Despite the fact that he loves bragging about his intelligence, Donald Trump speaks below a sixth-grade level, he admittedly doesn't read books, and he cites himself as his most trusted foreign policy consultant. Nevertheless, much like no actual smart person ever does, Trump routinely insists that he is smart. He has three main arguments on which he hangs the illusion of intellect, which he repeated ad nauseum on the campaign trail, and continues to repeat to anyone who will listen.
The first is that he attended the Wharton School, a private Ivy League business college—a completely meaningless accomplishment since any rich boy with a connected daddy can, and usually does, coast through an education and into a cushy job (Hi, George W. Bush!). The second is that his uncle was an M.I.T. professor. Trump often credits his uncle as his source of his "very good genes" including once in a legendary, 90-second run-on sentence that is such a massive nut-kick to the English language that it ironically would take several M.I.T. professors to dissect it. And lastly, Trump's third, most impregnable defense of his own superior intellect: "Trust me."
Trust him. Put your faith in the capable, not at all doll-like hands of Donald Trump. After all, he "has a very good brain," he "knows all the best words," and is "like, a really smart person." He ended so many sentences with "trust me" or "believe me" in debates and speeches that it became something of a catchphrase for him, eclipsing his previous one which took delight in stripping people of their jobs.
"Trust me" is how someone shows their work when they live a privileged life in which no one ever challenges them and they never have to put forth any effort to prove themselves. You never hear someone say, "I'm a neuroscientist… trust me." But Trump believes that because he has failed his way upwards through life, we should all take him at his word, which is a very good word by the way—the best word—trust him. Believe him.
This is how Donald Trump makes himself feel smart: by banking on everyone's collective gullibility.
While running for President throughout 2016, Trump told his increasingly large fanbase to trust him about anything and everything. The problem was of course that "...trust me" typically followed a blatant lie about any given subject: crime rates, the cost of healthcare premiums, terrorism statistics, unemployment numbers, his taxes… The list is so extensive it could almost fill one of those comically long, Chinese-made power ties he wears. And since he was always rattling off his made-up nonsense to a sea of fans in red hats who weren't interested in doing a quick Google search to challenge him, he continued to use applause as confirmation that he is in fact very smart. Clapping means he did a good thing! This is the mentality of Donald Trump and also every infant.
To get this approval he so desperately craved, he pulled numbers straight from the depths of his ass because he knew that data and statistics are sometimes nebulous or at the very least require some fact-checking. And if any news outlets did disprove him, he could simply dismiss them as FAKE NEWS! and continue living in his imaginary world where Barack Obama is the founder of ISIS, people instantly get shot for walking down the street in Chicago, Ted Cruz's father aided JFK's assassination, and Hillary Clinton lost the popular vote because millions voted illegally.
He even committed an unforgivable act of dishonesty about his pre-inauguration ceremony, making everyone believe that 3 Doors Down and Big & Rich were worthwhile bookings as performers.
But this weekend, immediately after he was sworn in as President, he flew too close to the sun on his wings made of horseshit, even by Trump standards. He began lying about the plain realities around him, things people didn't need Google or the media to debunk, just their own two eyes.
On Saturday, after delivering a few pandering sentences at the headquarters of the CIA, an institution he just ten days prior likened to Nazi Germany, he launched into a 15-minute rant about what was clearly weighing on him: the previous day's inauguration coverage. Standing in front of a wall of stars memorializing fallen officers, he went on long, rambling, personal tangents about how unfairly he was treated in the press, dropping a number of outright lies. He bragged that he has been on the cover TIME Magazine "14 or 15 times… I think we have the all-time record." (Actual number: 11, trailing Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon, among others.)
He also whined about the media's underestimation of the ceremony's attendance, saying it "looked like there were a million, a million and a half people." He called journalists "among the most dishonest human beings on Earth" and said he caught the media in a "beauty" of a lie. In reality, an estimated 250,000 to 600,000 people were said to have attended, a number largely eclipsed by Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration which drew a record-setting 1.9 million as well as the following day's Women's March. But numbers aside, aerial crowd photos clearly show the disparity between the two crowds. And while crowd scientists have studied the photos, anyone with a grasp on the whole "bigger vs. smaller" concept can look at the side-by-side shots to see how short Trump comes up.
But then there was the most baffling thing he lied about: the weather. "God looked down and said 'We're not gonna let it rain on your speech,'" Trump said, noting that it didn't rain while he spoke. [Ron Howard as Arrested Development narrator voice:] It did.
