Mike Zielinski

Mike Zielinski

Fables are for children, not presidents.

When historians sift through the rubble of the Trump presidency, one thing they will not find is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Some of you reading this may actually believe that the presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. If so, my condolences for falling sucker to a lie.

Or rather an endless spool of lies unraveling into lunacy and sedition.

Indeed, subway stations smell better than the rotten attempt by our sitting president to undo our treasured democracy. With no tangible exit strategy, he’s shrouded in plenty of poisonous pontifications and posturings.

Trump, consciously or not, is following in the hellish footsteps of Adolph Hitler, whose Nazi propaganda blitzkrieg was greased by a cascading cavalcade of lies.

“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” is a law of propaganda often attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s notorious propaganda architect.

Among psychologists this is known as the illusion of truth effect.

Of course, even if a lie sounds plausible, why would you set what you know aside just because you heard the lie repeatedly?

For instance, if I told you one zillion times that the world is flat, would you cringe when your next cruise ship ventures too far out on the oceanic horizon?

Yes, you just might.

Several years ago a team led by Lisa Fazio of Vanderbilt University tested how the illusion of truth effect interacts with our prior knowledge.

Their results showed that the illusion of truth effect worked just as strongly for known as for unknown items, suggesting that prior knowledge may not prevent repetition from swaying our judgments of plausibility.

Hence, you can see why even a supposedly rational, intelligent person who knows that American democracy has not been historically a petri dish for rigged elections might believe that the 2020 presidential election was rigged — simply because our president incessantly lied that it was.

Sounds like bad news for human rationality, huh? Truth be told, these folks aren’t necessarily dumber than a box of nails. Some of them have an inherent bias because they’re clinging to their fearless leader like a drowning guy clinging to a life preserver in a tsunami.

Fortunately for all our sanity, many folks don’t fall prey to the illusion of truth. When Fazio and her colleagues dug deeper into the psychological science, they found that the biggest influence on whether a statement was judged to be true was whether it actually was true.

So you can exhale and relax now. The repetition effect can’t mask the truth for most of us.

Trump is a different story. I truly believe that in his heart he believes the election was stolen from him. He has swallowed the poison of his own lies and digested it as the truth.

Suffice it to say, a guy has to eat a lot of Swiss cheese to have that many holes in his logic.

Trump spent his presidency strutting like a large peacock commanding center stage. When you’re president, you’re like the handle of a whip — every movement ripples back to you.

Not so for ex-presidents. They’re yesterday’s news. All our former presidents have accepted the reality of suddenly being bivouacked with yesterday. Until Donald Trump. I suspect he’ll have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the past.

Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

comments powered by Disqus