No matter what you think of Donald Trump — not much, in my case — all sensible people agree that he has been the subject of many unfair attacks from the news media and elsewhere. A few days ago, a long list of such attacks was compiled by a very unlikely source: Snopes.com, which is usually absurdly left-leaning when it comes to political issues. The surprising and excellent piece is titled The Lies of Donald Trump’s Critics, and How They Shape His Many Personas. The deck headline reads: “An in-depth analysis of the false allegations and misleading claims made against the 45th President since his inauguration.”
Dan McGuill, the author of the piece, selects four categories of calumny against Trump. I’ll give you a short excerpt from each category to whet your appetite for the full piece:
- Donald Trump: International Embarrassment
Take, for example, the claim that Trump was the only world leader at a G7 summit in May not to take notes, based on a photograph posted to Twitter by French President Emannuel Macron. Here Trump was portrayed as unprepared and out of his depth on the world stage, with a “ten-second attention span”. However, the claim was entirely untrue, with other images and video of the meeting showing that Trump did indeed have notes and a pen. Not only that, but the very image used to make the false claim clearly shows two other world leaders sitting with no note-taking paraphernalia. In this case, even the cherry-picked evidence chosen to make the point undermines it.
- Trump the Tyrant
Then there was the satirical article that reported Trump had signed an executive order declaring himself the popular vote winner in 2016’s presidential election, or the claim that he had imposed martial law in Chicago, using a video of a police tank which has been in use since 2010.
- Donald Trump: Bully baby
Sometimes these claims seem plausible enough to gain even more credibility and traction. In April, Trump met the public at the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll. A teenaged boy asked him to sign his “Make America Great Again” hat, and the President obliged, but appeared to toss the hat in the air.
This was presented as a callous act from a bullying, villainous Donald Trump by observers such as the Resistance Report web site, which wrote ” Trump Just Ruined This Kid’s Day at the Easter Egg Roll.” However, another camera angle clearly shows that Trump was playfully tossing the hat back to the boy, who happily receives the hat and walks away. This video was posted to Twitter 42 minutes after the original:
But even without the second camera angle, Occam’s Razor comes into play once again. Does it make sense that Donald Trump, asked by an enthusiastic young man to sign a hat bearing his iconic slogan, would sign the hat and then, smiling, deliberately throw it away from the boy? Or is it more likely that Trump was being playful with someone who acted admiringly towards him, and tossed the hat in the air with the intention of giving it back to the boy?
- Trump the Buffoon
Almost instantly, Trump was mocked for citing as an Irish proverb a poem written by a Nigerian man.
The entire episode is a remarkable example of something bordering on collective hallucination, most likely brought on by confirmation bias. Here hundreds of thousands of people — including professional journalists working for influential news organizations, and a chat show host with more than three million nightly viewers — literally heard Trump say something he never said, in most cases probably because it confirmed a pre-existing image of the President as a poorly read, culturally ignorant buffoon.
Of course, one thing that feeds these falsehoods is the fact that Trump has aspects of his personality that are embarrassing, tyrannical, bullying, and buffoonish.
It has to be acknowledged that since January, many of Trump’s opponents, and even lukewarm supporters, have found considerable fault with his policies and behavior, based on accurate facts. There have been many occasions when Trump himself, undistorted and unfiltered, contributed mightily to the four personas we have outlined.
Indeed, even if you are a fierce opponent of the President, you should be an equally fierce opponent of manufactured stories designed to make him look bad. Because those stories undercut the genuine criticism he often deserves — and give his supporters a lazy way to dismiss as exaggerations even valid points about his character or behavior.
Snopes.com has a deserved reputation for left-leaning political bias. This piece undoes some of the damage the site has done to its own reputation for honesty … honesty which ought to be, and in this case is, integral to the brand of a site built to debunks myths and lies. This is a win for them and for us. And for integrity.
Fact-checkers of the world, take note. This is how you do it.