Let’s call a spade a spade, and admit that a lie is a lie. And this first week of Trump’s term has been filled with lies. The day after the inauguration, Trump sent his press secretary out to lie about the size of the crowds. The next day, special advisor Kellyanne Conway said those lies were just “alternative facts.” I’m a pretty good fact-checker but I can’t begin to keep up with the flood of presidential prevarications. So I’m offering up three big fat lies from the first week, and asking you, my loyal readers, to vote on your favorite. Heck, ask your friends to vote, too!
My nominees for the three biggest lies are:
1) Torture works!
2) Voter fraud is everywhere.
3) Refugees are not vetted.
More on each of those in a minute. But first, think about the idea of The Big Lie – that if you tell a lie big enough, and keep on repeating it, people will believe it.
Gaslighting, or The Big Lie in the 21st Century
In popular psychological parlance, today’s big lie strategy is called gaslighting. Psychology Today described it recently:
“Gaslighting is a tactic of behavior in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.… It is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. “
The article details 11 characteristics of gaslighting. Here are the first two:
“1. They tell you blatant lies. You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal. “
Think about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisting that Trump’s inauguration day crowds were bigger than Obama’s, despite crowd photos, transit ridership statistics, and all the evidence to the contrary.
“2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof. You know they said they would do something…you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality – maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs. …”
Think about Trump insisting to the CIA that he never attacked the intelligence community, despite the evidence of his own Twitter feed. And then telling us that he got standing ovations – but neglecting to mention that that he had brought the 40 of his own staff members, who were at the front of the room, and that the entire audience stood throughout his speech, perhaps because he never asked them to sit.
Now, on to the nominees:
1) Torture works!
In an ABC News interview on January 25, Trump said that he wants to bring back CIA “black site” interrogations and that he thinks torture works and the United States should “fight fire with fire.”
Trump’s Defense Secretary nominee and his CIA director have both said they oppose the use of torture. Trump? Not so much.
Experts agree: torture doesn’t work. Here’s CNN’s summary of the most recent U.S. escapades:
“In 2014, the US Senate Select Committee published a report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, offering a scathing analysis.
“The report said that the ‘use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.’
“The 525-report, a brief summary of the 6,700 page document, was the result of a five-year investigation into detention and ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ used by the CIA against suspected terrorists in secret sites around the world.”
2) Voter fraud is everywhere.
No. Not at all. Not according to every single report and investigation.
As “evidence,” Trump pointed to a story told to him by a “supporter,” who was waiting in line to vote. Except that the “supporter” apparently did not tell Trump the story, and, in fact, never went to a polling place because he’s not a citizen and can’t vote.
No matter, Trump has other evidence – what about all the dead people still registered to vote? And all those who are registered in two states simultaneously?
Well – those may be errors in voting registries, but they don’t show that any of the dead people actually voted, or that any of the twice-registered people intended anything fraudulent. Oh, and those people registered in two states? They include Trump’s daughter, Tiffany, registered in New York and in Pennsylvania. And his son-in-law and White House staffer Jared Kushner, in New York and New Jersey. And his press secretary, Sean Spicer, in Virginia and Rhode Island.
3) Refugees are not vetted. Leaked documents show Trump preparing to shut down all refugee admissions for four months, and to bar any refugees from Syria and several other predominantly Muslim countries. Trump told ABC News on January 25:
“We are excluding certain countries. But for other countries we’re gonna have extreme vetting. It’s going to be very hard to come in. Right now it’s very easy to come in. It’s gonna be very, very hard.”
It’s not easy to come in as a refugee. It has never been easy. Vetting already takes years. A Syrian refugee described her family’s story of fear and flight. They spent a year living as refugees in Lebanon before even getting U.N. approval to apply for admission to the United States. Less than one percent of refugees get that permission to apply.
Then the application process took another year.
“The process started with a series of meetings with U.S. government representatives — at least five in-person interviews with each of us and countless phone conversations. The questions were very detailed: about my family, my friends, how I spent my time. The interviewers often knew the answers to the questions before they asked them. They asked about my life going back to the day I was born; they even knew the location of the hospital. My story is my story, so I knew that the details would match their information. But I was stunned by the level of scrutiny and the length of the process.
“Each member of the family told their story, and those stories had to be consistent with interviews given by other people who knew us. If our answers didn’t match information U.S. officials already had, or if they couldn’t validate our information, we didn’t progress to the next step. I had only a glimmer of hope that this would work — and that we could have a safe life for my daughters. We lived on that hope.
“Finally, more than a year after we began applying and more than two years after we fled Damascus, we were cleared in December 2014 to resettle in Baltimore. We had $30 for the journey. “
So — which is your favorite lie-of-the-week? Vote here for one of these three – or nominate your own favorite. And hurry – the next week’s lies are about to begin.
<noscript><a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/9648569/”>What’s YOUR favorite lie-of-the-week for the first week of Trumpocalypse?</a></noscript>