Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist whose self-obsession is so profound and unrelenting that he can tell lie after lie without even knowing he’s doing it. It’s entirely possible he truly believes the bullshit that regularly comes out of his mouth. Kellyanne Conway is a different story, though. Conway’s mental illness is a kind of cunning, utterly shameless sociopathy. She knows full well she’s lying when she does it, since she’s doing it deliberately — she simply doesn’t care. Keep that in mind when you consider her latest, by far most surreal and jaw-dropping whopper, the supposed “Bowling Green Massacre” she created out of thin air then used as a cudgel to beat the media for its lack of coverage of. Of a non-existent story about a thing that never happened. Understand that there was and always will be a method to Kellyanne Conway’s madness.
This morning, right on cue, Conway “apologized,” in a manner of speaking, for what she called an “honest mistake.” She acknowledged that there was never a massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky (or Ohio, for that matter) by Iraqi terrorists, saying that she simply meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists,” a reference, she claims, to two Iraqi men who arrived in the Kentucky town as refugees but were arrested by the FBI for allegedly trying to send money and weapons back to Iraq. This was, needless to say, horseshit. A quick reread of her exact statement, made during an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, makes that clear. “I bet, there was very little coverage — I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized — and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. I mean, most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered,” she said.
Two people, terrorists, participated in a massacre. They were the masterminds behind a massacre. A massacre that never happened. There isn’t even a hint of an “honest mistake” in there. “I bet it’s brand new information to people,” she says. Of course it is, because it’s never been uttered once in the history of the world before it came out of the mouth of Kellyanne Conway, because, again, it never happened. (By the way, the first part of her statement? About the supposed Obama six-month ban on Iraqi refugees? That’s a lie, too. Shocking, right?)
It’s difficult to express both the audacity and the insidiousness of what Conway’s doing here (what she’s been doing for months, really). Her comment about the nonexistent Bowling Green Massacre is a masterwork of calculated mendacity, the kind of thing that would be admirable if it weren’t so dangerous. You can’t help but wonder if Conway didn’t do the Italian chef finger kiss to herself after she came up with it. Go back and read it one more time. She creates a phony event that she uses specifically to assault the media for its unwillingness to cover, knowing full well that four things will quickly happen: 1) The fake event will immediately become “real” for Trump’s people, lodging in their collective consciousness, especially as the lie is repeated again and again as it becomes its own story; 2) they’ll assume the reason they had never heard of it was precisely because of a full-on conspiracy by the dishonest media, making it a self-reinforcing delusion; 3) Trump loyalists and media shills will begin reverse-engineering facts to fit the lie, giving it “credibility,” or at the very least providing her enough plausible deniability to feign outrage; 4) she’ll get double the bang for her buck because once journalists begin calling her out on the lie, she can again slam them for not accepting her apology or asking her to clarify her comment.
It’s genius. Evil genius. Which is exactly why it needs to be fought against tooth and nail.
Here’s why: not simply because Kellyanne Conway’s lie wasn’t an accident but because it was a strategy. The goal of Conway is to deliberately muddy the waters between fact and fiction so that the two are indistinguishable. The reason for this? Because doing so debases the truth to the point where it simply doesn’t matter anymore. This is important because the truth — cold, hard fact — is the Trump administration’s worst enemy, as it is the enemy of authoritarian governments in general but of Trump specifically because he lives his life complete unmoored to it. What’s more, the truth is what a free press derives its power and authority from, and the Trump administration has already declared the press “the opposition.” What better way to destroy that opposition, then, than to take away the importance of that for which it stands.
What we’ve seen from these people from the very beginning is an attempt to not simply lie so often and audaciously that Americans can’t tell fact from fiction anymore, but also to confuse Americans about which outlets they should be turning to to sort it all out. This is why Fox News is practically state-run TV at this point and why Steve Bannon’s own Breitbart and Alex Jones’s Infowars are being elevated by the administration while CNN and The New York Times are being denigrated, the former shut out completely and labeled, surreally, “fake news” by Trump himself. It’s no big surprise that Conway took to MSNBC to unleash her monumental lie on our nation: Again, what better way to hurt a news outlet’s credibility than to purposely spread disinformation on it. And of course, Conway was asked to appear on MSNBC’s air. And she almost certainly will be in the future, even though she just proved once again that she can’t be trusted to tell the truth.
This is a frightening time in our nation’s history. We’re past saving if we’re past recognizing and refusing to tolerate an outright lie. We can’t survive if we can’t agree on what the truth is and that it matters. This kind of thing is essential to Democracy. And Kellyanne Conway is trying to dismantle it lie by lie by lie.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.