Last year, as I was putting the finishing touches on my book Trumped-Up Charges!, which is an account of 10 examples of either outright falsehoods our out-of-context misleading statements about former President Trump, brand new myths surfaced, and some people suggested I include those too. I limited the false accusations to 10 so it would be a quick read, and 10 were enough to make the larger point that with rare exception, the American media can no longer be trusted. Another 10, 20, or 100 weren’t necessary. Besides, they were sprouting so quickly, I couldn’t keep up with them. Recently, yet another myth was debunked: that on June 1, 2020, Trump used DC police to clear a crowd near St. John’s Church, which protesters had vandalized a day earlier, just so he could pose for a photo in front of the church while holding up a bible. Now, the U.S. Inspector General has proclaimed that the crowd was cleared in order to assess the damage and construct a barrier (walls work) to prevent destructive thugs from causing further vandalism. Some might wonder what difference it makes considering Trump’s no longer in office anyway, while others see it as the latest vindication that will boost Trump’s public approval ratings, whether he decides to be king or kingmaker in 2024.
However, all of this extends far beyond Donald Trump. It is yet another cog in the wheel of misinformation that has infected our great nation.
It all begins with motive: when you receive information, it’s not only whether it’s correct; it’s also whether the informant wants to tell you the truth or mislead you.
Consider this example: I lived in New Jersey and worked in New York City for many years, but it’s also been more than a decade since I moved out of that area. Suppose you ask me: “what’s the last bus to leave the Port Authority Bus Terminal on a weeknight to get to Fairview (NJ)?” I respond: “11PM.” There are four possible determinations as to whether the information is correct and why I gave it to you:
1. The information is right and I wanted to be truthful: the last bus really leaves the terminal at 11PM.
2. The information is wrong, but I honestly thought it was right.
3. The information is wrong, and I knew it; I told you specifically to mislead you.
4. The information is right, but I was trying to mislead you: I really thought the last bus leaves at 9PM and I purposely want you to be stuck there, but unbeknownst to me, a later bus was added to the schedule since I moved away.
Option 3 doesn’t reflect well on my character, Option 2 doesn’t reflect well on my reliability, and Option 4 reflects poorly on both. Only Option 1 demonstrates that I am both honest and reliable.
Applying this methodology to the Trump photo-op tall tale, and now knowing the information was incorrect, let’s examine the informants in question:
The vast majority of Trump-bashers are sincere in their overall contempt for the former president. He is a caricature in their minds, and so they’ve come to expect certain behavior from him. Consider the classic sitcom I Love Lucy, which features four main characters: Lucy and her husband Ricky Ricardo, and their friends and neighbors, Fred and Ethel Mertz. In each episode, viewers expect Lucy to act on some screwball idea and get into a pile of trouble, Ricky to yell at her for doing so, and the Mertzes to take swipes at one another’s looks and personality. Similarly, the quintessential Trump hater thinks him to be an evil monster who, thankfully, is also too stupid to cause global harm of the magnitude of say, a Hitler or a Stalin. Oh, apparently Trump is also hopelessly narcissistic to the point that he really doesn’t love anything or anyone except himself, and his supposed patriotism is a mere ruse to advance whatever his goal happens to be. Add to that Trump’s purported hatred of persons of color and their causes, such as racial justice, and it makes perfect sense why, true to perceived character, he’d initiate a violent shutdown of a Black Lives Matter protest, indifferent to anyone’s safety, just to pose for a snapshot.
Very importantly, these sincere critics are so fed up with Trump because they think he’s really done oodles of bad, even if they found out a specific accusation was false, many wouldn’t waste their breath trying to vindicate him. They’d think it would be like quibbling over whether a serial killer murdered 67 victims or 68.
Then, there are the diabolical manipulators. They’re the ones who knowingly plant a false seed about Trump being simultaneously bad, stupid, and crazy. Many are Trump’s political opponents. They give you the wrong bus schedule on purpose: not so as to keep you deserted in a bus terminal, but to prevent you for voting for Trump, for two main job-related reasons.
First, they’re used to doing things a certain way, and they know Trump doesn’t give a hoot about preserving tradition for the sake of resisting change. If you’ve put on both of your socks before putting on your shoes your whole life, and the guy in charge demands that you put on a sock and a shoe and then the other sock and shoe, you’re likely to try to remove that guy from being in charge.
Second, it’s about job preservation: Trump’s core beliefs to secure the borders, rail against media malpractice and political overcorrectness, make our allies pay their fair share, and treat China like Public Enemy Number One, are shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans. So, anyone shackled to opposite ideologies is as obsolete as a cassette player. If they can’t attack the platform, they try to discredit its most effective spokesperson.
As the clock ticks well past 11PM, it’s about time that millions of Americans realize the next bus isn’t coming until morning.