Paul Krugman is feeling pretty disconsolate after NBC’s “Commander-in-Chief” forum on Wednesday night. The event, and Matt Lauer’s moderation of it, served to demonstrate once again that the mainstream media either is unable or unwilling to call out Donald Trump’s shocking number of lies, both large and small, while gleefully holding Hillary Clinton’s feet to the fire for any misstep. The question Krugman asks in Friday’s column is why this is so.
Long ago, you-know-who suggested that propagandists should apply the “big lie” technique: make their falsehoods so huge, so egregious, that they would be widely accepted because nobody would believe they were lying on that grand a scale. And the technique has worked well for despots and would-be despots ever since.
But Donald Trump has come up with something new, which we can call the “big liar” technique. Taken one at a time, his lies are medium-size—not trivial, but mostly not rising to the level of blood libel. But the lies are constant, coming in a steady torrent, and are never acknowledged, simply repeated. He evidently believes that this strategy will keep the news media flummoxed, unable to believe, or at least say openly, that the candidate of a major party lies that much.
There may be something to that “keeping the news media flummoxed” idea. On a daily basis, the torrent of outrages from Trump comes so fast and furious it is impossible to know what to cover or highlight. After Wednesday’s forum, do you go with the Putin love? His Iraq lie, again? (The one that Lauer saw no need to follow up on.) His insulting the military brass?
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Krugman readily acknowledges that lying in politics is somewhat the norm, and any politician (or person) who tells you they never lie is most definitely lying. Clinton, Krugman writes, “has been cagey about her email arrangements when she was secretary of state.” Still, “when you look at what the independent fact-checkers who have given her a ‘pants on fire‘ or ‘four Pinocchios‘ rating on this issue actually have to say, it’s remarkably weak: She stands accused of being overly legalistic or overstating the extent to which she has been cleared, but not of making major claims that are completely at odds with reality,” he continues.
With Trump, you have this whole other order of lying; he’s in a complete class of his own. Trump lies about things that are provable and known. Crime stats, who founded ISIS, his own business record, his suport of the Iraq war.
Part of the answer for the media’s reluctance to call his lying out might be that Trump, like it or not, is a major party nominee, so respect must be paid. Pointing out that the GOP has nominated a sociopath might be a tad uncomfortable, though true.
Krugman fears that Wednesday night’s forum portends a dark future, one where Trump keeps getting away with “raw, consequential lies,” while Clinton is harassed “endlessly over minor misstatements and exaggerations.”
And likely more to come with debate season upon us.
This article first appeared on AlterNet.