Ripley’s Believe It or Not has nothing on our moment and it hardly matters where you start! Take, for instance, our last president’s complaint about the U.S. military, according to a new book, The Divider: Trump in the White House, by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. While in office, he was, it seems, embittered that “his” generals weren’t as loyal as Adolf Hitler’s had been. And not just them either. As he said to his chief of staff John Kelly (“preceding the question with an obscenity”), “Why can’t you be like the German generals?” Why indeed?
For the president who, according to the Washington Post, made 30,573 false or misleading claims while in the White House, reality has always been a branch of fiction. Whether you’re talking about elections (fraudulent!) or an unprecedented FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate (“They even broke into my safe!”), you can count on one thing: he’ll invariably stretch fact to the edge of fiction, if not far beyond. After all, our world turns out to be eternally up for grabs, a story ready to be made up on the spot.
And he’s anything but alone. From Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene to Arizona Senate nominee Blake Masters to Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, these days the Trumpublican party couldn’t be a wilder compendium of ever more bizarre and violent fiction. In fact (if you’ll excuse the use of that phrase), we increasingly live in a world where fiction is the new fact. And all too many people, not just Alex Jones, have long been glorying in that reality. (Remember as well that if you reject any of those fictions, as Liz Cheney has, you better have enough money to hire some full-time security for yourself.)
And don’t just blame Donald Trump either! As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank pointed out recently, he didn’t create our present world. He was just “a brilliant opportunist; he saw the direction the Republican Party was taking and the appetites it was stoking. The onetime pro-choice advocate of universal health care reinvented himself to give Republicans what they wanted.”
In this context, let TomDispatch regular Kelly Denton-Borhaug, author of And Then Your Soul is Gone: Moral Injury and U.S. War-Culture, explore how lies and disinformation triumphed in our all-American world and what to make of it. Tom
On Truth-telling, Confession and First-Class Lies
Recent episodes of purposeful and accidental truth-telling brought to my mind the latest verbal lapse by George W. Bush, the president who hustled this country into war in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 attacks. He clearly hadn't planned to make a public confession about his own warmongering in Iraq when he gave a speech in Texas this spring. Still, asked to decry Russian president Vladimir Putin's unjustified invasion of Ukraine, Bush inadvertently and all too truthfully placed his own presidential war-making in exactly the same boat. The words spilled out of his mouth as he described "the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified invasion of Iraq -- I mean of Ukraine."
Initially, he seemed shocked that he had blurted that out and tried to back off his slip by shrugging and muttering, "Iraq, too," as if it were a joke. Some in his audience even laughed. But his initial attempt to sideline his comment only deepened the hole he was in. Then he tried another ploy. He suggested that his slip could be forgiven or excused because of his age, 75, and that his invasion and the destruction of Iraq could now be forgiven because of his cognitive decline. All in all, it was a first-class mess.Read More