“Journalists should be tough when powerful people say untrue things,” writes the Books and Arts columnist for The Economist.
I’m with “Johnson,” that pseudonymous author, except for one thing. In calling President Trump a Big League liar, he himself seems to miss the whole truth, nothing but the truth.
At the very least, The Economist scrivener proves himself rather obtuse . . . especially for a column de plume tipping the hat to the great Samuel Johnson. Many of the Trumpian falsehoods he mentions are indeed whoppers. No doubt. But a few cry out for a more subtle reading.
After distinguishing between falsity, lying, and fantasizing, “Johnson” speculates that Trump may actually believe “his own guff.”
But then, about Trump’s murder rate statements, Johnson quickly runs off the rails: “Mr. Trump said something wildly wrong about something easily checkable, leaving an adviser, Kellyanne Conway, flailing to cover for him. . . .” But Conway did suggest that Trump may have been speaking about certain cities wherein the murder rate has gone up.
Trump often speaks as hyperbolist: murder has gone up in a few major cities; he relates the fact as if murder had gone up generally. This annoys sticklers. Me, included. But Trump’s been using the rhetoric of exaggeration.
You could call it the rhetoric of inexactitude.
It’s how he trolls.
Trump could also be charged with “truthiness,” comedian Stephen Colbert’s signature 2005 coinage about confidence in factoids for intuitive reasons, sans evidence.
But so might this “Johnson.” When subtle men miss homespun subtleties, one has to wonder whether they might miss it for . . . intuitive reasons.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.