The Language of a Dictatorship

Worth a discussion at the least:

By Masha Gessen Gessen is the author of nine books, including “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.

The New Yorker  23 December 17

Donald Trump has scored a legislative victory with staggering costs. The price of the tax bill has to be measured not only in the loss American society will face in the increase in inequality, in the impact on public health, and the growth of the deficit, but also in the damage to political culture inflicted by the spectacle of one powerful man after another telling lies of various sorts.

All along there has been Trump claiming that the bill was a “gift” to the middle class. That this assertion appears to have no basis in fact has not affected the President’s statements. The President’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, maintained that his department had run the numbers and had shown that the tax bill would pay for itself. It appears that he lied, not so much about the result of the Treasury’s study but about the existence of the study itself: the Times reported last month that the analysis had not been done.

This was a Trumpian lie, which is distinct from other kinds of political lying. It might be called a power lie: its purpose is not to convince the audience of something that isn’t true but to demonstrate the power of the speaker. Trump tweets blatant lies, repeatedly, to show that he can—and that by virtue of his bully pulpit, his words, however absurd, always have consequences. Mnuchin showed that he can do the same thing, and that he has more power than the opposition.

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