Building a real “truther” movement… We need an army

I know I should be posting about the fact that the entire Environmental Protection Agency was essentially put on ice this morning, or that Trump just hinted about the possibility of martial law in Chicago, or that the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipeline projects have been brought back to life by executive action, but all I feel compelled to write about right now about are Trump’s increasingly brazen lies. I realize that it’s all likely a stunt, somethng to keep us off-balance and distracted while the agencies that exist to protect us are being gutted, and our public assets are being given away to the wealthy donor class, but, regardless of how hard I try, I find that I keep coming back to the lies, which seem to be growing more outrageous by the day, to the point where, yesterday, Trump told CIA employees that the skies over D.C. became “really sunny” as he was concluding his inauguration speech, despite the fact that, as we all saw with our own eyes, it remained cloudy and raining throughout.

It’s one thing to lie about things that are difficult to prove, like whether or not you exchanged messages with the Kremlin during the election, but who lies about things that are so easily disproven? Who says it was sunny outside when it wasn’t? Who says that up to “a million and a half” people were are the inauguration, when actual photos exist that tell a much different story? But yet he does it. Trump not only lies with reckless abandon, but he refuses to let go when proven wrong. He digs in his heels, he fights, and he somehow convinces a good number of our fellow Americans to disregard their senses and accept his version of truth. And, like a lot of people, I just can’t turn away from it. I just can’t accept that we, as a nation, are actually debating the existence of “alternate facts.” I guess, in retrospect, given how Republicans have dealt with issues like global climate change for the past several decades, telling us that 99% of scientists can’t be trusted, it shouldn’t be a surprise, but I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this is actually the world we now live in. And it’s completely draining my outrage reservoir, leaving very little for the evil that’s actually being done right now by way of executive order. [Speaking of which, I just heard that Trump is expected to sign the executive order for the border wall tomorrow.]

What consumed me today was the news that, last night, Trump, meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, claimed yet again that he not only won the electoral vote but also the popular vote this past November, suggesting that 3 million to 5 million votes cast for Clinton were cast by “illegals.” [The official vote count has Trump losing the popular vote by over 2,864,000.] And he makes this claim in spite of the fact that it’s been debunked by very credible sources several times. This instance is so egregious, in fact, that the New York Times, in a headline published this morning, called him out for being a “liar”, which is an incredibly big deal for the paper of record. But there’s really no other way to say it. It’s a boldfaced lie, with absolutely no basis in reality.


[“President Trump used his first official meeting with congressional leaders on Monday to falsely claim that millions of unauthorized immigrants had robbed him of a popular vote majority,” the Times reported, “a return to his obsession with the election’s results even as he seeks support for his legislative agenda.”]

While Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called Trump to task for his comments, I can’t find much evidence of others in Congress doing the same, which concerns me greatly. Here, for those of you who haven’t read it, is what Graham told reporters.

“To continue to suggest that the 2016 election was conducted in a fashion that millions of people voted illegally undermines faith in our democracy. It’s not coming from a candidate for the office, it’s coming from the man who holds the office. So I am begging the president, share with us the information you have about this or please stop saying it. As a matter of fact I’d like you to do more than stop saying it. I’d like you to come forward and say having looked at it I am confident the election was fair and accurate and people who voted voted legally. Cause if he doesn’t do that, this is going to undermine his ability to govern this country.”

When asked about this most recent lie earlier today, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the President, saying that Trump does feel as though millions of Americans voted illegally “based on studies and information he has.” When asked if Trump might make this evidence public, or call for a voter fraud investigation, Spicer responded by saying, “maybe we will.” And people, for the most part, don’t seem to be up in arms about this. [Apparently, it would seem, when a President lies about receiving a blowjob, it’s an impeachable offense, but when he lies about the sanctity of our entire electoral system, it’s something we’re supposed to just accept.]

And, with that, I’ve spent another evening of my life digging for information about a specific Trump lie instead of sharpening my pitchfork, lighting my torch, and taking to the street.

Like I said at the beginning of the post, I’m torn as to how much time I should devote to Trump’s lying. Or at least I was. I think, over the course of writing this, I’ve come to the conclusion that the truth is something worth fighting for. How this will manifest itself here on the site, I’m not sure, but I’m slowly forming a kind of platform for myself that includes things like widening voter access, non-partisan redistricting, campaign finance reform, strengthening public education, and funding alternative energy research, and defending the truth is definitely going to be part of it. Yes, I do think these brazen lies of Trump’s, which are now also being echoed by administration officials like Spicer and Conway, are in large part made just to keep us off balance, and divide us, and force those on the far right even further to the “there is no truth” fringes, but, if we don’t fight back, the entire foundation upon which this nation is built is likely to rot and crumble beneath our feet.

