Does watching Donald Trump lie make me dumber?

Donald Trump is like if the evil country club president in Caddyshack and Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack were the same character. “Hey everybody,” he yells in his underground bunker as hot Korean nuclei blast through our widening eyes. “We’re all gonna get laid!” He’s not as funny as Dangerfield or Ted Knight, much less both of them together. But he owns a lot more golf courses. Today your New York Times reports that one of his golf courses contains a plaque commemorating Civil War battle along a nearby stretch of the Potomac it calls “The River of Blood”:

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” the inscription reads. “The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’” The inscription, beneath his family crest and above Mr. Trump’s full name, concludes: “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!”

He put an exclamation point on the plaque. That’s a rookie mistake in the area of inscription. Also, that river of blood thing is made up. According to at least three regional historians, no battles were fought at the future site of Trump’s golf course. While soldiers sometimes crossed the river there, none of them died.

“How would they know that?” Trump asked when confronted with this information. He went on to say that several historians had told him of a battle there, declining to give their names, before saying that the historians had actually spoken to several of his employees, whose anonymity he also preserved.

This raises an interesting question: Can learning about thee president’s various insipid lies eventually cause my brain to shoot out of my nose like when you squeeze a Capri Sun? Like must I spend each day in astonishment at the next dumb elaboration of the last poorly constructed lie, or will the astonishment hormones build up until they finally explode and spray my face in an even layer across my windshield? In this scenario I’m just driving around, thinking about how Trump said no one can prove he didn’t bang Selena or whatever. One minute I’m alive, outraged for the 852nd consecutive day of the administration, and the next minute I’m dead—or not dead but driving without a face, bearing down on the accelerator and wildly twisting the wheel in the hopes that these movements coincide with correct driving, because I have no sense left but taste.

I was going to say that Trump put forward a classic cracked-plate defense with his multilevel evasion here, but fuck, man—when will we get something from the day’s experience besides an expanded taxonomy of lies? Is it just going to be Ecclesiastes from now on, marveling at how unfair everything is until we are dead? It’s times like these, when presidents are TV personalities who lied about Civil War battles in commemorative plaques on their golf courses, that you realize how useless outrage is. I deserve better than this, you think, looking at the daily news. Someone should treat me with respect. Then you feel the lash of your Korean overseer, and you drop your phone and get back to work. The whole country has gone to seed, and you know whose fault it is? Bernie Sanders.

Awful poem will not, in fact, be read at Trump’s inauguration

Lyric poet Joseph Charles McKenzie

When I first read “Pibroch of the Domhnall,” a lyric poem celebrating the presidency of Donald Trump, it was in the context of an Independent story that made it sound like the poem would be read at Trump’s inauguration. It won’t. Although “Pibroch of the Domhnall” is an occasional poem Joseph Charles McKenzie wrote for Trump’s inauguration, it is not his inaugural poem. Snopes makes that clear, and in so doing throws a little shade at the Independent for sharing the story on social media with the tagline “Donald Trump to pay tribute to British heritage at inauguration with poem about Scotland.”

That formulation crosses the line between misleading and untrue. Instead of calling “Pibroch of the Domhnall” a Trump inauguration poem and letting the reader conclude it’s the inauguration poem, this version explicitly says the poem will happen at the inauguration. But it’s not the headline; it’s a social media post. Should the Independent apply to its Facebook posts the same standards of fact it applies to news stories?

The knee-jerk answer is yes. The newspaper relies on its reputation for accuracy, and that reputation attaches to its name on Facebook as readily as it does in print. But do we therefore expect them to fact-check every tweet? Must they respond to every @ with the same ethics that guide the sports page? Or do we kind of expect from social media a modicum of just sayin’ stuff?

We probably agree the social-media portrayal of how this poem relates to Trump’s inauguration is dishonest and therefore bad. But I suspect we also agree that it’s not as bad as if they did it in the newspaper. If this is true, and we expect more scrupulous accuracy in the news, then it follows that we expect the amount of dishonesty on social media to be greater than zero.

Finally, society has developed a system of mass communication less trustworthy than the newspaper. That we would not only welcome this advancement but also hold it to a lower standard of truth than other media—even as we panic over “fake news”—suggests that truth is not our number-one priority when it comes to information.

We want to know the truth, of course. But we want to know the truth already; we want the truth to support our existing views. The “truth” that Trump’s inaugural poem is rhyming doggerel about how Barack Obama was a tyrant confirms our view of the new president as a classless boor. It matters that it’s not his official inauguration poem, but it doesn’t really matter. The theme of that untrue story is true.

My favorite stanza is the one that celebrates the defeat of academia:

Academe now lies dead, the old order rots,
No longer policing our words and our thoughts;
Its ignorant hirelings pretending to teach
Are backward in vision, sophomoric in speech.

I’m so sick of college policing my thoughts. This poem really captures something about the marriage between smug populism and conservative opportunism that gave us President Trump. They really ought to read it at his inauguration. But we ought not to spread that untrue story on social media, even though it’s what we want to do. Perhaps some of that old, thought-policing order is good for us.

Friday links! Showtime for democracy edition

Plump idiots suggest you are ruled by your emotions.

Supporters of a frothing demagogue suggest you are ruled by your emotions.

Now we come to the late stage of democracy, where we support the political system but feel the urge to save it by eliminating all people involved. The demos is not having its best year. The Republican nominee for president of the United States, Donald Trump, has whittled down his constituency to voters who do not care what he says or does—about 40% of the electorate, it turns out—and is now holding them up like a surgeon who pulls a tumor out of your chest to marvel at how big it is before you die. Hillary Clinton is Plato’s philosopher king compared to this maniac, but she remains the second most-disliked candidate in American history. She also remains the only major-party candidate who is not a groping, racist game show host. Today is Friday, and approximately 60 million people believe that man should be president. Won’t you fuck your feelings with me?

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Close Reading: Donald Trump on cybersecurity

Donald Trump calls Apple CEO Tim Cook to find out if his laptop has the internet.

Donald Trump asks Apple CEO Tim Cook if his laptop has the internet.

Alert reader/covert breeder John Smick sent me this passage from the transcript of a New York Times interview with Donald Trump. The story that emerged from that interview, in July, focused on his now-infamous refusal to commit to defending NATO allies. But he also had this to say about the importance of cybersecurity:

But certainly cyber has to be a, you know, certainly cyber has to be in our thought process, very strongly in our thought process. Inconceivable that, inconceivable the power of cyber. But as you say, you can take out, you can take out, you can make countries nonfunctioning with a strong use of cyber.

The management would like to remind you that this man is 70 years old. Close reading after the jump.

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Friday links! Oh good, ethnic nationalism edition

Yeah, it looks like we're doing this.

Yeah, it looks like we’re doing this.

Donald Trump spoke for 75 minutes at the Republican National Convention last night, alternately aggrandizing himself, predicting doom, and assuring us he’d fix it. The theme of the evening was Make America One Again, which was a refreshing change from Monday’s theme, Make America Scared of Brown People. Yet Trump seemed to double down on separation. He adjusted his promised ban on Muslims to a ban on people from countries Muslim terrorists have “penetrated.” He did not mention any black lives that may have mattered, but he presented cop killing as epidemic, even though fewer officers have been murdered during the Obama administration than during any administration in the last 30 years. Then Trump promised to “end crime and violence very soon.” Today is Friday, and the Republican Party has nominated for president of the United States an ethnic nationalist campaigning on law and order. Won’t you consider fixing up the attic with me?

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