In 2010, researchers from Harvard and Google put their heads together to determine that there are roughly 1,022,000 words in the English language. The Oxford English Dictionary lists around 600,000.
Either way, that’s a lot of words. But there isn’t a word in the English language for what Donald Trump and the Republicans are doing.
They are no longer merely lying. Lying is covering up the truth. Lying is, No, Mom, honest, I didn’t break Aunt Donna’s Hummel. Or: No, Your Honor, I did not bilk my investors out of $4 million and abscond to Grand Cayman.
What these people are doing goes way beyond that. It’s a direct nuclear assault on the truth. It’s not: I didn’t break the figurine. Instead, it’s:
Mom, not only did I not break it, but Susie broke it, and I painstakingly glued it back together after she did so, and the facts that a) Susie has been away at camp all this time and b) you’re looking at it there on the dining room table in 37 pieces are tricks, delusions—manifestations of a vast, fake-news conspiracy against me orchestrated by Susie and Aunt Donna. They’ve met together recently on more than one occasion, after all, and people are saying that Aunt Donna bought two boxes of Samoas and one box of Tagalongs from Susie; and that, dear Mother, is proof of the cabal!
For this, we do not have a word. In the entire English language. Chew on that for a minute.
Take this insane business about Trump’s due process, which animated that Charge of the Darkness Brigade yesterday on Capitol Hill. First of all: To enter a SCIF room with a cell phone—or an Apple watch, or anything—is beyond verboten. Ask any member of the House. You. Do. Not. Do. That. Period. But of course Matt Gaetz and company did it. After storming past Capitol Police officers. That’s lawmakers, I’m saying, storming past police officers.
You know how they call themselves the “law and order” party? Yep: the direct opposite of the truth.
Of course accused people have due process rights. Everybody knows that. Here they are, from the Justice Department’s own website. There are 11 steps in criminal procedure. The rules specifically say that prosecutors (roughly speaking, House Democrats right now) are well within their rights to take pre-trial testimony in secret, for the obvious reason that doing so prevents witnesses from being able to coordinate their stories.
And yes, accused parties have the right to face their accusers. At trial. That’s step eight out of 11. We’re not close to step eight. The Senate will conduct the trial.
So again: Republicans (and Trump himself) who whine about him not being able to meet his accusers aren’t just lying. They’re deliberately saying the opposite of the truth.
Before that, we had the famous GOP interpretation of the readout of the Zelensky call. As I’ve written before, if you asked 100 fourth-graders to read that call summary, 98 of them would say Trump was asking him for dirt on Biden. But the GOP spin that the call was totally innocent is not merely a lie. It’s a direct assault on an obvious truth.
What else? Oh, yes—Bill Taylor is a “radical.” Taylor went to West Point, graduating in the top 1 percent of his class. He spent six years in the infantry and fought in Vietnam. He’s served with distinction as a diplomat under Democrats and Republicans for 50 years. That’s some radical. Again: not merely a lie. An attack on the truth.
The reflex is not limited to impeachment-related matters. Trump’s Syria speech Wednesday was as close to freedom-is-slavery as an American president has ever gotten. To review: He told Erdoğan to go ahead and invade; then he organized a cease-fire in a war he let start; then he applauds himself for being a peacemaker! “Only a couple of weeks ago [we] were scorned, and now people are saying, ‘Wow. What a great outcome. Congratulations.’” Right. “People.” Pence and Pompeo, maybe. And it’s not “long bloodstained sand.” The Kurdish zone has been conspicuously not that. And Erdoğan has not agreed to stop all military operations.
In every case, the direct opposite of the truth.
The question that always confronts us is, What’s the next lie? We can’t imagine, you and I, because we don’t have the same totalitarian mindset these people have. We don’t know what it’s like to wake up, look the truth in the face every morning, and spend the rest of the day thinking about how to smother and suffocate and suppress it. The vast majority of people, thank goodness, completely lack that impulse.
But paradoxically, that fact—that the vast majority of the people don’t have that impulse—works to the benefit of the totalitarian lickspittle, because most people can’t possibly imagine that someone would lie like that. My little story about the kid and the Hummel figurine makes the point. No child would say that. Or if one did, the parents would know they were deep in very creepy Bad Seed territory. But normal people don’t do those sorts of things.
Republicans are no longer normal people. They are Gletkin from Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Just Google it. You’ll see what I mean. He’s the total party man with no memory of anything before the revolution and no morality except that which serves power. And he’s not acting. He believes. That’s the frightening part.