Lie To Me!

It’s hardly news that former President Donald Trump was the lyingest President ever.  A column a few months back by Thomas Edsall shared research confirming that on this one dubious metric, TFG was indeed head and shoulders above the rest.

Donald Trump can lay claim to the title of most prodigious liar in the history of the presidency. This challenges commonplace beliefs about the American political system. How could such a deceitful and duplicitous figure win the White House in the first place and then retain the loyalty of so many voters after his endless lies were exposed?

George Edwards, a political scientist at Texas A&M and a retired editor of Presidential Studies Quarterly, stated the case bluntly: “Donald Trump tells more untruths than any previous president.” What’s more, “There is no one that is a close second.”

After establishing Trump’s position as Liar-in-Chief, Edsell got to the question that fascinates me: How do we understand the willingness of Republican voters to not simply tolerate Trump’s lies, but enthusiastically welcome them–and continue to vote for him?

Edsell quotes one researcher who attributes the acceptance of obvious untruths to our polarization:

We are intensely social creatures, but we are prone to divide ourselves into competitive groups, largely for the purpose of allocating resources. People can be prosocial — compassionate, empathetic, generous, honest — in their group and aggressively antisocial toward out-groups. When we divide people into groups, we open the door to competition, dehumanization, violence — and socially sanctioned deceit.

If we see Trump’s lies, Smith continued, “not as failures of character but rather as weapons of war, then we can come to see why his supporters might view him as an effective leader. From this perspective, lying is a feature, not a bug, of Trump’s campaign and presidency.”

Other scholars attribute acceptance of untruths to “orthodox mind-sets.”  People with such mind-sets desperately need to protect cherished narratives; insights and facts that undermine those narratives threaten beliefs that are central to their worldviews.

Another theory is closely aligned to the tribal explanation– it posits that Trump’s ability to persuade “millions of voters to go along with his prevarications is his ability to tap into the deep-seated anger and resentment among his supporters. Anger, it turns out, encourages deception.”

Almost all of the research confirms the centrality of those tribal identities (giving the term “identity politics” a somewhat different meaning than its common usage).

Identity leadership refers to leaders’ capacity to influence and mobilize others by virtue of leaders’ abilities to represent, advance, create and embed a sense of social identity that is shared with potential followers.

In the process, Trump’s supporters lose their connection to real-world rules and morality.

Esdall quotes one scholar who finds Americans’ political identities becoming “increasingly salient, and potentially more destructive.” Intense partisan hostilities and polarization lead people to demonize the opposition and create a climate of “us against them.” Polarization thus invites lies that create a “moral framework” within which otherwise wrongful behavior serves a moral cause. (An obvious example is January 6th.)

It’s depressing enough when “Lie X”is accepted by large numbers of people, but the speed of its distribution is even more troubling. An article by BBC Science Focus examined that phenomenon:

Mark Twain said that a lie travels halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on. Actually, that itself is a lie – Twain probably said no such thing and the true origins of the quote remain murky. Nonetheless, thanks to recent research into the spread of (mis)information on Twitter, we now know that lies spread more rapidly than facts – and it seems mostly to do with our appetite for novelty.

In a study published in early 2018 in the journal Science, three researchers at MIT analysed around 126,000 stories tweeted by around three million people between 2006 and 2017. Crucially, these stories had all been verified as true or false by six fact-checking websites, including and By comparing the tweets, the researchers found that the lies travelled faster and farther than the truth. For instance, true tweets rarely reached more than 1,000 people, whereas the most widely shared false tweets reached as many as 100,000 people. Falsehoods were 70 per cent more likely to be retweeted than the truth, and it took true tweets six times as long as lies, on average, to reach 1,500 people.

MIT’s research team attributed the speed of dissemination to the fact that lies tended to be more novel and exciting than the truth. They were also better at triggering an emotional response.

