James Fallows has come out of his hiding place (he's writing a book and so has been offline since January 1st) to annotate President Trump's inaugural address. I didn't hear the speech, and now that I've read it, with Fallows' annotations, I'm incrementally more nervous about the next four years.
And then came the bald-faced lies about the crowd size at the inauguration. Crowd scientists, such as those at the CIA, estimated perhaps 160,000 people attended the inauguration, somewhat fewer than Obama's record 1.8 million in 2009. The president said he had more like 1.5 million spectators. Press Secretary Sean Spicer had a testy press conference Saturday in which he asserted (at CIA headquarters no less) that Trump had record crowds. For those of us used to the evidence-based world, it made no sense: why would the president's press secretary say something so obviously untrue to the White House press corps?
Well, chess champion and Human Rights Foundation chair Garry Kasparov, who (a) plays chess well and (b) grew up in the Soviet Union, suggested a reason that Americans aren't generally equipped to perceive:
The purpose of the Trump administration’s lies is not necessarily to deceive, but to separate the believers from the disbelievers—for the purpose of rewarding the former and punishing the latter. As chess champion Garry Kasparov, an expert in authoritarianism as an outspoken opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, tweeted on Saturday: "Obvious lies serve a purpose for an administration. They watch who challenges them and who loyally repeats them. The people must watch, too."
Jeet Heer concludes:
Trump’s self-centered decision process is authoritarianism, and it’s anything but irrational. He campaigned in an authoritarian style, with rallies where he riled up large crowds to jeer at the press and protesters. One of the defining tactics of his campaign was disinformation, coupled with accusations of the same against the media. That hasn’t changed now that Trump is president. The administration’s unified anti-press and anti-fact message over the weekend is part of a deliberate, long-term strategy that was hatched many months ago, and is only likely to intensify. The president will wage a rhetorical war against the media, with the intent of delegitimizing one of the few institutions that can hold him accountable, and he will wage it with his most effective weapon: Lies, damned lies, and false statistics.
I've never thought that Trump was crazy or stupid, though I have thought he was unhinged, narcissistic, infantile, immoral, and declassé in the extreme. I've also thought he would try govern very badly. So far I haven't been wrong.