I once told a friend that Shanghai, China was the largest city in the world. I was wrong, but I didn’t know that. Tokyo was the largest city at the time. I was not telling a lie. And I was not providing “alternate facts”. I was simply wrong. I admit I made a mistake.
What about Donald Trump? He lies all the time, right?
Well, I’m not so sure. Just like I wasn’t lying when I said Shanghai was the largest city, I don’t think Trump is lying when he says things we know to be incorrect. And the reason I say this is because I don’t think Trump treats sentences and statements the way most people do. Trump speaks to try to convince others to like him and to persuade them to do what he wants them to do. Toward that end, the truth of the words he speaks is irrelevant. For Trump, the goal of speech is not to learn, educate, or even to seek common ground. The only purpose of speech is persuasion. What do you want to be true? What do you think those you are trying to persuade want to be true? Say those things. Give no thought to whether or not the words you speak are actually true or not. Persuade! Get those people on your side. Get them to believe in you. Say the things they want to hear so they will put their trust in you.
You might think a strategy like that would not work today, in the Age of the Internet. But obviously it is working for him, largely due to the Industry of Republicans desperate to keep Republicans in power at all costs. They will spread disinformation attempting to dilute Trump’s lies and change the topic by creating a new crisis to turn national attention away from other lies. Given that the Industry of Republicans have been working since the Reagan Era to instill blind loyalty in Republicans to their leader, the strategy is working well enough to keep Trump in power.
So, is Trump telling lies? By the definition of most people, “YES!”. But by his own definition, “no”.