This isn’t the first time our government has lied to us. Other lies, such as those told by the George W. Bush administration in order to justify their unprovoked invasion of Iraq, have had a much more direct impact on people’s lives here in our country and all over the world.
Additionally, this is far from the first lie Donald Trump or his White House have told. Indeed, releasing a doctored piece of propaganda wasn’t even only the Trump lie issued last Thursday. However, even if it isn’t the only one, or the worst one, the nature of this lie requires some special attention, both because of the details surrounding it and the general lack of protest by Trump supporters—a non-reaction that reveals, or at least further confirms, so much.
To recap briefly, during a presidential press conference on Wednesday, CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to ask a follow-up question of The Man Who (Still) Lost The Popular Vote. The guy at the podium didn’t much like it, and a White House intern attempted to confiscate the microphone into which Acosta was speaking.
After the exchange, the Trump administration revoked Acosta’s access to the White House, and press secretary Sarah Sanders stated:
President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration. We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable.
However, Acosta did no such thing. A New York Times article on the incident summarized what happened as follows: “Television footage showed that Mr. Acosta and the intern made brief, benign contact—“Pardon me, ma’am,” the correspondent said—as she tried to take a microphone away from him at Mr. Trump’s behest.” Their arms collided because Acosta was bringing his left arm down after pointing forward for emphasis just as the intern, putting her arm across his torso, grabbed at the microphone Acosta held in his other hand.
As awful as it is to block a journalist from the seat of the executive branch, the White House’s behavior got even worse later on Wednesday. That evening Sanders released a video as justification for that revocation. Her tweet claimed that the video “clearly documented” the “inappropriate behavior” committed by “this individual.” The video—which appears to have been originally posted by Paul Joseph Watson, an editor-at-large for the notoriously fact-challenged right-wing conspiracy site Infowars—was a lie. Jen Hayden’s post lays out, in excruciating detail provided by video editing professions, exactly how this video was doctored.
Whether or not the White House knew the video had been doctored before they released it is irrelevant. The president of the United States and those who act and speak in his name have a much higher responsibility than that. Either way, they have continued to stand by the lie, even after it has been clearly demonstrated to be such.
If the notion that our government would do such a thing evokes George Orwell for you, well, you’re not alone. In addition to J.K. Rowling’s tweet, which she issued in response to Sarah Sanders’ post of the doctored video, you can clearly see the truth of what happened during the press conference in the video below.
On a related note, please don’t forget that the Trump White House has directly doctored evidence before. After then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer lied about the size of his boss’ … inauguration crowd (what, you thought I was going somewhere else with that?), Trump got a bit upset when photos contradicted that lie. He demanded that a government employee produce some better (i.e., fake) photos to support it. That little bit of doctoring may have itself been covered up, as the Guardian reporter who discovered it explained: “The newly disclosed details were not included in the inspector general’s office’s final report on its inquiry into the saga, which was published in June last year and gave a different account of the NPS [National Park Service] photographer’s actions.” Lies upon lies.
The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I know I’ve heard those words somewhere. Over the past two years, this White House has turned those words into a sick joke. Releasing doctored evidence to support a lie—a lie used to justify restricting a member of the press from doing his job—that’s the worst punchline yet.
Republicans have long pretended to enshrine as a core principle the importance of limiting government power. Only by limiting government power can the American people truly be free, they have somberly intoned. There is, however, no power greater than the power to define what is truth. Republicans have now wholeheartedly granted that power to the government, at least while they run it. For anyone who hadn’t already realized it, this incident should finally make clear that Republicans have no principles, only a commitment to grab and hold power through any means necessary.
To quote J.K. Rowling again—this time channeling the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche as laid out in his book Beyond Good and Evil—there’s a line uttered in the very first Harry Potter book by one of Lord Voldemort’s most devoted servants. It’s a line that completely defines Voldemort’s worldview: “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” This is also the worldview of the Trump White House. As for those Republicans who stand with it after this kind of violation of the truth, they are but the unprincipled servants of their powerful master.