The Calculated Lies of Donald Drumpf
When you hear the phrase “calculated lie,” the connotation is usually reserved for some piece of misinformation that is deliberately, carefully and cynically crafted in order to delude a gullible audience. But this is not at all the sense in which Donald Drumpf’s lies are “calculated.”
Drumpf’s lies meet the “cynical” criterion but fail the other two by a wide margin. His lies are utterly casual and careless, almost in a way that leads one to believe they’ve become reflexive. But this does not negate the notion that his lies are calculated; it merely reorients us as to the way in which they’re calculated. The calculation of Drumpf’s lies do not apply to one specific lie, as we normally understand the term “calculated lie,” but rather to his general principle of truth, which is: it matters not one bit.
The calculation of Drumpf’s lies refer to the moment many decades ago when he consciously realized that he could say whatever he wanted with impunity. He is not a brilliant man but he’s shrewd, and it must have occurred to him at a fairly young age that with his essentially unlimited resources and corresponding insulation from criticism (via either the media or the common citizenry), he could fabricate reality at will and never face any repercussions that he couldn’t buy his way out of. With enough shamelessness he probably wouldn’t have to pay at all.
And it is the results of that calculation — you could call it the “Original Calculation” — that we see today in his brazen, breathtaking disregard for truth or reality.
You see it when he says the man who rushed his stage in Ohio was Isis and that he was dragging a U.S. flag on the ground, maintaining this fiction even in an interview where the journalist pointedly rebutted each facet of his statement. You see it several months ago when he claimed to see broadcast video of New Jersey Muslims celebrating on the streets after 9/11. You see it in the recent debate when he clearly stated he has been audited by the IRS for the last 12 consecutive years (and that’s why he can’t release his tax documents). You see it when he calls into a show and states, for example, that John Oliver has invited him onto his show “four or five times,” when it simply hasn’t happened.
He does this because he has long since “calculated” that brazenly lying results in scant penalties and virtually unlimited rewards. He crafts a fictional, emotionally appealing narrative that will attract loyal followers while building his own status, and he does it secure in the knowledge that fact-checkers will rarely get as much media attention. Even if they do, the first, outrageous claim is usually the one that sticks.
And based on this calculation, Drumpf has effectively straitjacketed his honesty and can now confidently state literally whatever he pleases. It’s not so much whether he knows or not that he’s lying anymore, it’s actually that he no longer cares and probably hasn’t for decades. He doesn’t care because it’s in his brand’s best interest not to. It’s analogous to sociopathy, where we don’t so much call the perpetrator “immoral” as “amoral” — they just don’t care about morality.
Similarly, Drumpf isn’t “not truthful,” he’s “a-truthful.” It’s a no-lose situation for him, especially since he has long since lost both his integrity and dignity.
Interestingly, once you begin to listen to Drumpf through this filter, you can spot exactly when he’s lying. He’s blustering and rambling, and amidst the bluster he spews some ridiculous factoid that simply sounds ludicrous. You can almost hear in his voice that he doesn’t believe it. Pay close attention to his facial expressions at these moments as you may be treated to a rare glimpse of the endangered species known scientifically as Conscientius drumpfanacus.
Unfortunately it is up to the national media to consistently and relentlessly expose these lies and hold him accountable, and I’m skeptical that they’re up to the task. Honestly, at this point there’s no guarantee that he wouldn’t still win the public relations battle anyway.
The future of politics is here and it’s a shit-show.