Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Lies That Bind

I didn't watch much of the Republican convention last night live, just clips and tweets until I had a long phone conversation with an old friend while sitting in my recliner while sipping a bourbon. That was a lot more pleasurable than watching the shitshow in Cleveland.

I woke up this morning to my social media blowing up over the plagiarized section of Melania Trump's speech last night. I'm much less outraged than amused. Having been a professor and a teacher for years now, I have busted my fair share of plagiarists. Usually the root cause is a combination of laziness and stress. Knowing how sloppy and last-minute the Trump campaign has been, I am sure that the person responsible for the speech had little time to do it, was not all that qualified, and needed to cut a few corners.

I am much, much more concerned with the dishonesty from the Trump campaign that comes not out of laziness, but out of malice and manipulation. Trump's entire campaign is built on lies of the most odious variety. He started it by claiming that undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit violent crime, a lie intended to stir up anti-immigrant hatred on his behalf. He lied about there being "thousands" of Muslims cheering the fall of the twin towers across the river in Jersey City, a lie intended to spread hate against Muslims, who he was calling to be banned from entering the country. He recently topped himself with the lie that Black Lives Matter activists were holding moments of silence for the murderer in Dallas. This was obviously intended to inflame white paranoia and build up the narrative that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization.

Of course, Trump's malicious lies raised his political profile well before his run for the presidency. He first made a big splash in national politics by claiming that president Obama was born outside of the United States. This lie, also based in bigoted paranoia, had long been percolating on the Right. The fact that he was so publicly proven wrong, but still allowed to have a place in the media firmament, made it obvious to Trump that he could build a political career on telling big, racist whoppers to the drooling Fox News watching troglodytes.

Trump perhaps understood something that others in the more august corners of our media have failed to see: the modern conservative movement is built on lies that are endlessly reinforced through the propaganda arms of Fox News and talk radio. I'll name a few. The lie that cutting taxes on the wealthy leads to prosperity for all. The lie that people are poor due solely to their own laziness and other shortcomings. The lie that America is an exceptional nation that is the greatest country that ever existed. The lie that American history is an uninterrupted march of freedom. The lie that institutional racism does not exist. The lie that global warming does not exist. The lie that evolution is merely a controversial theory. The lie that there is a war on Christmas. The lie that gender is not a social construction. The lie that fetuses feel pain in the first trimester. The lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The lie that all Muslims are predisposed towards terrorism. And on and on and on and on and on...

Trump is merely the dead weasel-haired avatar of a morally bankrupt movement that has maintained its base of support through mendacity of the foulest nature. The country club Republicans may clutch their pearls and turn up the collars on their Izod shirts, but they used those lies to manipulate a mass of angry people who have spurned them for the real deal. Cleveland is the apotheosis of decades of lies.