Where there’s no truth, there’s no future.

Without facts, there’s no science.

And, without science, we might as well all be dead.

As for how we fight on behalf of truth, I’m not sure. I guess we could wear something distinctive, like safety pins, or knitted pussy hats. Or maybe we could start a new organization, like the Tea Party, only built on fact and respectful debate instead of conspiracy theory and fear. Or maybe we could all be signs in the windows of our homes saying something like, “This Family Believes in Facts.” Or maybe we just demand that our leaders sign an oath, assuring us that they’re defend the truth. That would be a pretty good start, wouldn’t it? I mean, it worked for Grover Norquist, who, for decades, successfully forced Republicans to sign his tax-cutting pledge. Why wouldn’t it work to put a pledge in front of our elected representatives demanding that they stay tethered to the real, fact-based world? Of course, if Republicans signed, they’d have to cede the fight over global climate change, but maybe some, seeing where these lies have gotten us, are ready.

Here, on the subject of holding our elected representatives accountable when it comes to defending the truth, is something that Dan Rather shared yesterday on social media.

These are not normal times. These are extraordinary times. And extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

When you have a spokesperson for the president of the United States wrap up a lie in the Orwellian phrase “alternative facts”…

When you have a press secretary in his first appearance before the White House reporters threaten, bully, lie, and then walk out of the briefing room without the cajones to answer a single question…

When you have a President stand before the stars of the fallen CIA agents and boast about the size of his crowds (lies) and how great his authoritarian inaugural speech was…

These are not normal times.

The press has never seen anything like this before. The public has never seen anything like this before. And the political leaders of both parties have never seen anything like this before.

What can we do? We can all step up and say simply and without equivocation. “A lie, is a lie, is a lie!” And if someone won’t say it, those of us who know that there is such a thing as the truth must do whatever is in our power to diminish the liar’s malignant reach into our society.

There is one group of people who can do a lot – very quickly. And that is Republicans in Congress. Without their support, Donald Trump’s presidency will falter. So here is what I think everyone in the press must do. If you are interviewing a Paul Ryan, a Mitch McConnell, or any other GOP elected official, the first question must be “what will you do to combat the lying from the White House?” If they dodge and weave, keep with the follow ups. And if they refuse to give a satisfactory answer, end the interview.

Facts and the truth are not partisan. They are the bedrock of our democracy. And you are either with them, with us, with our Constitution, our history, and the future of our nation, or you are against it. Everyone must answer that question.

So how do we fight back on behalf of the truth? Do we start a Rosie the Riveter like campaign? Do we take some message to the streets, tagging all of America over a single weekend with a simple message? Do we confront our elected officials, demanding that they either stand up to the lies or step aside? Let me know your thoughts and ideas. I feel like a fight, and I think this is the fight I want to have.

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  1. stupid hick
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    When will you liberals finally figure out your addiction to facts and reason, and going high when they go low, as noble as it sounds, is why Trump keeps beating you? It’s time to put your precious facts away and try something different. It’s a mistake to bring your finest reality-based arguments to battle Trump. Look at it this way, are your facts worth more than Trump’s lies? Yes? Then why risk exposing them to damage. Take them out of the game, so they’ll be safe and ready to use against a more appropriate opponent. Against someone like Trump, you need to bring your cheapest, most dispensable, bullshit and innuendo. Don’t waste your good ammo on him, it won’t work anyway. He and his base are immune to reason. They have a proven weakness for fake bullshit and innuendo, however, so why do you refuse to fight fire with fire?

  2. Morbid Larson
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Trump is going to make such a mess out of the economy and international relations that he will burn himself on his own.

  3. Jean Henry
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    stupid hick’s gas lighting schtick is getting old. And there’s no future in her strategy. None at all.. for any of us.

