Truth – Counterpropaganda Principle #1

Honest opposition is practical, moral and unbiased.

  • Truth is not the absence of propaganda; propaganda thrives in presenting different kinds of truth, including half truths, incomplete truths, limited truths, out of context truths. – Jacques Ellul [1]
  • Honest opposition is practical, moral, and unbiased. A false counterpropaganda message, if revealed, will be seen as biased as the propaganda it sought to oppose. [2]
  • Our arsenal of persuasion must be as ready as our nuclear arsenal and used as never before. — Edward R. Murrow, Director, U.S. Information Agency, 1963 [3]
  • And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  — John 8:32 New English Bible

Other reports and items of interest:
The Nine Principles of Propaganda begins HERE.
Trump – Our Psychopathic President begins HERE.
For a double-sided PDF copy of the principles of propaganda and counterpropaganda go HERE.
For a double-sided PDF copy of the twelve criteria of psychopathy go HERE.

Tracking Trump’s Lies

President Donald Trump picked up right where candidate and president-elect Trump left off – lying without restraint and – when caught – ignoring facts, buttressing his lies with additional lies, and blaming others. Trump had behaved like a lying con-man for years, moving from scam to scam: casinos bankrupted within a year, real estate investments that flop, thousands of contractors unpaid; mediocre steaks and ties at inflated prices; a phony university; beauty contests, modeling agencies and escort services which functioned as little more than shooting galleries for Trump and his cronies. Eventually no reputable bank would lend him money. Trump was relegated to licensing his name to others for their fraudulent real estate projects and schemes, and selling Florida real estate to Russian oligarchs at inflated prices, an operation which amounts to money laundering for Russians. The only thing that kept his shaky reputation afloat was “The Apprentice,” a semi-popular TV show over which he had little say and no control, but for what little success it had he takes full credit.

On Trump’s first full day of office, he kicked off his presidential lying career with a speech to the CIA which included this bizarre statement about the crowd at his inauguration:

“…it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument. And I turn on — and by mistake I get this network, and it showed an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that’s not bad, but it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around — you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed. So we caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.” FactCheck.org Transcript [4]

We count six lies in that statement.

Trump spokespersons Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway continued and expanded Trump’s absurdity. Spicer repeated the lie about the crowd going all the way to the Washington Monument, then added a few more lies. He later moved the goalposts with this unprovable claim: “I don’t think there’s any question it was the largest watched inauguration, ever.” Conway later introduced her now-famous “alternative facts” argument on “Meet The Press.” FactCheck.org [5]

“Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What — You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.” [5]

Pundits, politicians and citizens across America were – and still are – mystified that anyone would concoct such a silly lie on a silly subject, continue to lie about it for days in spite of photographic evidence disproving it, and tell his staff to lie and invent additional lies. This was not merely dishonorable, immature, ill-considered and ungracious-in-victory, it crossed over the line into some form of mental disorder. The ensuing debate over the exact nature of Trump’s mental disorder continues to today.

Figure 1. Two inaugurations, equivalent time of day & distance. Left: Trump’s Jan. 20, 2017. Right: Obama’s Jan. 20, 2009. (Source: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (L), Stelios Varias/File Photo)

Judge for yourself the relative crowd size. Trump inauguration on left at 12:01 pm, January 20, 2017. Obama inauguration on right, sometime between 12:07pm and 12:26pm on January 20, 2009. (Source: REUTERS.com) [6]

Only pathological liars are sufficiently brazen to utter and continue to support such petty, and easily disproven lies. At that time no one yet imagined the enormity of Trump’s capacity to lie. Some wide-of-the-mark pundits expressed expectations that Trump would stop his lying and immature behavior once he settled into the job. Twenty-four months on, the wise have lost all hope of ever seeing Trump change.

Tony Schwartz, who wrote “The Art of the Deal” (receiving only co-writer’s credit) for Trump, had this to say of Trump in a July 2016 New Yorker interview: “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.” If he were writing The Art of the Deal today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.” [7]

Strange advantage indeed.

