It has been variously (and falsely) proclaimed over the last four years that we live in a “post-truth” era. We in fact no more live in a post-truth era than we live in a post-gravity era. A thing is true or not, independent of what people believe about it, and independent of whether or not people have come to cynically insist that truth no longer matters.
I will grant that people today are measurably more comfortable telling lies than they were when I was a child. But that has no bearing on whether or not a statement, in and of itself, is true or not. If people step off a tall building they will fall to the ground and die. Their disbelief in gravity will play no part.
So it makes no difference if Donald Trump tells a crowd of idiots that he won the state of Georgia in the last election and they cheer him for it. The fact remains that Donald Trump lost the election in Georgia. There is no doubt about this, only confusion among the willfully self-deceived. They didn’t kill the truth. Truth remains alive and well. Truth is not something that can be killed.
Truth can be discounted and mocked, of course. Of telling untruths, Francis Bacon said, “There is no vice, that doth so cover a man with shame, as to be found false and perfidious.” That may have been true in Bacon’s day, but it seems less so today. Donald Trump is “false and perfidious” dozens of times every day. So much so, many of us have become weary of noticing. But that doesn’t change the fact that he is false and perfidious more than just about anyone else, and certainly more by far than any president of the United States in history.
Trump should have been “covered in shame” for his constant lying from the very beginning. That he was not, that he was instead given undue respect by the mainstream media isn’t truth’s fault, it’s theirs. Trump has never earned our respect at any time in his misbegotten presidency. He should have been shunned and shamed and condemned and impeached for his constant lying from the very first.
But just as there is a difference in degree and severity in law between wilfully killing someone and accidentally killing them, there should also be a difference between wilfully and accidentally repeating a lie. In law, the difference in punishments between first degree murder and manslaughter can range in severity from as much as the death penalty for the former to as little as a few months in jail, or even no punishment at all, for the latter. Someone who tells an untruth by accident is not necessarily a liar. They are to blame for the untruths they repeat only to the extent to which they were being irresponsible for repeating them.
It is now demonstrably irresponsible for Trump supporters to believe Donald Trump and to repeat his lies. As far as we should be concerned, their irresponsible belief in Trump has long since reached the point of absurdity. They are no longer the deceived, they have become the deceivers. They are the wilfully faithless, the deliberately deceiving, the voluntarily glassy-eyed cultist idolaters. They have become the People of the Lie — and they stand without excuse or justification.
By noon on January 20, 2020, Donald Trump will have told on the order of 25,000 lies in the course of his misbegotten presidency. And those are the lies that we know about. That is a staggering number. But Trump will be gone, and his lies will cease to matter as much. But the People of the Lie will remain behind. They are Trump’s shameful legacy, and we are going to have to deal with them.
There are a million reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States, this has been another one. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.