I’ve developed a disturbing addiction: I’ve become addicted to statements from the ranks of the Republican Party. Every morning, I obsessively read through the latest things that Donald Trump and his gang have said, that hair-raising gibberish, and every morning what they say gets more insane. The record so far belongs to Rudy Giuliani, who recently claimed there weren’t any terrorist attacks on American soil worth mentioning before Barack Obama became president.
Please take a moment just to let that truly sink in. Does that statement not make you want to crack up in disbelief? You know as well as Mr. Giuliani does that September 11, 2001, was the biggest terrorist attack in world history and that the U.S. president at the time was George W. Bush. Perhaps you might also remember who the mayor of New York was back then. It was Rudy G.
If Giuliani, of all people, now acts as though September 11th had never happened, that fascinates me. In the true sense of the word: There is something bewitching about that lie. It is so blatant it almost feels like an act of violence. One would like to respond in some way but is simply too stunned. And of course responding would do no good. In fact, the rejoinder "You’re lying" would only prove one missed the point. Because the interesting thing is that everybody can see through Giuliani’s lie without effort. Even the people who applaud him probably know he just told them the untruth. Thing is: they don’t care.
The question of whether something corresponds to the facts is apparently losing its relevance. That’s what the American Republicans, and not just they alone, have come to realize, and that is what I feel compelled to watch, like a form of black magic that I can’t understand.
What I do understand: It’s about feelings. Mr. Giuliani knows that for the audience in front of him, it feels true that everything has gotten worse since Mr. Obama came into power, including the terror. Mr. Giuliani’s lie taps into that feeling, it acts as confirmation. For some time now, the term "post-truth politics" has been circulating. The truth of a statement is no longer terribly important for its value in the political arena.
And please don’t say that this is an American thing. That this has nothing to do with us.
Because it most certainly does. In England, for instance, the Brexit supporters were also issuing false claims on the daily before the referendum. By voting leave, the most famous line went, there shall be £350 million more every week for the National Health Service. A lie. The Leave-Campaign won despite of it. Or perhaps because of it.
And in October 2015, the German minister of the interior, Thomas de Maizière, sat in TV host Maybrit Illner’s studio and claimed that 30 percent of the Syrians in Germany had false passports and were, in fact, not really Syrians at all, implying that these people were cheating the German state and could easily be sent packing. He made the claim without his ministry being able to even partially substantiate that figure (and on the contrary, research suggests that the true figure lies at less than 1 percent). Now who was the minister targeting with this fantasy? Wasn’t that a very conscious courting of the right-wing fringe of the Christian Democrats, a statement meant for all those whose "felt truth" this accorded with? Or when Katja Kipping of left-wing-party Die Linke declared on television that the German government doesn’t mention Turkey’s human-rights situation in its dealings with that country’s government. Wasn’t this easily refuted, false statement an appeal to all those who reject the European refugee agreement with Erdoğan’s state? Of course politicians have always enjoyed telling voters what they want to hear. But such lies weren’t supposed to be public statements, they were frowned upon, they were appropriate at a fund-raiser maybe, but not on television.