Disproving Lies Fairly Takes Time

It takes far less time to utter a lie than to disprove it. This is one advantage the pathological liar has over the rest of us. Neither Trump nor any of his interpreters and re-phrasers have ever acknowledged or apologized for any of their factual errors and intentional lies. The major news organizations, magazines and daily newspapers of America have done a tremendous job of recording and disproving Trump’s lies, but pathological liars like Trump can easily stay far ahead of the pack. In the hours and days it can take to document and disprove a single lie, Trump can – and does –  spin out dozens more. Hundreds or thousands of man-hours per day would be required to keep up with Trump’s onslaught of lies.

Three organizations in particular have taken on this Herculean task: FactCheck.org , The Washington Post Fact Checker and PolitiFact.com .

These organizations investigate the lies and – with little or no hyperbole – report the results. For example, this was the conclusion of a recent PolitiFact.com report on just one of Trump’s innumerable fabulous tweets:

Tweeting about family separations at the border, Trump claimed, “we had the exact same policy as the Obama administration.”

That’s not true. Families were separated at the border as a result of a new Trump policy called “zero-tolerance.” There were some family separations under the Obama administration, but experts say not at the scale of the Trump administration’s and that they were relatively rare.

We rate Trump’s statement False. [8]

Truth is the best antidote for lies.

Washington Post Fact Checker is one of those who took on the task of tracking all of Trump’s lies. Through December 29, 2018, 709 days into office, Trump has made 7,643 “false or misleading claims.” (Note: Through Oct. 29, 2018, after 649 days the total was 6,420 “false or misleading claims.”) They have a chart of the running cumulative total and you can research any particular lie and see on which days he said it.

Based on their 12-30-18 chart, we created two additional charts. The first chart shows how many lies Trump told per month for the period January 20, 2017 – December 29, 2018. Starting at a mere 54 lies for the last 12 days of January 2017, he eventually climbed to 599 for September 2018, then more than doubled that for October, with 1205 lies. Trump must be very proud of his accomplishment. It’s unusual to be able to avoid truth so thoroughly that it dwindles to a distant dot on the horizon.

Figure 2. Trump lies per month for period Jan. 20, 2017 – Dec. 29, 2018. 7,643 lies in 709 days. (Source: Washington Post Fact Checker)

The second chart (below) shows the average lies per day for each month. Trump averages 5.1 lies per day through September 2017; 8 lies per day for October 2017 – May 2018; shoots up to almost 18 during June 2018 and 20 in September, then heads for the stratosphere during October (almost 39 lies per day) as he hit the campaign trail, stumping for anyone willing to be associated with him. After October 30, the site was not updated for several months, probably because the reporters either collapsed from exhaustion or had nervous breakdowns from dealing with this level of mendacity. The most recent update through December 29, 2018, brings the totals to 7,643 lies in 709 days for a great presidential average of 10.8 lies/day.

Figure 3. Trump monthly average lies per day, for Jan. 20, 2017 – Dec. 29, 2018. 7,643 lies in 709 days. (Source: Washington Post Fact Checker)

The overall pattern is this: a slow start as Trump gets used to being President, then hits his stride, then pours it on during and immediately after the mid-term campaign, then returns to his baseline lying rate of 7-10 lies per day.

During Trump’s October lying peak of 38.9 lies per day, assuming he was conscious for 16 hours/day, he averaged 2.43 lies/hour, or one lie every 24 minutes, 40 seconds. We don’t know how fast he Tweet-types, but that doesn’t leave him much time for activities mere mortals consider essential, like getting out of bed, eating, showering and going to the bathroom, brushing our teeth and combing our hair, dressing and going to work, then reversing the procedure at night. And, we might add, talking to other human beings without lying.

After the November election and his complete defeat in the house and across the nation, he dropped to his baseline lying rate in December, averaging only 8.4 (245 lies/29 days).

Looking this closely at Trump’s record of lying – the offhand manner in which lies continually foam out of his brain and onto his tongue – brings to mind Hannah Arendt’s comment about “the banality of evil.” She of course was writing about Adolf Eichmann’s workaday approach to his assignment to murder every Jew in the world. Trump seems equally blasé about his own behavior.

