President Trump lies. A lot. More than any previous president. He lies so much that I’ve begun to feel that we should budget a little less time to read the newest news about Trump and a lot more to read FactCheck.org, or Politifact, or the Washington Post Fact Checker so we get a more accurate, factual, understanding of the older news about things Trump has falsely claimed.
Trump lies so much that I’ve begun to see people arguing that we should get over it, or at least get over the idea that it’s a good use of time or media space to hold him to any sort of reasonable standard of accuracy or truthfulness. The argument there – even though it horrifies me – is that everyone knows he’s no stickler for factual accuracy, but his supporters and admirers don’t care. That might loop back to the supposedly brilliant insight of a few months ago that Trump’s supporters take him “seriously but not literally.”
I’m kind of a facticity nerd. I know there’s more to life, and to discourse, than just facts and careful use of language to discuss them. There’s logic. And there’s argument. I love a good, respectful argument about what conclusion can or should be drawn from a set of facts. But if the argument isn’t based on accurate facts, I can’t respect it. I have previously confessed that I don’t fully get how to take someone “seriously but not literally” if by “not literally” one means that that someone is lying or wrong about the facts on which his argument is based.
Anyway, an accurate grasp of the facts may not help much in a discussion with that portion of the electorate that is operating on a “seriously but not literally” basis, because at some level they understand that their hero is operating on a basis in which facticity has been downgraded or worse.
Because of my facticity nerdiness, I have trouble bringing myself to go there. But I’m working on it. In the meantime, I still keep trying to notice falsehoods and respect factual accuracy.
On that basis, in case you share my preference for factual accuracy, I just wanted to call your attention to a project by the New York Times editorial section that was published last week when I was offline. The Times claims to have catalogued most or all of the falsehoods the president has told publicly since he took office. Here it is.
They introduced it thus:
Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.
The Times believes that Trump said, publicly, something untrue every day for at least the first 40 days of his term, but the catalogue sets a somewhat higher standard for falsehoods that seems to require some more culpable intent to deceive. Here is how they described their standard for inclusion:
We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying.
I guess, like me, the Times can’t quite give up on the idea of calling out lies and falsehoods, although the current incumbent may be able to exhaust them.