In response to an FT article by Gideon Rachman on 23rd January 2017, entitled ‘Truth, lies and the Trump administration’
At the weekend Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, lambasted the White House press pool for pointing out that the crowd for his boss’s inauguration was much smaller than that for President Obama in 2008. If you look at the photos, or if you watched both inaugurations as I did, there is no doubt that this is true – the crowd that came to witness the historic swearing in of America’s first black president was much larger. Why did President Trump instruct/sanction this ridiculous response, particularly when he could have simply asked the question – ‘is that the best you can do?' Because he’s at war with the press. Because he knows that they are out to ‘get him’ if they possibly can, and because when push comes to shove, politicians will lie rather than lose. In our conscience, I believe we all know that last bit to be true. Personally, I don’t expect integrity from politicians...not yet; but I do expect it from people who claim to be journalists.
Anyway, here is a section from Mr Rachman’s article and an edited version of my comment, which was hastily dashed out originally…in order to facilitate my dog’s urgent need for a walk…
"The man from the BBC was laughing as he reported the White House’s false claims about the size of the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration. He should have been crying. What we are witnessing is the destruction of the credibility of the American government.
This spectacle of obvious lies being peddled by the White House is a tragedy for US democracy. But the rest of the world — and, in particular, America’s allies — should also be frightened. A Trump administration that is addicted to the “big lie” has very dangerous implications for global security.
As Robert Moore, the Washington correspondent for ITN, puts it: “If the White House press secretary says things that we know to be demonstrably false, why will we trust him on North Korea, Russia, Iran [and the] war on Isis?” That is not just a good question — it is a vital one…
Having a liar in the White House is a disaster not just for global security but also for the cause of democracy all over the world. Until now, dissidents in Russia, China or other authoritarian regimes could wage a lonely and dangerous fight for the truth, and point to the west to show that a better way existed. They could argue that lies are not the norm and that “the truth will set us free”. But the word freedom barely figured in Mr Trump’s inaugural address. And the US president is clearly indifferent to the truth. If the Trump administration cannot be relied upon to stand up for normal standards of honesty in politics, where else can the world turn?...
The press will need to be robust and courageous. The legal system, in which the truth still matters, may ultimately determine the fate of this administration.
American institutions from the media to Congress and the courts have demonstrated their independence from the White House in the past. They are about to be tested as never before" – Gideon Rachman
Donald Trump is a fully paid up member of the liar’s club. He’s a politician. Is there a something here that I am missing?
Amongst all the stuff he said during the campaign, however, he did tell the truth about something very important, and long overdue – he told the truth about how utterly ‘pissed’ the majority of Americans are with the mediocre dross that passes for a political system…with the empty suited charlatans and grifters who populate Washington…and he stated very clearly, that if he was elected, he was going to clean it up, and govern on behalf of the people. He didn’t add that he was a liar too – go figure. But he has been rewarded for speaking out by being placed in the White House. Personally, and for what it's worth - I will hold him to account for that.
How will we know whether or not he’s lying on a specific issue, particularly when there are no ‘facts’ to hand? The short answer is that he will exhibit the same ‘tells’ as the rest of the political class – you know they are lying when you see their lips moving…
But seriously how do you know? From reading what Gideon Rachman has to say about it? No thanks - I need more than the view of a commentator whose contempt for this political movement means that he will jump on any means to discredit it, who will ignore anything that argues different. Maybe I should turn to Steve Bannon? I think not, he’s definitely got a dog in this fight too; I don't think he will always tell the ‘truth’ either, unless it agrees with his ‘narrative’.
So what does a person do if they really want to know what’s going on at a deeper level than the ‘na na na na na’ reports prevalent in the media? You’ll have to make up your own mind about that I’m afraid…and therein lies the solution, the only solution…politicians lie because we don’t call them on it. Journalists lie because we don’t call them on it.
Personally, I read a lot of different people, I take into account each author’s track record on a subject, I look at what else is happening, I attempt to join the dots...and then I make up my own mind. Mr Rachman's article will provide a wonderful opportunity for people to slag off President Trump; also for those who wish to defend him, though I doubt there will be quite so many of those. It will shed little light on anything else.
I want more than that. For anyone interested in digging into one of the issues mentioned in this article – the US relationship with Russia – here is a clip of Stephen Cohen, Professor of Russian Studies at Princeton University, being interviewed by CNN. It offers a deeper perspective on the dynamics of the situation and also a comment on how the media are covering it.
‘The press will need to be courageous’…says Gideon Rachman...no…the press always need to be courageous…and honest…speaking truth to power…irrespective of ideology…
Alas this lot are counterfeit…sometimes I think they’ve been printed in the bowels of the Eccles Building...