Trump’s electoral fiction floats free of verifiable reality. It is defended not so much by facts as by claims that someone else has made some claims. The sensibility is that something must be wrong because I feel it to be wrong, and I know others feel the same way. When political leaders such as Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan spoke like this, what they meant was: You believe my lies, which compels me to repeat them. Social media provides an infinity of apparent evidence for any conviction, especially one seemingly held by a president.
There are many kinds of lying which the law already catches: lying to defraud people of money or property; lying about someone’s character; lying on oath. In Germany and a number of other states Holocaust denial is a statutory lie and a crime. But, such offences aside, human rights law has found itself unable to draw a line between freedom to speak your mind and freedom to fabricate, falsify or mislead. The reason is not hard to see: a court called on to adjudicate on, for instance, some of the tall stories propagated in the course of the EU referendum campaign would have had to assume the role of a ministry of truth.BACK TO TOP