Alabama, the Joke’s on You

Lili Loofbourow, Trump Lost #Sharpiegate the Moment He Took It Seriously

During this astonishing #Sharpiegate news cycle—a throbbing tumor attached to the real news of a Bahamas devastated by the storm—Trump, who typically lies with fluency and ease, cared so deeply about being fact-checked on this particular matter that his handlers warned the press he’d keep it going as long as they did. Trouble was, Trump cared much more than the press did. Maybe pathologically. He spent the better part of a week doubling down like a hangry gambler on this single claim, sharing old maps of obsolete weather forecasts to find something that would make him right—while Alabama went unaffected and the Bahamas mourned and the Carolinas battened down. He persisted until almost everyone ended up mystified and astounded, shaking their heads the way one does when someone has well and truly lost it.…

More interesting than Trump’s ongoing lie is what his absolute fixation on maintaining it says about the state of his White House and its relationship to the information environment. So clumsy and obvious was the Sharpie-drawn extension that it seemed like a test—how much can I get away with? Authoritarians frequently gauge their subordinates’ loyalties by ordering them to agree to things that are plainly untrue. …

It’s not hard to understand why people—even Fox News reporters—are refusing to let #Sharpiegate go. Natural disasters are serious business. And there is nothing partisan about a hurricane map, or about the potential for false alarms and unnecessary panic and misdirected resources.

So now the claim is that it was all a big joke.

Apparently, driving ignorant rednecks into a panic based on false information is a real knee-slapper.

Washington Post, The Fix, Trump suggested his Alabama deception was a big joke. But NOAA isn’t laughing — and neither should we.

President Trump’s supporters generally have a few different retorts to news about his serial untruths, which now include more than 12,000 false or misleading claims:

It’s overblown by the media.

Every politician does it.

He’s doing it intentionally to troll the media and his opponents.

Trump himself leaned into this last one over the weekend. He tweeted a video around midnight Saturday that depicted CNN as a cat batting at a laser pointer as he moves it around Trump’s doctored map of Hurricane Dorian in which the storm shows a potential to hit Alabama. The message is unmistakable: He’s a master troll, making the media dance with a carefully crafted distraction.

There are a couple of problems with that. The first is that Trump’s own argument implies he’s being deceptive. The second is that treating “Sharpie-gate” as a meaningless distraction completely misses the point.

Let’s think for a second about what Trump tweeted Saturday night. He suggested that he’s not really doing all this because of Alabama and Dorian but rather to mess with people. (It would seem odd that someone who is so effectively pulling the wool over people’s eyes would come out and tell them that’s what he’s doing, but let’s set that aside for a second.) He’s effectively saying that he spent a full week of his presidency trolling the country with a trivial debate.

A Thought for the Folks in Mobile Who Were Scared Shitless by Trump’s Tweets

I hope y’all are now rolling on the floor, laughing uproariously.

Because, Alabama, the joke is on you.