As if the never-ending US Presidential election campaign was not surreal enough, yesterday Donald Trump issued a statement attacking Hillary Clinton, entitled: Follow The Money: Denis O’Brien – Another Corrupt Clinton Friend.
And it’s only ‘semi-exact‘ to call it a statement. It’s actually a set of news clippings all studiously referenced and hyperlinked back to their original source, each prefaced with a heading. The first half details a series of articles establishing the (not exactly secret) links between the Clintons and O’Brien. The second covers articles on the Moriarty Tribunal, Michael Lowry, Siteserv and his legal interactions with media that report and comment on his affairs.
While (allegedly) the Irish media are very twitchy about how it reports this story, there is a certain amount of irony in Trump’s clearly intentional second-handing of his material on O’Brien. The term ‘post-truth’ is now being used by the likes of Time to describe how public political discourse has moved beyond what it describes as “…Trump’s theory of factual relativism. In his campaign’s view, he cannot be lying if he believes something to be true.” That ‘Follow The Money’ attack line is used in a number of similar statements about the links between the Clintons and big business, posing questions about the legitimacy of various aspects of those relations.
The idea of ‘post-truth politics’ was probably coined by David Roberts when writing about US politics in Grist back in 2010. He said, “We live in post-truth politics: a political culture in which politics (public opinion and media narratives) have become almost entirely disconnected from policy (the substance of legislation).” That disconnect between policy and politics has now progressed to the stage where, even over an extended campaign, factual rebuttals of statements made by Trump are simply ignored. Some of this is ascribed to the notion of political ‘outsiders’ being capable of achieving a greater resonance with the public using emotional framing, but without being judged with the same scepticism as careerist politicians. This has also been partly used to explain the Brexit result, despite the overt contradiction in classifying either a billionaire like Trump or the Tory Leave campaigners as ‘outsiders’.
As to Denis O’Brien, if you want to ponder on whether ‘post-truth’ politics in the south has quite a long history, it is worth your while clicking the links on those selected pieces included in the Trump statement.