The Age of Illusion
I believe that lies have consequences. In November 2019, then President Donald Trump shared an image on Twitter in which his head had been photoshopped onto the shirtless body of movie star Sylvester Stallone, in character as boxer Rocky Balboa. By sharing the image on Twitter, Trump endorsed it. He offered no caption or context for it. What does this fake image communicate?
In response, someone on twitter (Mike Elgan?) photoshopped Stallone’s head on an actual picture of the former president playing golf. Both images above are false. However, the image on the left can be seen prominently displayed at many Trump rallies. I am not sure what this false portrayal of the former president communicates to others.
Donald Trump stunned the world in 2016 when he became the first person without government or military experience ever elected president of the United States. Without the vote of evangelical Christians, (80% of them voted for Trump), the thrice-married, swindling, profane, vengeful, casino mogul, materialistic, self-styled playboy who is not an active member of any church – would have never been elected. Even Trump seemed surprised that he won. His four-year tenure in the White House created and revealed deep and extraordinary fissures in American society.
Here is some of the truth: Trump, the New York businessman and former reality TV show star, changed political parties at least five times since the late 1980s. In fact, in August of 2001, he registered as a Democrat and stayed a Democrat for eight years. In 2009, he even gave the Clinton Foundation a gift of more than $100,000. One of Trump’s daughters, Ivanka, is also listed as a donor to the Clintons who gave between $5,001 and $10,000. Ivanka’s father-in-law, Charles Kushner, gave between $250,001 and $500,000.
Prior to his election as president, Trump had a long track record of making statements and supporting candidates who were pro-abortion. Furthermore, in January 2015, Trump explained that same-sex marriage is a “state right’s issue.”
Trump claims to be a Christian. Yet, he said publicly, “Why do I have to repent? Why do I have to ask forgiveness if I am not making mistakes.” He went on to say publicly that, “I fully think apologizing is a great thing. But you have to be WRONG . . . I will absolutely apologize sometime in the distant future … if I’m ever wrong.”
One day in 2015, Trump beckoned Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime confidant and personal attorney, into his office. Trump was brandishing an article about an Atlanta-based megachurch pastor who was trying to raise $60 million from his congregation to buy a private jet (Creflo Dollar). Trump was gleefully reciting the details of Dollar’s quest for a Gulfstream G650. Trump seemed delighted by the “scam.” Cohen recalled that Trump was eager to highlight that the pastor was “full of shit.” “They’re all hustlers,” Trump said.
Cohen also describes a scene before the 2016 presidential election during which prominent evangelical Christian leaders had prayed for and laid hands on Trump. After they had left, Trump said, “Can you believe that bullshit? Can you believe that people believe that bullshit?”
When interviewed by Bloomberg Politics as a candidate for president in August of 2019, Trump could not name one chapter or verse of the Bible as his favorite.
In December of 2019, the leading magazine for Christians (Christianity Today) called for Trump to be removed from office. The magazine said that it was time to live up to what Christians said 20 years ago – that a president’s character matters.
In January of 2021, Russell Moore, a theologian who was also the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at the time, wrote a scathing editorial to his fellow evangelicals about the breach of the Capitol.
Even Mike Pence, the former vice president continued in that vein in March 2023 when we said that: “I read that some of those classified documents they found at Mar-a-Lago were actually stuck in the president’s Bible … which proves he had absolutely no idea they were there.”
The Conflict Between Jesus and Trump
There is a major conflict between the words and actions of Jesus Christ and those of Trump. As an example, let’s take racial bigotry. Jesus was never anti-people, no matter people’s skin color. Racial bigotry is a deal breaker for the gospel. Yet, White nationalism, which Donald Trump embraces and champions, is not just racist — it is anti-Christ.
Here are just three other examples of many that could be listed:
- Dehumanizing immigrants is not just racist — it is anti-Christ.
- Demeaning and molesting females is not just sexist (and illegal). It is anti-Christ.
- Seeking revenge and attacking others who are your perceived “enemies” is anti-Christ.
