This is hardly earthshaking, I know, but take a look at this Donald Trump tweet from Monday evening:
The world was gloomy before I won – there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10% and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2016
No hope! But put the narcissism and egotism aside.1 In a mere 26 words Trump has managed to mislead his audience in three separate ways without quite lying about anything. First, no matter how many times the press pushes this meme, the world was not especially gloomy before he won. Nor was America. Consumer sentiment has been steadily rising since 2011 and personal satisfaction is near its all-time high:
Second, the stock market is indeed up, but it’s been rising steadily for President Obama’s entire term. That “nearly 10 percent” uptick—actually 6 percent since Election Day, and mostly driven by big banks, but who’s counting?—is that teensy blip at the very end of the chart:
Finally, retail sales have been rising steadily during Obama’s entire term, and so has holiday spending. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday spending will increase 3.6 percent this year (1.9 percent in real terms), and will finish up not at “over a trillion dollars,” but at $655 billion:
In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t matter. But it’s still a fascinating little insight into how Trump gaslights his followers and the nation into believing that he’s the savior of the country. Most people have no idea about any of these numbers, so he can say anything he wants and he’s likely to be believed. Nor will fact-checking change this even a tiny bit. Politics has always been about exaggeration and cherry picking, but we’re now living through an era in which the truth flatly doesn’t matter. At this point, I’m pretty sure Trump’s followers would believe him if he said that Obama had tried to give Alaska back to the Russians but he managed to stop it. Then the press would stroke its collective chin and write careful pieces about how Trump was really talking about some rocky shoal that nobody cared about but had been officially disputed since Seward bought the place. Nuance, you see.
1Though I suppose we shouldn’t. What kind of person writes stuff like this?