06.21.2016 07:32 AM

The Truth is irrelevant

Quote from a fascinating Washington Post piece on Trump’s Muslim-hating strategy:

He said it doesn’t matter that [the Trump pig’s blood story] isn’t true.

“It’s not about that,” he said. “Look, it’s an analogy.”

The now-departed Corey Lewandowski said that, but I don’t think his firing changes the, ahem, truth of what he said: to Trump, and guys like him, The Truth is completely subjective.  It’s a construct.  It’s a theory.

That’s appalling, of course.  It’s cynical. It’s Orwellian and all that. The Truth should always be The Truth, right? Right. But, in modern politics, whether something is true or not is basically immaterial.

Social media has contributed to truth becoming situational, as has the mainstream media’s 24/7 data smog.  There is so much bullshit out there, we’ve come to accept that bullshit is a constant.  Have you (like I was, just last week, with a story about a former Maple Leafs star) been sucked in by an Internet hoax?  Of course you have. Everyone has.  Lies have become the lingua franca of the Internet.

In every political campaign, the media publish these “reality check” things, and politicos will quietly laugh and shake their heads. “Whose reality?” they say.  “Whose truth?”

A party is for the GST, then isn’t.  For free trade, then not anymore.  Against calling the Islamic State a state, until they do.  It’s not genocide, one day, and it is, the next.  To succeed in most political parties, you have to have an innate ability to ascertain (a) what the collective truth is at any given moment, and (b) pivot towards the changed truth in an instant, without breaking into a sweat.  All while keeping a straight face.  In political parties, this skill is highly prized.

Donald Trump’s core audience know he tells them lies.  They don’t care.  They want what he says to be true.  They don’t care as much about what The Truth presently is.

I spoke to Tony Schwartz about this, for my books Kicking Ass and The War Room.  He was the genius who came up with the ‘Daisy’ ad, about which I named the company I started. Schwartz called all of this internalized truth stuff “the responsive chord.”  He even wrote a book with that title.  To sell someone something, he told me – a candidate, an idea, whatever – you need to figure out what someone’s truth is, and “surface” it.

That’s what winning campaigns do.  They don’t try and tell The Truth.  They try and figure out, instead, what Your Truth is, and then  “surface” it.  They embrace Your Truth, not The Truth.

God exists.  To me, that’s true.  To you, maybe, it isn’t.  What matters isn’t who is right or who is wrong.  What matters is figuring out what someone’s truth is, and selling it back to them.

Sad, but true.




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    Michael Clifton says:

    Sometimes sad, but sometimes essential. In fact, it is somewhat crucial to the process of empathy. When helping someone through various challenges in life – particularly emotional ones, trauma, grief, etc. – it is often crucial to be able to get into their view of the world in order to help them. Advice that comes from an alternate worldview won’t help.

    There’s a dark and a light side to every quality, it seems.

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      Kevin says:

      I think you’re exactly right. My armchair theory is that when a person is going through that kind of extreme stress they put up a protective wall. There is so much they can’t control that they cling to whatever they can control. And trying to break through that protective will with an “objective reality” is often not only doing them a disservice, but can actually be cruel. Of course, there does come a time when the barrier starts to come down – someone in a support role (counsellor, family member etc) should be able to see that and adjust to the person’s shifting point of view.

      In a perfect world….

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    davie says:

    Howard Gardner is the fellow who explained his model of multiple intelligence a little over 30 years ago.
    Later he published his ideas about leadership.
    He suggested that a leader is the person who best tells the story of the group that s/he is leading. This would fit with what you say here in that the story, or myth (stories we use to explain meaning in our lives), of a group might not be accurate historically. But it is the story that most in the group believe to be true.
    For example, there is a proposal in Montreal to rename a park named for Vimy Ridge. The conflict there involves retelling the myth we have in Canada about Vimy and our nationhood.

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    Joseph says:

    Another great article from The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/04/09/harry-reid-still-isnt-sorry-for-saying-mitt-romney-doesnt-pay-taxes/ as usual it depends on whose ox is being gored.Whatever means necessary to win the White House I guess.

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    Kelly says:

    “Donald Trump’s core audience know he tells them lies. They don’t care. They want what he says to be true. They don’t care as much about what The Truth presently is.”

    Truer words have never been written. A book worth reading is Brand Flip, by Marty Neumeier. It’s a quick, easy, read. Lots in their about tribes. People don’t buy features and benefits anymore, per se, they buy the ability to feel a d project membership in a tribe that provides order and meaning in to their place in the universe.

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    Bill Templeman says:

    Right. This business of figuring out what someone else’s truth is then selling it back to them reminds me of two startling concepts (Wishfulness & Yesmanship) the Allies used to pull off the biggest deception of WW II: Operation Mincemeat https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mincemeat. Fascinating stuff, if you are into real-life espionage and deception. Wrote an article about these concepts applied to Harper’s policies on crime here: http://rabble.ca/news/2010/08/wishfulness-yesmanship-and-harper-conservatives

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      davie says:

      I mentioned here before, but it fits what you argue here:
      One item I came across was that at the beginning of the Trump campaign, 2 or 3 campaign staff were assigned to listen to right wing talk/phone in radio. They packaged what they heard, and that package formed a significant part of Trump’s speeches and media communications.

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    Francis says:

    The truth is relative.

    To quote George Costanza: “Jerry, just remember… its not a lie, if you believe it”.

    To paraphrase George Costanza: “I do believe in God; just for the bad things”.

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    Peter says:

    Trump is running at about 40% support right now. If the same number vote as did in 2012, that means he’ll get about 52 million votes. What is your basis for claiming to know what his “core’ believes or even who they are? What do you have to say about Hillary’s “core”?

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      Warren says:

      He hasn’t gone above 40 per cent once, has he?

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        Peter says:


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          davie says:

          Notice that when Johnson and Stein are included in the polls that there does seem to be a chipping at the edges of support for both Clinton and Trump.
          I am a tad biased, but if Stein begins to move a bit int he polls, I am sure some Sanders support will go that way.

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    Eric Weiss says:

    Good summation.

    I asked a trump supporter friend of mine if he seriously thinks that trump can build a wall along the boarder and make Mexico pay for it. He said “Probably not, but it’s more important that he says he wants to.”

    I need better friends…

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    Richard says:

    There is kind of a difference though, between truth-seeking and changing policy stances, which you reference here:
    “A party is for the GST, then isn’t. For free trade, then not anymore. Against calling the Islamic State a state, until they do.”

    On the GST, a party(/its leadership) can be against consumption taxes in the void, but when they examine hard, factual data such as the revenue stream and how it helps balance the books, the federal programs supported, and the impact on the Canadian economy, their opinion can change. It was Keynes who famously stated, “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?” These changes in policy position, or as used in the pejorative “flip-flops,” can be accepted as reasonable and rational decisions made by reasonable and rational people.

    What Trump and his people do, though, isn’t about THE truth or even MY truth. It’s trying to impose (Oh I get to work in a Nine Inch Nails song title!) Another Version of the Truth on the public, its actual relationship to an objective truth being immaterial. It is, as you say, Orwellian. But unlike those successful campaigns, which seek to “surface” my/our truth, Trump’s approach is rather to bury the/my/your truth and replace it with his own. That’s why, in Trump’s bubble, “Hillary Clinton supported the Iraq War and is therefore a terrible judge of information; Mike Pence supported the Iraq War but it doesn’t matter because it was a long time ago and there was a lot of bad information out there” are not incompatible thoughts. For a normal person, that’s obvious intellectual dishonesty. For Trump, it’s just another random blathering.

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