Would Jesus do these things? Trump did and does. At some point, Christians have to ask themselves: Have we been lied to? Christian Nationalism is a powerful thing! Read more about it here: https://www.christiansagainstchristiannationalism.org/statement
Lies Have Consequences
During his presidency, Trump told an average of 21 mistruths or lies per day. That is much more that other past presidents. In fact, Trump told nearly six times more lies in the first 10 months of his presidency than former president, Barak Obama did in his entire 8-year term!
According to the Washington Post Fact Checker Team, Trump told 30,573 untruths over four years. His deception about COVID-19 killed innocent people. But perhaps his biggest lie of all, which he continues to tell, is that he was cheated in 2020 and the election was “rigged.” He told this lie repeatedly even before the election took place. I guess if he won, the election was not “rigged?”
After the 2020 election (which he lost), Trump empowered an army of lawyers to make up accusations of voter fraud in swing states that Trump lost. Those attorneys included Guiliani, Eastman, Powel, and Wood. Even the “Pillow Guy” had a role. Trump himself even called the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia and tried to pressure him to give him 11,000 votes in a phone conversation that lasted more than an hour. That conversation was illegal by the way.
Trump’s and his followers even publicly named two Black American poll workers in Fulton County Georgia, Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, as being involved in Trump-backed conspiracy theories about the election. Here is what Ms. Freeman said after she and her daughter were cleared of any wrong doing: “I’ve lost my name and I’ve lost my reputation, I’ve lost my sense of security, all because a group of people starting with No. 45 and his ally Rudy Giuliani decided to scapegoat me and my daughter Shaye, to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen.”
Trumps army of lawyers lied and created a brazen plan to create false slates of electors pledged to former president Trump in seven swing states that were actually won by President Biden. This was arguably the longest-running and most expansive of the lies to overturn the results of the 2020 election. It should be noted that the majority of elected Republicans failed to denounce these lies. Now 16 of these fake electors face felony charges in Michigan and possibly in other states.
Attorney General, Bill Barr, who is supposed to be independent of the President, broke with precedent and ordered those under his authority to investigate any allegations of voter fraud. Even though, Attorney General Barr stoked lies of fake voter fraud for months, he eventually came to his senses and said that Trump had been piling up a mountain of ‘bullsh-t’ stories that he had been cheated out of a second term. He also said that former President Trump seemed “detached from reality” when he made his “crazy” claims of voter fraud after Election Day 2020.
My parents always taught me that lies have consequences.
Here are more facts: Trump, his army of attorneys, and his followers lost at least 63 lawsuits, brought only in swing states that Trump lost. These lawsuits contested the election process, vote counting, and vote certification. No victories by Republicans in those same states were challenged. If the election process was “rigged” in those states, would you not want to investigate all the elections of all candidates??
Nearly all 63 lawsuits were dismissed or dropped due to lack of evidence. Judges (some appointed by Trump), lawyers, and other observers described the suits as “frivolous” and “without merit.”
The result: The election was not “rigged.” That was and is a lie.
$787 Million Worth of Lies
One lawsuit was successful though – The $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought against Fox Network by Dominion Voting System. This lawsuit argued the news outlet damaged Dominion’s reputation by peddling phony conspiracy theories that claimed the Dominion equipment had somehow secretly switched votes from former President Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden. The Dominion voting machines did not. Fox lost.
In fact, during an official deposition given by the owner of Fox Network, Rupert Murdoch, he clearly stated that he believed the 2020 election was fair and had not been stolen from Trump. Ouch!
Fox and Dominion Voting Systems reached a $787 million settlement in the defamation lawsuit that averted a trial that would have dragged Fox even further through the mud. This case exposed how the top-rated network delivered what they thought their viewers wanted by promoting lies about the 2020 presidential election. This $787 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems is the largest publicly known defamation settlement in U.S. history involving a media company.
For more details, listen to: https://1795group.com/episode/episode-10-the-impact-of-mis-disinformation-an-interview-with-yotam-ophir-ph-d/
Important Ingredients to Societal Health
Trust and social cohesion are essential ingredients for healthy public life, the republic style of government in the United States, and for positive relations among individuals, groups, and nations. If trust in government and one another is damaged, societal life and health will suffer.