It most definitely rained. For evidence, look at George Bush, who fumbled his way into the Meme Hall of Fame with his rain poncho. Or, even easier, LOOK AT THE FUCKING VISIBLE DROPS OF WATER THAT FELL FROM THE SKY AND ONTO EVERYONE IN ATTENDANCE. To lie about something that millions of people saw for themselves requires a level of hubris so unparalleled that he might as well trademark it.
This bending of reality in one's favor is the type of Supreme Leader-worshipping propaganda disseminated in dictatorships. North Koreans, for example, were made to believe that Kim Jong Il rolled a 300 the first time he ever bowled, could control the weather with his mood, and did not need to defecate—literally shit you not.
So like the head of any good propaganda machine, President Trump spent the two days after his inauguration, which he officially declared "National Day of Patriotic Devotion," siccing his minions on the public to shamelessly defend his clearly evident shortcomings. Perhaps Trump wanted to corner the press into a fight, flexing his new powers over a media that refused to bend to the habitual lies of his campaign. Or maybe he is pathologically unable to accept defeat.
First, White House press secretary, Daft Punk naysayer, and McRib enthusiast, Sean "Spicy Boy" Spicer, in his first official press briefing, took no questions but instead blasted the media with the tenacity of a pomeranian doing an impression of a pit bull. While standing in front of two monitors displaying photos of the inauguration ceremony meant to prove his point, he stated that counts of attendance were unknown since "no one had numbers, because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out." But then he went on to toss out a bunch of misleading numbers anyway. (The National Park Service's Twitter account, which retweeted the unflattering side-by-side comparison photos, was reportedly ordered to cease all Twitter operations until further notice on Saturday. It resumed Monday morning, tweeting: "We regret the mistaken RTs from our account yesterday and look forward to continuing to share the beauty and history of our parks with you.")
Spicer also straight-up lied about about the day's public transit numbers, claiming that "420,000 people used the DC Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama's last inaugural." Not only was this a lie, he didn't even lie in the right direction. Ridership numbers for Trump's inauguration were actually 570,000, though that is still less than Obama '13's 782,000 and Obama '09's 1.1 million.
It seemed like Spicer was confounded as to why an independent media would not prop up the administration's line up of propaganda. Then, Spicer, channeling his inner Donald Trump, spoke in absolutes: "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period." This was his mic drop moment if he dropped the mic on his foot, tripped onto his face, and laid unconscious in a pool of his own blood for 20 minutes.
It's baffling why the press secretary would devote his first address to the media almost entirely to something as trivial as crowd size, given how many ethics violations and serious scandals Trump is currently embroiled in. Normally, people tend to chalk up distractions like this as a diversion tactic, but for Trump, it seems to be more that he saw all the chatter on TV and the internet about crowd size and threw a tantrum. After all, this is a President who used his time in a televised Republican debate to guarantee viewers that there was "no problem" with the size of his dick.
The day after Spicer forever cemented himself as a walking meme, Trump's campaign manager and person who perpetually looks like she just spent an entire day on a Tilt-a-Whirl, Kellyanne Conway, doubled down on Meet the Press. When asked by host Chuck Todd why Trump had America's spokesperson use his first press conference to "utter a falsehood" and undermine the credibility of the White House press office, Conway responded by telling him not to be so dramatic and then dropped such a motherfucker of a PR spin that even she had a hard time keeping a straight face through it—that Spicer offered "alternative facts." You may know alternative facts better by their street name: utter bullshit.
Inevitably, #alternativefacts quickly trended on Twitter as everyone joined in the snark pile-on, especially among those who had jokes about Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins. It even prompted Merriam-Webster Dictionary to tweet the definition of the word "fact." You know things are going badly when the fucking dictionary is subtweeting you.
Trump didn't even make it to his first business day as President before embarrassing himself through a weekend of glaringly obvious fabrications. It wasn't a matter of a dishonest media or a crooked establishment—he and his subordinates lied in the face of plain reality. All visible evidence is stacked against him, but Trump just can't take an L. Ever. And he's willing to drag anyone into his flaming pit of humiliation with him, including the American public.
Donald Trump will not stop pulling everyone into his post-fact world until we are all just as ignorant as he is. This weekend's "alternative facts" were fairly innocuous, but soon he will be meeting with foreign leaders, sitting in on intelligence briefings, and deciding the fate of the world, and the lies will grow graver and become more frequent. He will lie and lie and lie until he has worn everyone down and no one notices or cares that they're being lied to anymore. He will piss on our leg and tell us it's raining—or more accurately, that it's not.
Dan Ozzi is on Twitter - @danozzi