  4. stupid hick
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Jean, really, I’m just trying to help, but if you’re comfortable playing your noble game and continuing to be the noble loser it’s OK and I will still like you. But consider this. Has anyone seen Trump’s tweet of the framed and signed photo he was gifted of his inauguration, that shows the huge crowd in DC? And he tweets his gratitude because he obviously thinks it vindicates his claims. Then someone points out the date on the photo is Jan 21, the date of the women’s march, NOT Jan 20, the date of his inauguration? That should be a model of how you fight Trump. If you are the photographer, you offer him irresistible bait he can’t resist. If you are a twitterer, you point out that the photo is actually evidence of his weakness, not his strength. Is it really a photo of the crowd for the women’s march? Who cares, say it anyway, and keep insisting it is.

  5. Kim
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    You raise an interesting point. How can congressional Republicans come out against the President’s lying when they’ve built their careers lying about things like the existence of global climate change?

  6. Jeff Irwin by proxy
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Jeff Irwin from Facebook.

    From my time in the legislature, I am guessing that Donald Trump knows that his inaugural crowd was smaller. In the Michigan legislature I would hear it over and over again: laws attacking womens health providers were about protecting women’s health; voter ID laws were about election integrity; and reducing protections for workers would liberate those employees for bigger and better opportunities in the workplace. At least those issues are complex enough to allow people to fool themselves.

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Stupid hick– I have a strategy for my personal involvement in creating the necessary change in the world. And it is strategic and structural, not goody two shoes. But I don’t see any future in playing the short term win game of gotcha politics. I’ll leave that up to late night talk show hosts, who have been doing it for years with no discernible impact on the electoral process.

    The press runs on conflict. Our individualistic society is obsessed with difference not finding common ground, and will always gravitate to stories that position their side as the winner. But that doesn;t win elections. Strategy wins elections. The Dems have all demographics in their favor. This political moment, as Obama said, is a comma, not a period. I’m not interested in furthering tribalism in any form. I’m interested in engaging people where they are and moving them forward by pleading to their better selves. I think that is the kind of rhetoric that has historically proven effective to move the nation forward. We need hopeful rhetoric and solid practical strategy and an understanding of progress as a process not a perfected static state. The rest is noise. Gotcha politics did not gather a million feminists in DC, 3/4 million in LA. half a million in NYC, and millions more from Alaska to Antarctica. Step aside and let us past.

    You have put forward the same advice for months now. Any of us who would take it to heart have, and the rest have thought it through and decided against for their own reasons. It’s time to move on to new subject matter.

  8. Meta
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Form an article posted by The Nation yesterday that includes a quote from former Representative Irwin.

    “Donald Trump Intentionally Lies to Us”

    On the third full day of Donald Trump’s attempt at a presidency, his press secretary insisted that “our intention is never to lie to you.” On the same day, Donald Trump intentionally lied to us. During his first official meeting with congressional leaders, the 45th president claimed that the reason he lost the national popular vote on November 8 was because 3 million to 5 million “illegals” cast ballots for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    Two days later, on the fifth full day of his presidency, Trump doubled down on his big lie, and turned it into a threat; tweeting on Wednesday morning that: “I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal…”

    The news that Trump was again peddling “voter fraud” fantasies had headline writers struggling with the challenge posed by a prevaricating president.

    “Without evidence, Trump tells lawmakers 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote,” declared the Washington Post topline.

    USA Today went with “Trump Again Makes Debunked Claim: ‘Illegals’ Cost Me Popular Vote.”

    “Trump talks replacing Obamacare, reiterates unsubstantiated voter fraud claims,” read the headline on CNN’s website.

    The New York Times got it right: “Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers.”

    It is vital to be clear about the fact that Trump is lying—intentionally, deliberately, and consistently—about so-called “illegal” voting.

    There are two overarching reasons why clarity counts:

    1. Claims about “illegal voting,” made by Trump and others, have been used as an excuse to enact laws that make it harder for Americans to vote in states across this country. Election observers have argued that voter-suppression measures played a significant role in giving Trump narrow wins in the handful of states that handed him an Electoral College victory and the presidency. “We have a president-elect who was elected literally with two thumbs and eight fingers on the scale in terms of depressed, suppressed votes in communities all across the country,” says NAACP President Cornell William Brooks.

    Even before Trump tweeted on Wednesday about launching his investigation — which will only heighten tensions over election rules — Republican officials around the country were moving to make it even harder to vote. After the Michigan House endorsed strict Voter ID requirements in early December, The Detroit News reported that state Representative Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said: “‘There’s certainly no proof’ that any voters who cast ballots without photo identification last month were committing fraud, but they or their peers could nonetheless face a ‘modern-day poll tax’ under the legislation.” Irwin explained: “This is going to cause confusion and chaos at the polls. There’s going to be arguments, voters aren’t going to understand, and long lines are going to get even longer. Maybe that’s the point.”