When a former president continues to insist that his lies are true and some people believe him, the institutions of government become corroded, democracy is undermined, and trust and social cohesion are damaged.
According to Pew Research, public trust in government has remained low during most of the 21st century. Trust in government began eroding during the 1960s as the Vietnam war escalated and continued in the 1970’s with the Watergate scandal and worsening economic struggles.
In a 2018 Pew Research survey, Americans reported that they were losing their trust in government and in one another. The majority (66%) of U.S. adults believed that Americans in general had little or no confidence in the federal government. Furthermore, a majority believed that the public’s confidence in government and in one other was shrinking.
Most respondents to this survey believed that the lack of trust made it harder to solve the nation’s key problems. I agree! We certainly see that today as many Americans are divided and continue to ignore the societal problems of gun violence, climate change, and institutional racism.
In 2019, public trust in the government remained low. According to Pew, only 17% of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing “about always” or “most of the time.” In 2022, about two-in-ten Americans said that they trusted the federal government to do what is right: about always (2%) and most of the time (19%).
Collaborative Work by the Nations of the World
One thing about the nations of the world is surely true: When they work together in a strong, coordinated way, their collaborative efforts help mitigate potentially devastating health, social, and economic consequences of problems that cannot be solved by one nation alone (e.g., climate change).
However, when a former U.S. president casted blame for economic troubles and for COVD on other nations, used racist terms (e.g. “kung flu”), and divorced the U.S. from the World Health Organization – an organization that the U.S. helped to establish in 1948 – it tore down the bridges of collaboration that had taken years to build. Furthermore, the former president’s decision to withdraw funds from the World Health Organization only caused more financial and health inequities between wealthy nations and lower-and-middle income countries.
The U.S. is Like a House Divided
The current antagonistic and combative political climate in the U.S. is contributing to increased mistrust of government and weaker social cohesion. Not only are Americans divided economically between the “haves” and the “have nots,” but they are also divided politically. An increasing number of Americans no longer feel a shared sense of national identity. That is not good for societal health.
Democrats and Republicans see those on the other side of the political aisle as enemies with totally incomprehensible beliefs and lifestyles. The negative assumptions that Americans have about the motives of those of a different political persuasion are rooted in something deeper than political party. People on opposite sides of the political aisle actually have very different, non-overlapping worldviews. These incongruent worldviews make it difficult for Americans to see anything legitimate in their political opponents’ beliefs or views. Such ardent, rigid partisanship, antagonism, and the lack of compromise and collaboration does not bode well in the future for productive social change.
The expanding gulf in America between people is an economic, social, moral, and health disaster in the making. The COVID-19 pandemic jarringly and dramatically exposed existing economic inequity that needs to change.
If inequity of many types is not addressed and ameliorated, Americans will continue to experience an increased break down in trust and social cohesion. This will lead to more protests, stronger calls for change, and stronger action. Lack of employment, lack of food, housing, health care, and increasing economic burdens among the “have nots” will boil over into frustration, anger, and action.
Hopefully that action will be positive, constructive action within our system of government. However, if those on the “outside” continue to be ignored and are not given the political power and voice to affect change, their actions will likely take place outside our system of governance.
Inequities and other injustices such as police brutality and institutional racism have never fixed themselves without human intervention. Throughout history, it has been the majority – “we the people” – who have acted and intervened to thwart those who have tried to use dishonesty, greed, corruption, or wealth to suffocate the American values of fairness, justice, goodness, honesty, dignity, and opportunity for all. Please join us in speaking up! Advocate for change! Act!
The 1795 Group Can Help
We believe that initiatives that come from the grass roots level – from the people – are the most effective and most sustainable. That’s why we do what we do. We believe in being part of solutions. Perhaps you would like a guest speaker, a guest lecture, or a presentation on this topic. Perhaps you would like to have your students, learners, or employees enjoy a virtual professional development workshop in this topical area. Perhaps you need a course to be written for your learners. Whatever your need, the 1795 Group can help. Call us and let’s brainstorm ways to work together.