Why does Donald Trump tell so many lies?

The more lies Donald Trump tells, the larger the frustration grows — the greater the sense that Trump continues lying because he’s being allowed to get away with it.

The New York Times says:

Mr. Trump relies on social media to spread his views. This is convenient because there’s no need to respond to questions about his fabrications. That makes it imperative that other forms of media challenge him.

Instead, as Mr. Trump stays at the top of the Republican field, it’s become a full-time job just running down falsehoods like the phony crime statistics he tweeted, which came from a white supremacist group.

Yet Mr. Trump is regularly rewarded with free TV time, where he talks right over anyone challenging him, and doubles down when called out on his lies.

This isn’t about shutting off Mr. Trump’s bullhorn. His right to spew nonsense is protected by the Constitution, but the public doesn’t need to swallow it. History teaches that failing to hold a demagogue to account is a dangerous act. It’s no easy task for journalists to interrupt Mr. Trump with the facts, but it’s an important one.

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell says “Donald Trump lies because he knows he can get away with it.”

O’Donnell also says Trump exploits the politeness of his interviewers and that they are afraid of challenging him because they are afraid he won’t show up for future interviews.

Trump’s antics are boosting the ratings of both supporters and critics in the media.

But I don’t think Trump continues lying simply because he can get away with it, or because the media is too polite to call him a liar, or because since he is a pathological liar he just can’t stop lying.

The reason he keeps on lying is because, paradoxically, among his supporters it reinforces his image as a truth-teller.

Since Trump supporters think that “the media” and “media lies” are synonyms, and since in a polls have shown “liar” (at least until recently) was a phrase more commonly linked to Hillary Clinton than Trump, and since the political establishment is widely viewed as being filled with liars, it matters much less to Trump that he is being called a liar than it does who is calling him that.

If each time Trump gets called a liar and Trump’s base see his accusers themselves as liars, the accusation not only loses its sting — it ends up looking like a vindication, proof that Trump is rocking the establishment.

What’s the solution?

For a start, the media needs to stop giving Trump so much free airtime. And that means refraining from following the currently irresistible impulse to profit from his notoriety.

A presidential election should be about issues, not antics, and it’s up to the media to cover the issues.

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2 thoughts on “Why does Donald Trump tell so many lies?

  1. hquain

    PW: “[lying] reinforces his image as a truth-teller.” This is a telling insight. It’s worth remembering, too, that psychologists have found that attempted refutation typically reinforces belief by those inclined to believe in the first place. At some level, the human cognitive system doesn’t care much about ‘not’ and is more impressed by the repetition of the core unnegated proposition that is necessary if you want to negate it. The more frequent the repetition, the more impressive.

    The moral is exactly as you suggest: “the media needs to stop giving Trump so much free airtime.” But there’s a symbiotic relation between the purveyors of content and the generators of content, and this won’t be broken any time soon. Virtually all ‘liberal’ outlets — see TPM for a canonical example — expend the vast majority of their pixels on the antics of the right. The Dems are like the proto-mammals cowering among the dinosaurs, waiting for the meteor to strike.

  2. hquain

    As a follow-up, it’s interesting to note that a group of 100 (!) black pastors is planning to meet with Trump. “This is not an endorsement!” Not, indeed.

    Minimally, it’s an endorsement of Trump’s importance. Less minimally, under the theory of the near invisibility of ‘not’, it’s a pre-image of a false but hard-to-shake memory of actual endorsement, sure to be claimed by Trump as authentic. Generalizing your remark — it’s not just the media that need to stop giving Trump freebies.

    Reference: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/donald-trump-black-pastors-no-endorsement–2

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