    2. Trump’s popular-vote defeat is an obsession of the new president. He returns regularly to the issue of his missing mandate and the questions it raises about the legitimacy of his presidency. Monday’s incident was not the first time that Trump lied about “illegal” voting.

    In November, he tweeted: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” and then declared: “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California—so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias—big problem!”

    Trump’s claims were false. Election officials said so. Journalists who observed the election and reviewed Trump’s claims about it said so. The investigative journalism project ProPublica reported: “We had 1,100 people monitoring the vote on Election Day. We saw no evidence the election was ‘rigged.’” ProPublica noted that its reporters had found “no evidence that undocumented immigrants voted illegally.”

    Donald Trump and his aides—including Spicer, who on Tuesday dutifully defended his boss’s latest lie as the expression of a “long-standing belief” on the part of the president—could not have missed last fall’s challenges, clarifications, and headlines. The Trump team cannot be unaware of the reality that, as Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison says: “There is no record of millions of people who are not authorized to vote voting in this election. The reason that Donald Trump lost the popular vote is because most Americans don’t prefer him.”

    So when Trump pushes the “millions of people who voted illegally” line now—not as the president-elect but as the occupant of the Oval Office—he is using the bully pulpit of the presidency to deliberately deceive the American people. And when he proposes an investigation of a “problem” that does not exist, he engages in an Orwellian abuse of the power of that office to spread a big lie.

    The truth is this: Fifty-four percent of Americans voted for someone other than Donald Trump for president. Hillary Clinton won 65,844,610 votes for president, while Donald Trump received just 62,979,636 votes. That’s a 2,864,974 popular-vote victory for Clinton. Donald Trump is the president. But he has no mandate. That fact has so unhinged Trump that he is now shaming himself and his office by promulgating obvious lies.

    Read more:

  9. Maria Goodrich
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I don’t have anything concrete to add yet, but this is one of the overarching issues that is weighing on me most heavily. I had a conversation with one of Debbie Dingell’s staffers about this on Monday – neither of us had a concrete vision for exactly what form the battle against “alternative facts” takes, but I think it is one of our most important fights.

  10. BrianB
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    It may be a valid stategy to point out lies and rally around facts, but only inasmuch as those facts support what others believe to be true. The battle going on isn’t between truth and lies in the observable world, it’s happening in our brains. Any scientific fact that you can name came into existence through a human brain observing it and sharing that obersevation with other human brains who agreed with it. Trump sees truth vs lies as a sucker’s game, there’s no negotiation in it. He understands that right and wrong don’t really exist, only agreement and disagreement. And he’s using his pesidential power to tilt our reality to his advantage. Anyone presenting facts that don’t support him is the enemy: the press, the EPA, academics and so on will be removed from the conversation, protesters will be called unhinged, science will only be measured by its financial value to his interests. So when they deregulate everything and the money grab is on, it will be like Regan’s 80s on Steroids and only mother nature, nuclear annihilation, or the collective agreement of american citizen’s brains taking action against it will stop it. So, we can’t just keep pointing out trump’s lies and congratulating ourselves for knowing the truth, we need to start showing people evidence that those lies are affecting them negatively and convince them to help us put an end to it. It would be an easier task if the education system wasn’t gutted. I hate to think about this discourse devolving into meme wars, but that seems to be where it’s headed.

  11. Jean Henry
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Trump can’t handle the taunts. I’m not sure it’s wise to provoke the bear except on issues of substance. We are too often diverted into bullying the bully rather than staying focused on all the shitty policy in the pipeline. His handlers are (mostly) in control of the nut job. They decide what gets out and when. Getting in a twitter/meme war with Trump (or paying too much attention to his tweets) only aids the distraction agenda of his handlers.

    Everyone, including Putin, knows you win over a narcissist by buttering him up, not poking at him. I’m not prepared to do that, but it would be the most effective strategy to moving him towards policy that was less damaging. the second best strategy for dealing with a narcissist is to wait for them to implode. And he will.

  12. Lynne
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if anything will come of this but I am in a facebook group dedicated to opposing Mike Bishop and right now the idea is that we need to find a moderate republican or a liberal who can pose as one. One thing about Republicans is that they value loyalty as a virtue and often will remain loyal to the party even to the point of saying they believe the lies. Many don’t pay close attention and just vote for the R. So we are working to find someone to run in the primary, where a small number of voters can have a pretty big impact.