Lies that travel fastest are those that support our pre-existing prejudices and are easy to understand. it helps if they’re popular with the people in your “tribe.”

Evidently, a lot of Americans actually want to be lied to.


  1. Thank You. Very interesting. I wish there was an obvious solution or at least a “work around” for this.

  2. Because the lies are being exposed in the courtrooms and in the discipline proceedings by bar associations, those who need to believe the lies are being treated to attacks on law enforcement such as the FBI. The expose of the lies of January 6 and the alleged criminal acts of Trump and his cronies is so frightening to the Trump Cult or Tribe (if you prefer more moderate language), They must believe there is an illegal and incompetent vendetta against their Cult by law enforcement in order to get through the day. What happened to all the moral and ethical Republicans who rebelled against Nixon and Watergate? They have been drummed out of the Republican Party.

  3. The real question for me is why do so many people want to believe someone who is obviously lying. I believe it is because he tells them what they want to hear. He tells them that “certain” people with an education who seem to be “making it” have cheated. Until we repair the education and wealth/income divide, nothing will change. Many of Trumps’s followers especially resent groups in our past who were treated as second class citizens, but have recently made educational and income gains: women, POC, the LGBTQ community.

  4. “All governments lie” is the allegation we associate with I.F. Stone. Apparently thought to be a threat for revealing truth, he was blacklisted for 19 years, but recovered to receive in 1970 from fellow journalists a George Polk Award. It’s hard to argue that there’s more, or less, government lying today than in the past, or that Nixon, or LBJ, told more lies.

  5. Lies have not only been accepted for decades in our courts but are expected. Trump and his governmental associates have simply made lies the basis of their campaign foundations and liars their strongest supported candidates. When our elected officials throughout government refuse to uphold their Oaths of Office, either by blatant support of Trump and his minions or by remaining silent and idle as they continue to uphold and vote for any and all candidates on the Republican ballot, we can expect to see no change. The fear of repercussions from the Trump White Nationalist, MAGA, Freedom Caucus party maintains their silence and their refusal to act for America and Americans to strengthen democracy, Rule of Law and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. They are threatened with loss of party support and loss of their jobs and vote in turn to attack Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, all health care and now our military assignments are being held in check by a Republican with the cartoon name of Tommy Tuberville. Sheila stated recently that power is indeed an aphrodisiac; fear is the primary control factor maintaining that power.

    With all of the “reported legal action” against Trump’s seditious and treasonous activities during and continuing after his term as president, we are still see NO ACTION stopping him or his lying mouth and his revolving door of countless attorneys.

    “Evidently, a lot of Americans actually want to be lied to.” Congress and SCOTUS are happily supporting those lies and the liars.

    Personally; I am tired of living in fear and as Vern so often says, I’m glad I am old.

  6. The ex prez’ ability to tap into the deep-seated anger and pre-conceived beliefs of his followers will continue as long as they can watch Newsmax and Fox 24/7.

    There is also the disdainful fact that so many Rs in Congress willingly support tfg’s lies in order to stay in his good graces so that he won’t attack them. They only care about self-preservation.

  7. Liberals would do well by taking a hard look at the lies we tell ourselves in order to maintain our misperceptions of the world around us. Not acknowledging the truth about ourselves is in itself a lie. An example in my lifetime was and continues to be the continued attacks on the South for its racism while not seeing the racism and segregation of the North, particularly in the cities.
    Maybe we need to start our truth crusade with ourselves.

  8. Polarization, anger, confirmation bias, social media, and lack of critical thinking skills, etc.

    Of course, it is also possible that some Trump supporters do not care whether or not his words are true. They may be more interested in supporting him because they agree with his policies or because they like his billion-dollar personality.

    Mainly, he drives the liberals nuts, and they love it. Diffusing Trump means ignoring him, but the media has done the opposite.

