d not want another attack like that to take place.  There is, of course, one slightly uncomfortable TF.

Fifteen of the 19 terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks came from Saudi Arabia where DJT has several limited liability companies,  one came from Egypt where two of his companies are registered, and one came from the United Arab Emirates where DJT ‘s name is licensed to a golf course, a residential development and a spa. People from those countries are not subject to the newly announced vetting.  That is probably because DJT has business interests in those countries and wouldn’t feel right about making it more difficult for their citizens to enter the United States, even though those countries furnished the only known terrorists who came for the specific purpose of committing terrorist attacks in the United States. Excluding them from the new procedures when their purpose is to protect the United States from terrorist attacks, as DJT has explained, makes no sense.  Looked at as a business proposition, it makes perfect sense.

Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com