I read yesterday that Donald Trump had accused Barack Obama of “wire tapping” his offices in New York City before the presidential election in November last year, claiming the former president had overseen a “Nixon/Watergate”-style caper.
The idea is not particularly absurd but with some thought, no, it is absurd. Since Mr. Trump bleats out everything he is thinking on line, why go to the trouble of tapping his phones?
What this brought to mind more importantly was the fairy tale of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” These “children’s stories” were designed as training aids to teach kids the kinds of behaviors that will get them into trouble and which will get them out. If you can recall this one, a mischievous child cries “Wolf, wolf” a number of times just to get a reaction. The adults who respond each time with axes and pitchforks soon came to ignore the child’s cries as being bogus, and when a real wolf showed up, well it didn’t end well. The moral of the story, kids, is to not make false claims and thus lose credibility. If you do, no one will believe when you make a true claim.
Fast forward to Mr. Trump and you can see my concern. He has made such a number of false claims, the reasons for which I will leave up to others, that a time will come when he will be frequently ignored or patronized (Oh, that’s just Donald being Donald.”). But we play the part of the alarmed villagers in the fairy tale, not the childish shepherd. And rather than the child being at risk from a single wolf, we all may be at risk from a rather larger predator.
Many are noticing that Mr. Trump’s penchant for making false claims and the Republican’s ideological disdain for facts that do not fit their narratives undermines the foundations of the American Democratic Experiment. As Sam Harris says, “We either have conversation or violence.” And conversation is impossible if neither side in an argument can accept the “facts” of the other. One can only converse productively when looking at the same facts, which can be interpreted differently but not made to disappear.
We can now add to this a concern that Mr. Trump may soon become “unbelievable” to a large fraction of the populace and not in a good, yuge way.