Eichmann’s banal horrors occurred prior to Arendt’s writing; Trump’s worst banal horrors may not have yet arrived.

Tracking Trump’s lies is a dirty job, but someone has to do it and the Washington Posts’ reporters and compilers have performed a patriotic service for America. Perhaps someday they’ll be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for this soul-crushing work. They deserve it.

This is the first installment in our series on counterpropaganda.
Other reports and items of interest:
The Nine Principles of Propaganda begins HERE.
Trump – Our Psychopathic President begins HERE.
For a double-sided PDF copy of the principles of propaganda and counterpropaganda go HERE.
For a double-sided PDF copy of the twelve criteria of psychopathy go HERE.

THE NINE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF COUNTERPROPAGANDA
Propaganda is the backdoor hack into your mind


TRUTH
– Honest opposition is practical, moral, and unbiased.
FOCUS – Address only one or at most two points.
CLARITY – Easily understood without further explanation.
RESONATE – Identify audience’s existing sentiments, opinions, and stereotypes that influence their perspectives, beliefs, and actions.
RESPOND – Lies not immediately refuted become the audience’s truth.
INVESTIGATE – Collect and analyze their propaganda to understand their message, target audience & objectives.
SOURCE – Expose covert sources of false propaganda.
REASON – Expose their logical fallacies. Human cognitive biases for rapid thought response make us vulnerable to faulty reasoning.

  •    REASON #8a – Logical Fallacies
  •    REASON #8b – Cognitive Biases
  •    REASON #8c – Continued Influence Effect of Misinformation
  •    REASON #8d – Debiasing Misinformation – Worldview and Backfire

DISSEMINATE – Share exposed propaganda with audiences not targeted; they can then recognize the lies and reciprocate.

Citations
1. Jacques Ellul, (1973). Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. New York :Vintage Books. Cited by Snow, Dr. Nancy. (No posting date). “Ten Things you need to know about Propaganda.” Retrieved 12-8-18 from: http://thirdworldtraveler.com/Nancy_Snow/10ThingsNeedKnowPropaganda.html
2. Based on Wikipedia – Counterpropaganda. Retrieved 12-8-18 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterpropaganda#Basis_in_truth
3. Murrow, Edward R., Director, U.S. Information Agency, 1963. Quoted in “Strategic influence : Public Diplomacy, Counterpropaganda, and Political Warfare (PDF). Waller, J. Michael, editor. (2008). Washington, DC: Institute of World Politics Press. pg. 10.
4. FactCheck.org. (2017 Jan. 21). “Remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence at CIA Headquarters.” Retrieved 1-19-19 from: https://transcripts.factcheck.org/remarks-president-trump-vice-president-pence-cia-headquarters/
5. Robertson, Lori and Farley, Robert. (2017 Jan. 23). “The Facts on Crowd Size,” FactCheck.org. Retrieved 1-19-19 from: https://www.factcheck.org/2017/01/the-facts-on-crowd-size/
6. Mason, Jeff and Rampton, Roberta. (2017 Jan. 21). “White Houses accuses media of playing down inauguration crowds,” Reuters.com. Retrieved 1-19-19 from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-media-idUSKBN15600I
7. Mayer, Jane. (2016 Jul. 25). “Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All,” The New Yorker. Retrieved 1-19-19 from: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all
8. Valverde, Miriam. (2018 Nov. 29). “Donald Trump falsely says family separations were Obama policy,” Politifact.com. Retrieved 1-19-19 from: https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/nov/29/donald-trump/donald-trump-falsely-says-family-separations-were-/
9. Kessler, Glenn, Kelly Meg, Rizzo, Salvador and Lee, Michelle Ye Hee. (Last updated 12-30-18). “Tracking all of President Trump’s false or misleading claims,” Washington Post. Retrieved 12-8-18 from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claims-database/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c182b01d4bd9

 

 

 

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