“Anybody can tell lies: There is no merit in a mere lie, it must possess art, it must exhibit a splendid and plausible and convincing probability; that is to say, it must be powerfully calculated to deceive.” — Mark Twain
Donald Trump’s constant lies are high art, cunningly calculated to deceive voters into believing he’s sane and qualified to be president.
Conversely, the relentless lies of this newspaper’s anonymous, online hate bandits are low, spray-painted graffiti, crudely calibrated to convince there’s scandal where none exists.
Both despise truth. Both compulsively lie even when everyone knows it.
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It’s as if they have a personality disorder.
The gulf between the craftsmanship of Trump’s high-art mendacity and the drive-by slashings of local online graffiti taggers is revealed in the sophistication of their work (or lack thereof) and its scale.
Both fancy themselves “leaders.” One leads a gaggle of grifters, malcontents and traitors — who’d as soon pawn our nation to Russian mobsters than allow Hillary Clinton into the White House — hustling lies on a grand stage. The online posers speak largely to themselves, hoping to influence … someone.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow writes that Trump “lies with a ferocious abandon.” PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website, notes that 70 percent of Trump’s public statements are false, mostly false or “pants on fire” false, the site’s worst rating.
A short list of Trump’s greatest hits:
▪ Invasion of Iraq: In an MSNBC forum Wednesday, Trump emphatically insisted he opposed the war from the beginning. He didn’t. BuzzFeed refutes Trump’s claim using his own words gleaned from recordings of The Howard Stern Show in 2002.
▪ Tax returns: Trump says he can’t release them because he’s under IRS audit, yet he’s produced no audit letter. When pushed in a “Good Morning America” interview, Trump blurted, “It’s none of your business.”
▪ 9/11/91: Trump continues to claim the 9/11 hijackers had wives in the United States who were in on the attack and returned to Saudi Arabia just beforehand. The 9/11 Commission Report said the hijackers had no wives in the United States.
Moreover, Trump continues to insist “thousands and thousands” of Muslims were “dancing in the streets” of New Jersey. PolitiFact gave this whopper its “pants on fire” rating.
▪ Birtherism: Despite definitive proof that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, and repeated statements by his peers that Obama is an American citizen, Trump refuses to apologize for his yearslong slander of the president’s eligibility to be president.
The list goes on and on. Trump’s entire modus operandi is to lie about himself and his opponent, just like local liars.
“There are 869 different forms of lying,” Mark Twain wrote, “but only one of them has been squarely forbidden. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
Anonymous local online rabble must not be aficionados of Twain — or the Ten Commandments. Bearing false witness is their preferred tactic.
Repeatedly, they fabricate allegations of wrongdoing against their targets, leaving victims with two choices.
One, ignore the slurs and allow the falsehoods to fester on the internet. Two, rebut the lies and descend into a back-and-forth quagmire with ghosts who take no public ownership of their lies or responsibility for the harm they cause.
For instance, beneath my previous column, someone using a fake Facebook identity posted: “Are you still utilizing the computers at the Morro Bay Library in an attempt to conceal your many online identities?”
And this: “Come clean and tell us how much money Adam Hill and (Bruce) Gibson pay you to spin truth into BS? Then you can start the healing process and attempt to become a real journalist. … Fire Adam Hill.”
Hiding behind a false identity doesn’t conceal the blatant shilling on behalf of Hill’s opponent this November.
The truth is, as I’ve written before, I’ve never taken a penny from Hill. The last time I was paid by Gibson for campaign consulting work was June 2014.
As for my “many online identities,” I have one, the one you’re reading, the one with my name on it, the one that owns my words and accepts their consequences.
Once said Virginia Woolf: “If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.”
Remember this the next time Trump and the anonymous online skulkers inflict their “art” on the world.
Liberal columnist Tom Fulks is a former reporter and opinion writer. He has been a political campaign consultant for many local races. His column runs in The Tribune every other Sunday, in rotation with conservative columnist Matthew Hoy.