Truth is an alien concept ... and not only for Trump

A tale of two liars

Despite the court judgment over defamation and sexual assault, he has come roaring back with a triumphant CNN ‘town hall’ performance. But, argues Daniel Lazare, the liberal bourgeois media is no more reliable than Trump’s fact-free claims

The threat of civil war may have waned a bit during the first months of Joe Biden’s presidency. But now it is back on boil, thanks to Donald Trump’s triumphant appearance at a CNN ‘town hall’ meeting last week.

Trump put on a bravura performance for more than an hour, as he talked over host Kaitlan Collins, made fun of journalist E Jean Carroll for winning a $5 million judgment against him for defamation and sexual assault, and in general carried on in his trademark, fact-free manner. But he also unveiled a rightwing programme that, in its own twisted way, was little less than revolutionary. For instance:

The results would thus be brutal across the board. Foreign affairs, economic policy, the western alliance - all would be in disarray if Trump wins another term. Since a second Trump presidency would pick up where the first left off, the coup that began on January 6 2021 would finally be complete. What little is left of democracy in America’s sclerotic 234-year-old republic would be shattered.

As if that was not enough, Trump also promised his CNN audience to enforce the right to bear arms to the hilt - music to the ears of a burgeoning fascist movement that uses the second amendment as its war cry. Although he refused to say if he would ban abortion outright, he praised last summer’s overthrow of Roe v Wade as “an incredible thing” and accused abortion advocates of wanting to “rip the baby out of the womb at the end of the ninth month”. He went on and on about Jean Carroll, the former Elle magazine advice columnist, who emerged victorious last week after a New York jury found by a preponderance of evidence that Trump was guilty of sexual assault, battery and defamation.

“I swear on my children, which I never do, I have no idea who this woman is,” Trump declared to laughter and applause from a hand-picked rightwing audience. “This is a fake story, a made-up story ... she’s a whack job.”1

He also ranted about immigration in his usual apocalyptic way:

Look at New York City. Look what’s happening. They’re living in Central Park in New York City. The city is being swamped. Los Angeles is being swamped. Iowa is being swamped. Our whole country is being destroyed. Millions of people are coming into our country. And you know what the number is going to be, in my opinion, by the end of the year? Not the four million that you hear and the three million. I think it’s going to be 15 million people.

But the millions of people filling the streets in those places are not immigrants for the most part, but ordinary citizens made homeless by economic policies that are driving housing costs far beyond what most workers can afford - economic policies that Trump supported down the line.


Not that any of this would matter if Trump’s poll standing was weak. But it is not - rather, it is Joe Biden who is in trouble. Americans are so dissatisfied, according to a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll, that 44% say they would probably or definitely vote for Trump in 2024 versus only 38% who say they would vote for Biden and 12% who are as yet undecided. For black Americans, the number who would probably or definitely vote for Trump now stands at 27% - more than double the 12% who voted for him in 2020. For Hispanics, it stands at 43% - a significant increase over the 32% who were pro-Trump the last time around. On the all-important age question, 68% of respondents say that the 80-year-old Biden is too old for another term, versus only 44% who say the same about Trump (a comparatively youthful 76!).2

Other winds are blowing in Trump’s direction. If more than 200,000 people are crossing over America’s southern border per month, it is because the number of displaced people around the world now stands at 100 million - more than double the level of 2012.3 That translates as one person in 80 who is on the run due to war, climate change or economic collapse. As a result, pressure along America’s 1,591-mile southern border can only build, which in turn means that the audience for Trump’s brand of xenophobia can only go up as well.

Add to that a sinking economy - real wages have fallen 0.5% since April 20224 - and a war that weighs more and more heavily on Democrats as it festers and grows, and it is no wonder that Biden’s poll numbers are in the soup. If voters do not like how he is doing, their only option in the oldest two-party system in the world is to go for Trump, even though he will put the last nail in the coffin of US democracy. The Biden administration is thus handing Trump power on a silver platter. But that is the historic function of a liberal establishment that is rotten to the core: to pave the way for rightwing authoritarianism by virtue of its own incompetence and corruption.

The corporate media reacted to Trump’s performance with the usual horror and dismay. The Washington Post accused him of a strategy of tension, in which the goal is “to attack and undermine the entire system, because, by breaking it down, he gains more power”. The New York Times declared with its usual pomposity that Trump is striking at “core American values that have been at the bedrock of the nation for decades: its creditworthiness, its credibility with international allies, and its adherence to the rule of law at home”.5

What neither will own up to, of course, is their own contribution to the breakdown. If Trump thinks that reality is something he can make up as he goes along, it is because the bourgeois press regards the truth in a way that is equally cavalier.