    The platform so far

    Reduce deficit spending (single payer would go a long way and as long as we are vague about the actual plan, we could sneak it past)
    Lower taxes (a lie but so what, they don’t care about lies)
    Freedom (we don’t have to say what that means, let everyone define it for themselves)
    Preserving public land for hunting

    Basically this group has decided that in a very gerrymandered district it is fair to join the party and run a RINO. I hope it works .

  13. Jean Henry
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    This seems like one way to gather the troops– the media troops anyway.

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

  15. Linh Song
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    “As Cold War turns to Information War, a new fake news police combats disinformation”

  16. Jesse Miller
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    As I see it, the two major things we as progressives need to do are to stop addressing Trump’s lies head-on and to figure out how to convey the truth with the same efficacy as lies are currently.

    Social research has shown time and time again that debunking does little more than reinforce previously held notions. The right has also been waging a well-coordinated campaign to undermine reputable sources of information – news organization and scientists – to the point where, even if those sources attempt to get out in front of a topic, they are immediately met with skepticism or dismissed. It’s the same campaign the right had been waging against Clinton for years prior to the election and the Democratic Party failed to recognize the full extent of how damaging that campaign was and to adjust accordingly.

    On the Media focused a lot of their show of two weeks ago on this topic as it related to journalism:

    There are some fantastic segments on theories for how to cover the lies and tweets. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    In terms of getting people to respect and recognize facts and truth again, I think the best (and perhaps only) way is to strengthen our education system. This however is a difficult and long-term plan and not something that helps us in the here-and-now. For that, I’m not sure, but I am sure that our current approach of calling out liars isn’t effective.

  17. Jessica
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I am struggling with this as well. It was a topic on 1A recently. *Edit: having trouble linking to the episode but it’s on their podcast site.

    Also, an interesting article.

  18. Jean Henry
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 11:30 pm | Permalink


  19. Donald Harrison
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    We need to double down on ways for the majority of people to trust in a baseline of what’s true – time for “double vetted” news. Whatever ways work in this new world we’re in, we need to rebuild the strength of facts by a factor of ten.

  20. Jean Henry
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The lesson I draw from the Women’s March, and especially the frustration expressed afterwards by POC, who did not represent in large enough numbers (reasons why– complex, but essentially they say about not wanting to participate in any more liberal white-centering political events) towards white feminists, who represented in unprecedented numbers, I think the work is to desegregate and diversify our lives and learn to practice inclusion. And I’m not talking about just white people. We simply can not mount a resistance if we exhibit tribalism ourselves. We have to do the work of integration. Or the marginalized will continue to be pitted against one another which only serves Trumpism. And we are woefully divided. And focussing on economic solutions only will not fix it. Denying it’s a factor on the weakness of the left will certainly not fix it. And honestly if POC don’t want to integrate and participate then we can’t fix it. I’m going to keep marching and resisting, but we have a lot of work to do before the intersectionality finds it’s ability to intersect and defeat Trump.

  21. Jean Henry
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    An alternative tack via Masha Gessen to Stupid Hicks meme wars and arguing endlessly about facts– picot to solutions>
    (also she writes beautifully)
    “Let us imagine the conversation we would be having if we were not preoccupied with Mr. Trump’s denial of the C.I.A.’s conclusions. We would now be discussing the appropriate response to the hacking. We would be talking about consequences for the American electoral process in general and for the results of this election in particular. We would be asking why it matters if Russia’s hacking efforts were intended to benefit Mr. Trump. But in the heat of arguing about facts, journalists and pundits have acted as though the answers to these questions are obvious. They are not.”

  22. Jean Henry
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    This is unbelievable, but I guess if our President is a misinformation factory than BAnnon is right, the press is the opposition party.

    Totalitarian creep is looking like a sprint.

  23. Jean Henry
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

  24. Cassandra
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    I was just about to post this, but I see that Jean (above) beat me to it:

    NYT: Trump Strategist Steve Bannon Says Media Should ‘Keep Its Mouth Shut’

    Each day, the authoritarian leanings of the new administration are being revealed in greater, and starker detail. What, for many people, initially provoked eye-rolling and disbelief is increasingly turning into genuine fear and dread …

  25. Cassandra
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    And so it begins …

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