Does Trump believe his crazy claims?

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2020

Stelter says he might: Last Thursday night—actually, it was early Friday morning—we watched the videotape of Donald J. Trump's latest press event.

Thanks to the invaluable Rev, you can watch the full videotape and read the full transcript. The commander in chief gone on and on for some 43 minutes—insisting, during the bulk of that time, that he'd actually won the election on November 3.

We're going to make a small confession here. As we watched him rant and rail, a question kept worming its way into our mind:

Does Trump believe his crazy claims? Frankly, it seemed that he did!

Trump ranted and railed, and howled at the moon, and then he ranted some more. Despite the craziness of his claims, it almost seemed that he believed the crazy things he said. 

On Sunday morning, the commander spent the better part of an hour ranting and railing, in similar ways, on Maria Bartiromo's Fox Business Network show. A few hours later, on CNN, Brian Stelter devoted the bulk of his weekly Reliable Sources program to the strange performance by Trump.

(Also, to the pathetic performance by Bartiromo. Today, we'll focus on Trump.)

Stelter spent his opening, 14-minute segment with two guests, Oliver Darcy and Amanda Carpenter. During the bulk of the segment, the trio assailed Donald J. Trump for his "lies."

Then, a commercial break occurred. When Stelter returned from the break, he started by saying this:

STELTER (11/29/20): Welcome back to Reliable Sources. I'm Brian Stelter.

I remember a day early in the Trump years when there were all these debates about whether to say the president was lying. Remember that? Was he lying? Was he just fibbing?

I remember Jeff Greenfield saying, "Brian, there is something worse than a lie. There is something worse in a lie. There's a delusion.

"When you are lying, you know it. When you are delusional, you don't." He wanted to remind me there is something more dangerous than a liar—someone who is delusional. 

What do you think is going on now? What do you see happening with the White House, with the Trump White House? Is it delusion? Is that what's happening?

Stelter had spent the bulk of his first fourteen minutes assailing Trump for his "lies." Now, he raised a possibility at which he'd only occasionally hinted during that opening segment:

Now, Stelter suggested the possibility that Trump hasn't been lying at all. He suggested a possibility he said was even worse:

He suggested the possibility that Trump believes the crazy things he's saying—that the commander in chief is "delusional."

Full disclosure! After directly raising that possibility, Stelter continued in the manner shown:

STELTER (continuing directly): Well, my next guest says that the president's behavior, the outgoing president's attacks against the election integrity are attacks on reality itself. 

Jonathan Rauch wrote this back in 2018. He was early onto this. He called it "The Constitution of Knowledge." He is now turning it into a book, and he joins me now. He's a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributor for The Atlantic.

Jonathan, "delusion." I've always been afraid—not afraid.

I've always been sensitive about using that word, cautious about using that word in the Trump years, not wanting to know—not wanting to assume I know what's going on in the president's head.

What do you see? What do you see? Is "delusion" a fair word for these election lies?

Was "delusion" a fair word for the commander's "Lies?" Yes, that's what he said.

By now, Stelter was almost completely confused. And when Rauch began talking, it turned out that  he wasn't much better.

In how many ways did Stelter's statements in that passage fail to make sense? Let us count the ways! But in the interest of maintaining our own sanity, let us do so some other day.

For now, we'll summarize our main point:

Stelter raised the possibility that Trump believes his crazy claims. Seeming to agree with Greenfield, he said that such a person isn't lying, or a liar.

He said a person like that is "delusional." 

For today, let's stop right here. But please remember the basic point:

Stelter raised the possibility that Donald J. Trump believes his crazy claims. We've wondered about that possibility too. 

We'll continue this rumination in the days which follow. It's a rumination about Donald J. Trump, but also about the remarkably limited intellectual skills of the upper-end mainstream press.


37 comments:

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  2. While in my dictionary, the first definition of “lie” is “deliberate falsehood”, the third definition is “inaccurate or false statement.” So Somerby apparently objects to Stelter calling Trump’s statements about the election “lies” but being hesitant to call them “delusions” because he didn’t want “to assume I know what's going on in the president's head.” But there is no contradiction if you use the other accepted definition of “lie.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right. For months Somerby has been calling Trump deeply disordered and has been questioning his sanity. It makes no sense that he should be skittish about the term delusional, which seems to fit in well with his previous descriptions of Trump. I think that the word delusional is an apt descriptor that we should have been using all along.

