July 11, 2018 – As the political season heats up, Trump is ramping up his lies through his three amplifiers: Fox News, rallies, and Twitter.
According to The Fact Checker’s database, the average daily rate of Trump’s false or misleading claims is climbing.
The problem isn’t just the number or flagrancy of the lies – for example, that Putin and the Russians didn’t intervene in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump, or that the Mueller investigation is part of a Democratic plot to remove him.
And it’s not just that the lies are about big, important public issues – for example, that immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans, or trade wars are harmless.
The biggest problem is his lies aren’t subject to the filters traditionally applied to presidential statements – a skeptical press, experts who debunk falsehoods, and respected politicians who publicly disagree.
The word “media” comes from the term “intermediate” – that is, to come between someone who makes the news and the public who receives it.
But Trump doesn’t hold press conferences. He doesn’t meet in public with anyone who disagrees with him. He denigrates the mainstream press. And he shuns experts.
Instead, his lies go out to tens of millions of Americans every day unmediated.
TV and radio networks simply rebroadcast his rallies, or portions of them.
At his most recent rally in Great Falls, Montana, Trump made 98 factual statements. According to the Washington Post’s fact checkers, 76 percent of them were false, misleading or unsupported by evidence.
For example, Trump claimed that “winning the Electoral College is very tough for a Republican, much tougher than the so-called ‘popular vote,’ where people vote four times, you know.”
The claim ricocheted across the country even though countless studies have shown that Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud and abuse are simply not borne out by the facts.
Meanwhile, over 50 million Americans receive his daily tweets, which are also brimming with lies.
Recently, for example, Trump tweeted that Democrats were responsible for his administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border (they weren’t), and that “crime in Germany is way up” because of migration (in fact, it’s down).
Around 6 million Americans watch Fox News each day and relate what they see and hear to their friends and relations.
Fox News is no longer intermediating between the public and Trump. Fox News is Trump. Many of his lies originate with Fox News; Fox News amplifies the ones that originate with Trump.
Fox News’s Sean Hannity is one of Trump’s de facto top advisers. Trump has just appointed Bill Shine, the former number two at Fox News, as his deputy chief of staff for communications.
No democracy can function under a continuous bombardment of unmediated lies.
So what are we to do, other than vote November 6 to constrain Trump?
First, boycott Fox News’s major sponsors, listed here. Vote with your wallet and starve the beast. Get others to join you.
Second, attend Trump’s rallies, as distasteful as this may be. You’re entitled to attend. He is, after all, the president of the entire country.
Third, sign up for his tweets, and respond to his lies with the simple: “b.s.” You can sign up here.
Fourth, write to Twitter and tell its executives to stop enabling Trump’s lies. Its contact information is here.
In addition, as the Times’ Farhad Manjoo suggested recently, Twitter’s employees should be encouraged to make a ruckus – as did Amazon workers who pushed the firm to stop selling facial recognition services to law enforcement agencies, and Google employees who pressured Google not to renew a Pentagon contract for artificial intelligence.
Twitter defines its mission as providing a “healthy public conversation.” Let them know that demagoguery isn’t healthy.
Your vote on November 6 is the key, of course.
But as the political season heats up, Trump’s lies are heating up, too. And they will sway unwary voters.
So you need to be active now, before Election Day – on behalf of the truth.
Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock”, “The Work of Nations,” and”Beyond Outrage,” and, his most recent, “The Common Good,” which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “Inequality For All.” He’s co-creator of the Netflix original documentary “Saving Capitalism,” which is streaming now.