“I hate to tell you this folks, but that is fake news, totally fake news.”
“Let me tell you, those reporters putting out fake news are bad people.”
“Trust me, they’re telling lies, they’re liars, total liars. What can I say?”
These are not actual quotes of Donald J. Trump. These are examples of Trump-speak, an unusual vernacular that arose in American English following the Obama years . Form a zero with your right hand while you say these trumpisms with pursed lips in order to get the full effect.
In a previous post, I explained how any attacks on others are best understood as telling remarks. It would only occur to people to say these things if they were dishing out fake news themselves, secretly thinking of themselves as bad people and knowing subconsciously how they have been telling lies often.
Here’s what Donald J. Trump is not saying that would ordinarily be said by a leader of the free world:
- “It’s become apparent to me that I am not giving the press enough information to publish an accurate appraisal of our situation.”
- “I’ve done a bad job of clearing up some misunderstandings that have arisen following something I said last week.”
- “I may have provoked you to think that I was misleading you or covering up the truth by saying so little about this so far.”
In these statements, the leader is making “I” statements. The leader is taking full responsibility for errors that appeared in press coverage. The leader is conveying a desire to work with the press to clear up confusion, correct misinterpretations and report accurately on the leader’s intentions, activities and accomplishments. These statements noticeably avoid finger pointing, blaming, labeling and self-aggrandizement. The press is shown respect because the leader has enough self respect to see the press as worthy of respect. The press would respect this leader in return, seeing that admiration was earned and well deserved.
Another remarkable feature of trumpisms is the frequent prefacing of remarks with references to the big deal involved with informing us: Let me tell you, I have to tell you, Listen to this, I hate to tell you this but, Trust me I know, I must tell you, etc. When these prefaces get used, we often get called “folks”. He is sending us signals when he phrases his announcements this way. They are also telling remarks.
Back when restaurant waiters and waitresses started addressing my entire table as “guys”, I was taken aback by that turn of phrase. I’ve now grown accustomed to the greeting. Now, I am equally startled to be addressed as “folks”. For it to be coming from such a powerful source of mixed messages, I presume the use of “folks” is more telling than incidental. Here are four possibilities for what is being implied, conveyed in the subtext or meant to be read between the lines:
- “I’m being gracious enough to be folksy with you, even though I am far superior to you and forced to condescend to address you at your low level”.
- “I’m a folk-hero to all the working folks in America who pay exorbitant taxes with their hard earned money and I don’t want you to forget that when you get exposed to all the fake news about me”.
- “I’m being polite to all you good folks while I’m working a rip-off scheme that treats you as a real sucker”.
- “Folk you folkers! If you won’t believe me, you don’t buy what I’m selling or you can’t fall for the incredible deal I’m offering you, go folk yourselves”.
I read a blog post by George Lakoff a couple months ago (A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, And What the Majority Can Do). It got me thinking how marketing savvy may be what’s animating Donald J.Trump’s speech. His real estate deals and Celebrity Apprentice TV show would have given him countless opportunities to hone his craft. Now I have to tell you, all the prefaces that occur in Trump-speak have the feel of a marketing outlook on life. I hate to tell you this, but they are not causal phrases to be taken lightly. Listen to this, they orchestrate some subliminal manipulation to get buy-in, customer loyalty or cross selling to other offerings. What can I say? I’m going to translate these prefaces to say what I now think they mean:
- Let me sell you this bill of goods
- I have to sell you on my amazing abilities
- Listen to my fake news you are going to fall for
- I hate to sell you this but I have no choice with others pulling my strings
- Trust me, I know what I’m talking about when I put my spin on this empty promise
- I must sell you this now before you suspect that I’m lying
In short, if you have misgivings about these frequent prefaces in Trump-speak, trust how it doesn’t feel right to you. Suspect, as I have here, that he is signaling us about a hidden dimension to his unusual vernacular. Piece two and two together. Do not take him at his word or take him literally. Read between the lines of his verbal antics.