This is most apparent with regard to ‘national security’. The best way to think about Trump is as an upside-down Jeremy Corbyn. A week after the latter was elected Labour Party leader in September 2015, The Sunday Times quoted a “senior serving general” to the effect that the armed forces would take “direct action” to stop him from forming a government. “There would be mass resignations at all levels,” the unnamed general said, “and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny.”6

Since Corbyn was intolerable in the eyes of the defence establishment, he would have to go. But an equal and opposite reaction started taking shape on the other side of the Atlantic, once Trump declared for the presidency around the same time. The effort began slowly, as long as it was still possible to dismiss his candidacy as a joke. But it turned deadly serious, once he clinched the Republican nomination - and then grew into a moral crusade, once he won the election.

By April 2016, Politico was thus referring to him as “the Kremlin’s candidate”, while The New York Review of Books denounced him as a Russian “patsy”. “Donald Trump and Russia: a web that grows more tangled all the time,” a Guardian headline declared in July, while the government-funded Public Broadcasting System said that US allies were “left slack-jawed” by Russia comments that were less than completely hostile.7 Hillary Clinton called Trump a Russian “puppet” in a presidential debate in October, while in January 2017 the FBI signalled to the press that it was OK to publish the Christopher Steele dossier with its irresistible tale of “golden showers” at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. So what if the story was obvious nonsense? Who cared, as long as it put pressure on him to resign? By the time Trump took office on January 20, the capitalist press wanted to know one thing and one thing only: how had a Svengali-like Putin gotten him in his grip?

But, as with the Labour Party’s phony ‘anti-Semitism’ scare, it was all untrue. Indeed, NBC News reporter Richard Engel went on TV to declare that the “intelligence community” had decided to “drop” the Steele dossier “like a bomb” on Trump, because they were “angry” and wanted to “put him on notice” that they needed answers to the Russia-related questions swirling around him.8 The CIA was planting a phony story in order to force him to come clean. But the press did not care, because a willing instrument of the CIA was precisely what it wanted to be.

“We don’t have enough time to fact-check every lie he told,” CNN host Jake Tapper said about Trump after the town hall appearance. But neither do viewers have enough time to fact-check every lie that Tapper and other CNN talking heads told about Trump at the height of Russiagate.


The difference between Trump and Corbyn, of course, is that, while one is gone, the other has come roaring back. The press pronounced itself aghast at the untruths he spewed out during his CNN appearance, yet could not help spewing out untruths of its own. The Times quoted Trump as saying he wants to settle the Russo-Ukrainian war, “so we stop killing all these people”, but then added archly: “He did not mention that the killing was initiated by Russia.”9 But this was a lie, since the killing obviously did not begin with Russia in February 2022, but rather with the neo-Nazi-influenced regime that the Obama administration helped install in Kyiv in February 2014. Among the regime’s first acts was to declare war on the breakaway provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk - a war that, by early 2022, had claimed more than 14,000 lives.10 Yet the Times has supported the regime every step of the way.

One lie begets another - a vicious cycle that in the case of Ukraine has led directly to war. If Trump inhabits a parallel universe all his own, so does the capitalist press. As an ex-Times investigative reporter named Jeff Gerth observed a few months ago in the Columbia Journalism Review,

Today, the US media has the lowest credibility - 26% - among 46 nations, according to a 2022 study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. In 2021, 83% of Americans saw ‘fake news’ as a ‘problem,’ and 56% - mostly Republicans and independents - agreed that the media were ‘truly the enemy of the American people,’ according to Rasmussen Reports.

Two liars - Trump and the corporate media - thus excoriate one another, as they sink deeper and deeper into a morass of imperialism, war and dictatorship.

  1. p>See rumble.com/v2n6dyg-trump-town-hall-on-cnn-full.html (exchange starts at 19.20).↩︎
  2. abcnews.go.com/Politics/broad-doubts-bidens-age-acuity-spell-republican-opportunity/story?id=99109308.↩︎

  3. UN Refugee Agency, ‘Global trends: forced displacement in 2021’, p5: www.unhcr.org/media/40152.↩︎

  4. www.bls.gov/news.release/realer.nr0.htm.↩︎

  5. www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/05/11/trump-town-hall-republicans; www.nytimes.com/2023/05/11/us/politics/trump-2024-cnn-town-hall.html.↩︎

  6. declassifieduk.org/how-the-uk-military-and-intelligence-establishment-is-working-to-stop-jeremy-corbyn-becoming-prime-minister.↩︎

  7. www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/trumps-ideas-russia-alarming-allies-many-us.↩︎

  8. www.cjr.org/special_report/trumped-up-press-versus-president-part-2.php.↩︎

  9. www.nytimes.com/2023/05/11/us/politics/trump-2024-cnn-town-hall.html.↩︎

  10. ukraine.un.org/en/168060-conflict-related-civilian-casualties-ukraine.↩︎