      The word is also useful for understanding Trump voters, especially the 45% of them who are white evangelical/born again fundamentalist Christians. They share Trump’s cognitive style, best described as arrogant delusionality.

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    2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2211368118301050
      “Belief in Fake News is Associated with Delusionality, Dogmatism, Religious Fundamentalism, and Reduced Analytic Thinking”

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  3. It is certainly possible for a snake-oil salesmen like Trump to become delusional and believe his own lies. Of course, this implies that the lying preceded the delusion. And that trump lies and has always lied is proven by his use of the term “truthful hyperbole” in his decades-old book to describe lying as a negotiating tactic.

    Trump may be delusional. But it also serves the purpose of shaping the fictional narrative in the minds of Trump voters that Biden is an illegitimate president, just as birtherism was a way to delegitimize Obama. That this may be deliberate is shown by the way many other supposedly sane republicans are on Trump’s bandwagon about election fraud.

    Lying or truthful hyperbole is an age-old tactic employed in politics and marketing. It is usually perpetrated by people who know what they are doing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Does Trump Believe His Crazy Claims?"

    Fox told him he wasn't a socialist, and Trump is crazy enough to believe it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Trump's delusions are willful delusions: he shrouds himself in ignorance and allows only a trickle of information, which supports his "delusions" to reach his mind. He's delusional as a matter of practice or choice.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Those guys weren't confused, as Somerby suggests. They left open possibilities because they couldn't see inside Trump's head. Statler is using suggestions to stimulate discussion. Until and unless Trump is examined by a mental health professional, no one can know what is going on with him.

    That said, Somerby should read Trump's book, The Art of the Deal. He talks about strategic lying. Of course Trump lies and why would anything think that a man who lies about so many things, as a habit and way of interacting with others, believes his own lies. He uses lies to get what he wants. Now he wants to not be a loser, so he is telling lies to convince others that he didn't lose, that the election was actually won but was stolen from him. It is face-saving. It isn't delusional.

    To believe that Trump is delusional, you would have to explain the reports from many sources now that Trump does know that he lost the election and will have to leave the White House in January. His behavior shows that he is not delusional but lying. He is screwing with Biden and planning for his departure. He is not announcing appointments for his cabinet. He didn't even both to plan for his second term -- he's known he would lose for a long time, just as he thought he would lose in 2016.

    The question is why Somerby keeps working so hard to convince us that Trump is crazy. I am beginning to think that Somerby is delusional about the depth of evil that a man like Trump can sink to, leading Republicans like a pied piper toward hell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trump is also telling these lies to keep his followers contributing to his fight to combat election fraud, most of which goes to his campaign (in other words, into his own pockets). He has to keep this lie going or the flow of cash will stop.

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    2. He's crazy like a fox.

      Kevin Drum agrees: https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2020/12/donald-trump-has-raised-over-100-million-for-his-personal-use/

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    3. I heard he is selling his urine on Ebay. And blood. (Trump)

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  7. Trump makes little effort to tell the truth. He says whatever he thinks will help achieve his goal. Most politicians do this (e.g., Obama's promise that you could keep your doctor), but Trump does it more than the others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Obama "promising" that you can keep your doctor is not even in the same ballpark. Some people -- most -- were able to keep their doctor. It nowhere near the constant prevarication tp which Trump subjects us daily. The bizarre conspiracy theories, incessant name-calling, blame-shifting, evasion, and on and on. It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to make this comparison.

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    2. David, I could maybe cast a spell to make you less stupid. What do you think? You got a bitcoin atm in your neck of the woods?

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    3. David repeats his zombie canard because David has no integrity.

      As David knows, Obama promised you could keep your health plan, and this was in fact the truth; when the ACA was passed, all current health plans were grandfathered in. So indeed you could keep your health plan (and doctor).

      David's scold is a lie. David lies. After Wednesday comes Thursday. What a fucking scumbag David is.

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    4. I lost my doctor and coverage the week ACA went into effect. (Blue Cross) (I guess I could have "kept it" if I had signed up for one of the other plans they were offering me that were 3x as much.)

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    6. I popped a zit on my ass last night and it was full of socialist larva.

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    7. Lazy even for poor David.

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  10. Mental illness and intentional deceit aren't mutually exclusive.

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