If you’ve followed the Jan. 6 investigation at all, it may have occurred to you that its revelations have intensified an ongoing debate about Former Guy and his nonstop whoppers. Namely, the question about whether he is deliberately and knowingly lying, or is simply so delusional that he actually believes his own falsehoods. Either is very bad, of course. But there is a third alternative that someone has posited: he is simply impervious to truth. He’s totally indifferent about whether a claim by himself or anyone else is accurate or not, so long as it is useful to him. And as he has discovered many times over, promoting even the most outrageous of lies generally incurs absolutely no penalties in today’s world — and indeed, quite often reaps rewards.
Of course, imperviousness does not preclude the other two options. It’s entirely possible, if not probable, that he deliberately lies at some times, and at other times actually believes, to some extent, his own stretchers. In both cases, there’s no doubt that his verbal skullduggery is prompted by a disregard and outright disdain for inconvenient facts. He is hardly the only one to exhibit such modes of behavior. They have in fact become quite commonplace.
Sen. Ron Johnson (Republican, naturally), who has been heavily advancing dangerous false claims about vaccines, said in an interview that it’s “pretty obvious” that vaccines are killing people, and added that
What drives me nuts is when I’m challenged by medical experts
In his universe, he is not the one doing the challenging. He has a right to be considered the authority, and if the people who actually know what they’re talking about disagree with him, well by god, they’re infidels who should be stoned.
When I asked someone to provide some factual basis for her assertion that President Biden’s policies were ruining America, she just replied, “if you can’t look around you and see the damage, then you’re hopeless”, or something to that effect. Well, if I did nothing but “look around”, I’d see that the earth is flat, the sun revolves around it, the moon changes its shape, the stars are just little flecks of light, and the wind is created by trees shaking their branches. To these people, the sights they see through their own windows is all they need to form a picture of the world.
One of the most alarming cases, embracing several truth aversions at one whack, is the 2022 platform of the Texas GOP, which declares that Biden didn’t really win the election. They adopted The Big Lie as their Big Truth (the convention at which the platform was adopted screened “2000 Mules”, the laughable fraudulent film about election fraud, three times). And that’s not all. The party manifesto also dictates that homosexuality is “an abnormal lifestyle choice”, that they will oppose any attempt to regulate guns, and that schoolchildren should be taught about the “humanity of the preborn child”, among other things. They also adopted a stance on foreign policy based on Biblical “prophecy”.
Additionally, the Texas GOPer platform (the late great Molly Ivins referred to her home state as the “national laboratory for bad government”) proposes several blatantly racist voting measures, including the establishment of a state-level electoral college and the repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Oh, and they want to secede from the Union. Which, come to think of it, might be the one admirable idea they have.
All of which no doubt rings a bell. If you’ve spent any time on social media, or if you just have some RRR’s (rabidly right-wing relatives), then you’ve heard things like this spewed many times. “Biden stole the election somehow, I just know it.” “I don’t care what anyone says, guns make us safer.” “Nobody is going to convince me that Biden is not responsible for gas prices.” Doesn’t matter one bit how many facts you present. Along with “I have a right to be right”, one of the bedrock principles of conservatism is “La la la, I can’t hear you.”
But what happened in the Republic Of Teksizz wasn’t just a few deranged individuals spouting insanity. It was an influential, organized political body formally making several types of insanity its official party platform. Texas Repubs are not just saying that they personally believe a fertilized ovum is a fully enfranchised person and an LGBTQ individual is not; they are declaring that they have a (literally) God-given right to teach children to believe such things as well.
If any of this is new, it’s only new in degree rather than kind. American conservatism has been building up to this for decades. Right-wingers have always believed that they are entitled to their own set of “facts”. But in recent years, the extremists have become increasingly mainstreamed in government and media, and to an ever greater extent, have achieved the power to make their alternate reality the default mode.