    Why? 😉

  9. Thanks Sheila, I need more ammo, when discussing the trump dream. being my working class jargon needs a few more $5 buck words and phrases. todays message here is as i see it. division,strife,hate. it will be filed and studied,and given the talk. but,they do listen. mouths at time hanging open,but they do listen..
    i mostly attack the wallet, it could be better if trumps idea wasnt to take money from your (earned profits,) pocket,and deliver it to his rich buddies.(in various ways). after all, i never seen his rich ass ever have a free BBQ for his supporters(or the lowley worker get a free golf game at) en masse.. its all fluff and all residuals. (hate,divisions etc)

  10. As one whose mind was forged to an unusual degree by physics and math because to me the universe and its contents and their interactions define what’s real, truth is defined as that reality.

    A side gig has been cultural anthropology in order to understand humans as a small part of universal reality.

    Humans live largely in a dream world in our imaginations created out of memories of past real events in our lives of what we sensed which may or may not be the whole scene.

    The dreams defined as right wing are distinctly different from mine. I see the future revealed by universal reality to be conditions for the human species to adapt to, not deny. Lies are anti- l, not pro-, adaptations.

    Trump lies prodigiously to impose not reality but whatever advantages him on the rest of the world. That’s a disqualification for power in the human world.

  11. Theresa – KUDOS – nail hit on head, hard! Also, the mass mistrust of governments, parties and politicians grows with every lie and results in…at least in the US…relatively few people caring to vote. Those who do, are likely the “believers”…what else would we get from at least 50 years of the demise of teaching critical thinking in schools….

  12. Regarding the study mentioned near the end, I wonder if the researchers tried to break down the stories by partisanship. I can imagine that each story could be described as pro-Democrat, neutral, or pro-Republican. I’d be really curious to see how the speeds and depths break down across these categories. My suspicion is that neutral stories travel relatively slowly and shallowly, and that pro-Republican stories traveled faster and farther than pro-Democrat stories, although maybe not by a lot.

    I’d also be curious to see how the raw numbers of such stories broke across these partisan cases.

  13. I am not inclined to normalize his behavior. The man suffers from a certifiable mental disorder and we sit by and try to fit his behavior into some type normal personality traits. We suffer from over-analyzing crazy. We don’t try to understand the behavior of a rabid dog that is running around biting and spreading its disease, we confine it and as humanely as possible, but w/o apologies, restrict it’s ability to harm one more person.

  14. Suspension of belief was what they called it back in the day. The term still applies.

  15. “How could such a deceitful and duplicitous figure win the White House in the first place and then retain the loyalty of so many voters after his endless lies were exposed?”
    “OMG, how woke is that? THAT must be a lie, but, you know,if he lied in the service of OUR agenda, god,
    or whomever, will forgive him. Bringing Amerika back to its pristine beginnings is all that matter! Wait, a Jew named Morris helped finance the blessed revolution? Nah, rewrite the history books…he must have been a gay fellow, anyway.
    That’s the ticket…he must have been a gay Jew, and can be written out of history. I have a better story, the Donald,
    in his first presence on the blessed Earth, used his billions to fund the revolution, but, in his blessedly humble way, did not want to
    take the credit for it, so he got this guy to be his patsy, er, stand-in.”

  16. Yeah tell us something we don’t know, America is a country filled with ignorant poorly educated right-wing white bigots who have been lied to for years bye the wealthy and powerful in order to control them. They hate black people, brown people, gays and lesbians, non-christians, foreigners, pretty much anyone who doesn’t live up to their white Christian “ideals”. Sadly there is no solution or fixed to this problem, they are committed to believing the lies and the bullshit that supports their ignorant hate filled beliefs

  17. Our perception is our reality. Trump has created a circus show with his supporters and they believe the unbelievable even when the facts sat the opposite. Very sad and lethal.

  18. I also like to think that everyone knew he was a liar, but the true believers convinced themselves he only lied to fool the media and the liberals. That way no matter what he said he really supported whatever belief the true believer held. Everything else was just chum for the rubes.

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