I guess I should start by saying this is not a blog. Nor is it what one might call a column. It’s an experiment of sorts to see if there’s something in between those two. Most Fridays, from now on, I’ll be writing in this space about, among other things, the end of Western civilization, the collapse of the republic, and, yes, my beagles. If you’re a veteran reader of my former site, the Dish, you may find yourselves at times in an uncanny valley. So may I. The model I’m trying to follow is more like the British magazine tradition of a weekly diary — on the news, but a little distant from it, personal as well as political, conversational more than formal.
I want to start with Trump’s lies. It’s now a commonplace that Trump and his underlings tell whoppers. Fact-checkers have never had it so good. But all politicians lie. Bill Clinton could barely go a day without some shading or parsing of the truth. Richard Nixon was famously tricky. But all the traditional political fibbers nonetheless paid some deference to the truth — even as they were dodging it. They acknowledged a shared reality and bowed to it. They acknowledged the need for a common set of facts in order for a liberal democracy to function at all. Trump’s lies are different. They are direct refutations of reality — and their propagation and repetition is about enforcing his power rather than wriggling out of a political conundrum. They are attacks on the very possibility of a reasoned discourse, the kind of bald-faced lies that authoritarians issue as a way to test loyalty and force their subjects into submission. That first press conference when Sean Spicer was sent out to lie and fulminate to the press about the inauguration crowd reminded me of some Soviet apparatchik having his loyalty tested to see if he could repeat in public what he knew to be false. It was comical, but also faintly chilling.