President Trump Meets Plato

If there is a silver lining in the current political cloud of scandal, chaos, and lies, it is that the more responsible American media outlets are making unprecedented efforts to educate the American public in how to distinguish truth from falsehood.

rsz_inauguration-crowd

It started with the first moments of Trump’s presidency. He grumped that the press had deliberately misled the public about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. The New York Times reported Trump’s attack under the headline, With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout Size and Intelligence Rift. When have the media ever begun a headline about a president’s first day with the words “With False Claims”!? This is a new focus on truth.

Press secretary Sean Spicer defended his boss by claiming that Trump’s crowd was “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.” Politifact rated this as a pants-on-fire lie. They explained exactly how crowd sizes are estimated, and why Trump’s claim did not add up; they were far from the only ones to do so. It’s nothing new for politicians to be caught in a lie, but the amount of attention paid to how we determine the truth is new.

Then came the baseless wiretapping claim (below). When the responsible media reported this, their stories invariably included the phrase “without evidence.”

trump-tweet-wiretap

After Trump’s press secretary attempted to walk back from the lie by claiming that Trump didn’t really mean wiretapping, but surveillance in general, CNN ran a story headlined, Spicer: Trump didn’t mean wiretapping when he tweeted about wiretapping in which they explain why Spicer’s defense was a lie.

It seems that every day of Trump’s presidency brings new lessons in epistemology — the branch of philosophy concerned with how to find the truth.

The American people seem to be taking these lessons to heart. In the most recent poll I could find, 60% of voters said Trump is not honest and only 35% said he is. Plato would be proud.

And yet, in the same poll, 77% of Republicans continue to believe that Trump is honest. How can this be? That will be the subject of the next post.

Special Bonus: Can a president who promises the sun, moon, and stars, but habitually lies, be more popular than normal presidents? Visit this link and scroll down for the most recent stats. As of this writing, it’s as if Plato himself had been teaching the electorate about who should rule the republic.

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