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Trump Lies as a Form of "Performance Art"

Despite all our other differences, each and every American could fill an 8 1/2 x 14 legal pad with the lies that Donald Trump has told over the years. There are so many each day that websites and newspapers keep track of them like baseball batting averages. Day in and day out, in tweets and in public appearances, to journalists and to his fans, he lies, endlessly, and everyone knows it.

I know that you might think that some folks believe the stuff he says. No, they don't. They know he lies constantly and they still love him. They know Obama was born in America, and that Ted Cruz's dad didn't help kill President Kennedy, that Mexican immigrants aren't rapists, that Climate Change isn't a Chinese hoax or a plot by climate scientists, that the noise from windmills doesn't cause cancer, and that the FBI didn't insert a spy into his campaign to help Hillary, etc., etc., etc.

OK, I'll hedge a bit now. Yes, there are the tinfoil hat folks that love conspiracy theories, but that is a minority of Trump supporters. Most just chuckle when they hear his latest whopper and go right on waiving their red MAGA hats. I wrote about this poll earlier; Only 13% of Americans Believe Trump is "Honest and Trustworthy." Despite that, his support still hovers around 40-44%. There is only one way to explain that; his supporters just don't care that he lies.

To his supporters, Trump's lies are "performance art", a flamboyant display of his aversion to the smug intellectuals, and snide journalists that they abhor. And they love that he "lies big" in the face of overwhelming evidence that he is just making things up.

And, like his fans, Trump is proud of his ability to lie and brags about it. He was captured on a leaked audio recording boasting about how he could just make up facts in a private conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. If that would have been Obama or Clinton [either Clinton], Fox News would have repeated it every day for years to come. With Trump the story was old news within hours. Why? It's not news that Trump lies every day, all day! Fact checking Trump is like fact checking the Onion, a waste of time.

A recent study reported by USA Today helps to explain all this. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and MIT found that "Trump supporters were more enthusiastic in their support of him to the extent that they justified Trump’s lie as a form of "symbolic protest." In other words, it's not what he says, but what the lie "represents". So, it's not that the FBI actually spied on his campaign, it's that they represent the "deep state" that opposed his election and are trying to foil his nationalist agenda. Likewise, it's not that Mexicans are really rapists, but that their culture and language are alien to "real Americans".

So how do you deal with a President who lies constantly without it damaging his reputation or support? That is a good question. Usually, we would hope, that just pointing out the President is an unabashed serial liar would be enough, but that's not working. What might curtail his behavior? Probably only his defeat in 2020.

By: Don Lam, Curated Content [updated 6/17/19]


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