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James Fallows: ‘A Reflexive Liar in Command: Guidelines for the Media’

James Fallows:

Most people would hesitate before telling easily disprovable lies like these, much as shoplifters would hesitate if the store owner is looking at them. Most people are fazed if caught in an outright lie. But in these cases and others, Trump never blinked. As part of his indispensable campaign coverage this summer, David Fahrenthold (and Robert O’Harrow) of The Washington Post offered an astonishing documentation of Trump being caught in a long string of business-related lies and simply not caring.

The news media are not built for someone like this.

Our journalistic and political assumption is that each side to a debate will “try” to tell the truth — and will count it as a setback if they’re caught making things up. Until now the idea has been that if you can show a contrast between words and actions, claim and reality, it may not bring the politician down, but it will hurt. For instance: Bill Clinton survived “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” but he was damaged then, and lastingly, when the truth came out. To close the loop, knowledge of the risks of being caught has encouraged most politicians to minimize provable lies.

None of this works with Donald Trump. He doesn’t care, and at least so far the institutional GOP hasn’t either.

How can the press gird for action? Here are three early indications from the news.

A very good read, including this note from one of Fallows’s readers, on dealing with a narcissist:

The Times got in trouble by trying to make sense of his words. It’s an easy mistake for people in a word-saturated medium to make, but anyone who’s dealt with a narcissist knows you never, ever believe what they say — because they will say whatever the person they are talking to wants to hear. DT is a master at phrasing things vaguely enough that multiple listeners will be able to hear exactly what they want. It isn’t word salad; it’s overt deception, which is much more pernicious.

But the Times fell for it. I’m watching the same mistake get made over and over again, but I don’t know how to help journalists get out of the trap. If we are going to survive the days ahead, someone needs to teach reporters the difference between naming narcissism vs. dealing effectively with a narcissist.

Case in point, The New York Times staff seemed buoyed by Trump’s claim during his interview that he would keep “an open mind” about “pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.” It was bullshit. He was simply telling The Times staff what they wanted to hear.

Monday, 28 November 2016