By means of a steady stream of lies and half-truths, President Donald Trump has created an alternative world for himself and his supporters.
His constant discrediting of the press, which, indeed, is not often well-disposed toward him, does the rest.
According to a recent poll, three-quarters of all Republicans trust the president more than they do the news media.
“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” This sentence came out of Trump’s mouth at the end of a speech to war veterans in Kansas City. “Stick with us,” is the president’s solution. Us, meaning Trump and the Republicans. Not the Democrats, not the scientists, not the media.
The 45th president’s alternative world became apparent for the first time after Jan. 20, 2017, the day after he took office. After the event, Trump claimed that the crowd in attendance was larger than the one that showed up for his predecessor, Barack Obama. According to him, it was the largest concentration of people to ever have attended a U.S. president’s inauguration.
Aerial photos clearly show that the streets of Washington were significantly emptier during Trump’s inauguration compared to Obama’s. His press secretary at the time, Sean Spicer, insisted however that the U.S. president was telling the truth. Americans had gotten to know Trump as a politician during the election campaign. But now, at the White House, his behavior appears absurd. A president who openly distorts facts? Some rub their eyes, laughing.
However, 18 months and 4,229 lies later, it has become clear that Trump lives in his own world, built to satisfy his ego’s needs. He fights objective truths that contradict his worldview the way he used to fight construction companies demanding to be paid by his real estate business. This is why he has labeled critical media as “fake news” and “the enemy of the American people,” among other things. He constantly attacks the press on Twitter and at almost every public speech. He defends his untruths with verve and vehemence.
Trump Lies an Average of 7.6 Times a Day
The Washington Post’s fact checker, whose importance and overtime increased under Trump, noted that the number of “false or misleading claims” has almost doubled over the past six months. Therefore, on average, Trump lies 7.6 times a day. At the beginning of his presidency the figure amounted to only 4.9 untruths.
He repeats some lies over and over again, especially if they concern the core of his political agenda; for example, when it comes to world trade, tariffs, immigration or the belief that Europeans should contribute more money to NATO.
Under Trump, lies have not only become commonplace, they are part of his brand, like his tweetstorm and arrogance. They are part of the reasons why his supporters worship him.
The correlation makes sense: If Trump did not lie, he could not play the part of the sole savior of the United States. If his followers did not see him as the savior of the United States, they would not idolize him. By now, the reason that Trump’s voters believe his claims must have at least partly to do with the fact that the reverse (i.e., realizing that they have been duped by a fraud) would make them uncomfortable.
Orwell’s ‘1984’ Is Often Quoted Today
In order to lend credibility to his views, it is vital for Trump to regularly demonize media such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, or CNN. In Kansas, he said “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people.”
For many of his political opponents, this is reminiscent of George Orwell. These days, the most quoted sentences from his dystopian novel “1984” read, “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command,” as well as, “and if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth.”
The conservative broadcaster Fox News, the president’s favorite channel, plays the role of the chronicler who declares the real-time falsification of history to be the truth. Its role does not end there, though. Not only does it confirm the existence of Trump’s world, but it also serves as an inspiration and source of ideas for the head of state, who constantly watches television. Trump calls Fox News journalist Sean Hannity regularly for advice.
As criticism against the White House is coming from many quarters, it seems difficult to avoid cognitive dissonance. The president, however, tries to isolate himself from uncomfortable views. Thus, not only has the 72-year-old now surrounded himself exclusively with yes-men, but he reportedly also forbids his wife, Melania, from watching CNN on the presidential plane.
Propaganda Exploits People’s Credulity
Trump, who often avoids conflict when talking face-to-face, avoids direct confrontation with dissenters. He uninvited athletes like the Golden State Warriors basketball team to the White House after its players publicly criticized him. When immigrants in the U.S. without legal documentation were separated from their children at the border, he canceled the traditional picnic with Republicans and Democrats at the White House. The obvious suspicion was that he did not want to be confronted by Democrats and their opinions.
Trump has now defeated reality, at least as far as his supporters are concerned. According to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University, three-quarters of Republicans trust the president more than the news media.
According to a new study by Yale University, the answer as to why people believe him is quite simple — repetition does the trick. The more frequently people read or hear false statements, the more likely they are to believe them. Researchers call this phenomenon “illusory truth effect.”
Propaganda exploits people’s credulity and provokes them with the most intense stimuli possible. The circulating conspiracy theories, which are increasingly flooding the conservative mainstream, demonstrate the potential of such “alternative realities.” In this context, Trump achieved his political breakthrough with the theory about Obama’s fake citizenship.
His constant discrediting of the press, which indeed is not often well-disposed toward him, does the rest. Recently, Trump supporters abused CNN’s Jim Acosta during one of Trump’s appearances in Florida. When Acosta later urged Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders to say that the press is not “the enemy of the people,” she replied that the president had “made his comments clear.”
In the world of its supporters, Trumpism is doing great. Conservatives have been successfully immunized against the truth. In their world, Trump was the right choice. After all, he is creating jobs, lowering taxes, cracking down on illegal immigration and, as his baseball caps read, making America great again. Anyone who claims otherwise is only trying to undermine this great president.