Perhaps you’ve seen it up-close: a parent, an uncle, or maybe a boss with an almost visceral tendency to lie. The lie and the need for affirmation is never a one-off occurrence; you’ve seen its dynamic play out many times: “If validated, I will be happy; if not, I will be angry.”
You know that he knows he is lying, and he probably knows that you know he is lying, but none of that is actually important. It’s not the affirmation of truth being sought; it’s the confirmation of power. The dynamic in play is a tacit agreement between you and the liar. Acceptance of the lie confers amity to you, and control to the liar.
If you’ve not seen it up-close, you’ve had plenty of opportunity to view it from afar. Our former president put it out there for all to see on a daily basis.
That kind of momentum doesn’t end suddenly (unless death is involved) so it’s not surprising to see it continue beyond his presidency. His mother of all lies, the one they call The Big Lie, came upon his losing bid for a second term in office. The Big Lie, of course, is that Trump didn’t lose; the election was a fraud, a fraud perpetrated by evil Democrats that cheated patriotic Americans out of the blessings of his rightful second tour of duty.
For some strange reason, we’re often moved to doubt an obvious liar’s culpability, as if it’s unbelievable that he’s willfully unbelievable. Early on, even before his presidency, it was often asked, “Does Trump know when he is lying?” Peter Warski cited one early and obvious lie, but was uncertain of Trump’s mindfulness. An LA Times editorial list posited that Trump’s memory cells had a one-day capacity, rendering his lies to be inadvertent. Others, like Billy Bush, were quite certain of his self-awareness. Bush shared the infamous Access Hollywood bus ride with Trump and recalled his words: “Billy, look, you just tell them and they believe it. That’s it; you just tell them and they believe. They just do.”
Billy Bush had an up-close opportunity to hear the essence of lying explained by an “honest” liar. Lying isn’t an accidental misstatement of facts. It’s a conscious (however fleeting) effort to control the perception and/or behavior of others. To presume a liar is unaware of his purpose is a haughty and dangerous condescension. The presumption grants the liar a near pardon, and blinds the recipient(s) to the dynamic in play. The lie is not inadvertent. At inception, the liar is fully aware of his intent, even if masked by a sense of entitlement. He says what he says to control others. Never mind that he genuinely appears to “believe” the lie. Indeed, he must appear so; it’s a necessary part of the dynamic.
Let’s bypass about 30,000 lies and go to the big one, The Big Lie that’s still current. The seed for the lie was consciously planted before the 2020 votes were cast. Ahead of the balloting, Trump said, “Make sure, because the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged. Remember that. It’s the only way we’re going to lose the election.” That was foreplay for the lie, providing premeditated lubricant for insertion of the Big Lie. More than a year later, it’s still embraced by a majority of Republicans. Save for Fox News, the media seems fully on top of Trump’s voting fraud claim. It’s been shown over and over, even verified by Republican officials, that no meaningful fraud took place. But the lie lives on, bigger and louder than ever.
So, who believes the Big Lie? Actually, nobody; no one really believes it. Well, almost no one — if you’re shirtless and wearing a furry headdress with horns, maybe you do believe it, but you’re an exception. And if you’re among the 66% of Republican Party members (with shirts) who purport to believe the lie?
Well, you probably don’t; you don’t really believe it. You like the Big Lie, you might even live the Big Lie, but you don’t really believe it. You have fooled a lot of people though. Much of the media “credits” you with being duped into believing it. It’s condescension, much like the doubt once given to Trump’s cognition. It means you’re seen as gullibly naïve, as suckers to a con man. It’s also a dangerous misjudgment; it means you’re not seen for what you’re capable of. But then again, maybe you don’t see what you’re capable of either.
The dynamic of lying to yourself is similar to that of lying to someone else, and just as easy. A paraphrase of Trump’s revelation to Billy Bush sums it up: “You just tell yourself and you believe it; you just do.” It’s done for empowerment and the pursuit something blameworthy in a blameless sort of way. You lie to yourself and then pretend to believe it for inner harmony’s sake. Pretending to believe provides an ethical veil for the part of you that’s lying, and a pardon for the part of you that accepts it.
But donning a lie is not the same as believing a lie. The Republican 66% Big Lie proponents are not illiterate victims. They’re not country bumpkins deceived by an urban huckster. They’re mindful people willing to wear the Big Lie for the same reason Trump chose to fabricate it: for control. It’s what they do; it’s what all liars do to get what they want. The 66% accept the Big Lie because they like what Trump promised, and what he still offers. They profess the Big Lie because it justifies wanting more of him and suspends culpability.
The Big Lie is consciously adopted because it provides a facade of integrity to what’s already been done and justification for what’s yet to transpire. It’s currently being used as an excuse to usurp political representation from vast portions of the populace. All across our nation, the Party of Trump is actively working to impede meaningful suffrage and to control elections through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and Electoral College manipulation. Trump’s Big Lie gambit is an authoritarian attempt to circumvent the will of the people, an effort that likely, has only just begun.
What does it matter; who cares whether it’s belief or justification? Why quibble over semantics? It’s for this reason: Belief is tied to a fixed perception of reality; justification allows an open-ended course of action. The 66% have clearly embarked on a course of action: the pursuit of Trumpism. It first requires the reelection or installation of Donald Trump as president (or a willing protégé). It won’t stop there; the pursuit is open-ended. When the Big Lie becomes obsolete, another justification will take its place.
In for a penny, in for a pound; one lie leads to another.
The 66% are not guileless victims of deception. They know what they want and who offers it. They clearly know that the Big Lie is its vehicle. It’s not so clear however, that they know its final terminus.
There are little lies and big lies. The biggest lie is the one we tell ourselves, the one that justifies what shouldn’t be done. It’s never all done.
This content originally appeared on Dissident Voice and was authored by Vern Loomis.