Meanwhile, in an interview on the Great American Warehouse of Truth Denial, Fox “News”, Mike Pence said that he has never known of a president to lie as much as Biden. Yes, that Mike Pence.
Your incisive comments about “former guy” are spot on. 45 has also been diagnosed by the mental health community as a delusional psychopath. People of relatively normal mental health look inward when faced with reality based criticism. People who are delusional become more delusional when confronted with their delusions.
A psychopath is a disorganized kind of sociopath. Both kinds of mental illness enjoy causing harm to others. It feeds the profoundly sick idea that the psychopath proves, in this case, his god-like superiority by causing the suffering and death of others. To the very astute observation that 45 is impervious to the truth I would add that he enjoys the suffering that he creates and that we continue to suffer because of his disastrous decisions and which keep him in the limelight.
Thanks. Appreciate the input.
Deep within the authoritarian personality lies his brain’s over-active amygdala, always alert for threats, and on the edge of fight or flight. “Better take the AR-15 to Walmart, just to be sure…”
They react to strangers with suspicion and fear, while the rest of us would be curious or even friendly.
Authoritarian followers fall into lockstep loyalty to their authoritarian leaders. They value the unity in their shared beliefs indoctrinated by the leader. They sense they belong to a sacred cause, for their leader was sent by God to save America. The horror is they number as much as 25 to 30% of any given population.
They are conditioned to FEEL what the leader wants them to feel. Manipulated emotions motivate supporters more than facts ever could. They are exhilarated by their leader’s rousing words of anger, blame and hate for the evil commie enemies against him. He can do no wrong.
The leader draws power and devotion by uniting his followers in resentment, anger and hate for the evil others. Demonization, scapegoating, and lies are the leader’s primary tools. They always bring a rush of excitement in an angry crowd.
Authoritarian leaders have no conscience, so their followers will surrender any conscience they may have had.
Their faith in the leader plunges them into willful blindness and delusion. They would kill for the leader.
Their indoctrinated mistrust and anger will never allow them to consider any information their leader rejects.
The leader may be informed of the facts, but they never matter. He will form his own grandiose mythology from thin air, to gain his followers’ reverence.
He will reject anything he does not want to know, assuring lies are embedded into his cult.
He is likely not a delusional psychotic, but absolutely a sociopath.
I am not so sure that Trump does not know he is lying or that he even sees what he says as real. I read an article in psychology Today long ago concerning a study done to find out which people are the best liars. One specific group was frequently mentioned as being consummate liars. Guess who? Politicians of course!
The researchers did a study in which a surveillance camera was concealed in a room adjacent to a kindergarten class. The researchers put candy on a table and told a child in the room that they had to leave for a minute, and not to eat the candy. However, all it took was the desire to eat candy to activate the power of lies–they would eat the candy and then claim that another child came in and stole it, or, that someone else refused to follow the researchers orders. The researchers also knew by observing classroom behavior, that these very young liars tended to be alpha male types, or girls of a similar nature.
Trump was born with a golden spoon in his mouth and has never had clear boundaries given to him to restrain his behavior, so he probably knows he’s lying but sees that his lies will help him politically. And, like many others, he may think (as you discussed), that because his lies get results, then they must be good. After all, they got him what he desires, so he may simply feel he is above the “little people” i.e. the losers of the world, which he really doesn’t give a damn about.
Another similar group of thieves mine personal data in order to steal people’s life savings with computers. How do they justify such hideous disregard for their fellow men?–by claiming that they have to take care of number one in to survive, (like anybody else)? To them it’s all a game, just like it seems to be a game in the beady little minds of the Senators (and many House Representatives) who know they are lying, but think that’s OK, because it will further their own political power and wealth, unlike the ordinary suckers about whom PT Barnum said, “there’s a sucker born every minute!”
President Obama accurately captured the mindset of many on Capitol Hill with these simple words, “There are two different ways that one can regard as the primary concerns of politicians, either to enhance their own fortunes, or, to help improve the fortunes of others.!” (not a word for word quote).