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How 9/11 ushered in the post-truth era of Donald Trump

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Tuesday marked the 17th anniversary of September 11th. President Donald Trump commemorated the occasion with a flippant tweet.

The Internet heaped mockery on the president for marking the deaths of thousands of Americans and a turning point in US foreign policy with a dashed-off exclamation point.

That’s not the first time the president has misused the tragedy. Trump once falsely said that he’d seen thousands of New Jersey Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks. That claim was debunked again and again. But it doesn’t appear to have dented the president’s popularity among his supporters.

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It’s one of many examples of the president helping to usher in a “post-truth” age.

In an op-ed published Tuesday, a reporter who’d covered the 9/11 attacks wondered if the tragedy — and how it was absorbed by many — set the stage for the “post-truth” era of Donald Trump.

Jamie McIntyre described how a single off-hand comment at the scene of the Pentagon on 9/11 has been blasted around the world by conspiracy theorists.

“The Sept. 11 attacks on America 17 years ago this week began the nation’s longest war, a seemingly never-ending battle against terrorists and other enemies of freedom,” McIntyre writes. “But an argument can be made that the horrific attack unleashed another assault on a pillar of democracy: a war on reason, where facts don’t matter and truth is subjective.”

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Back in 2001, as the Pentagon burned in the background, McIntyre observed, ““From my close-up inspection, there’s no evidence of a plane having crashed anywhere near the Pentagon,” he said. This was in response to a question about whether the American Airlines Boeing 757 may have crashed just short of the building.

McIntyre describes the long life of that dashed-off observation. “The offhand comment was deliberately misrepresented on the Internet as an eyewitness attesting to the fact that no plane hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11, and by early 2002 it had gone viral among conspiracy theorists around the world,” he writes.

“Even now 17 years later that video clip still shows up in my Google alerts, posted to my Facebook page, and just two weeks ago on my Twitter feed, often with the ominous notation. “This footage aired once after 9/11 and was never on TV again!”’

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He says that he’s tried to explain and contextualize the comment, all to no avail.

“Given that the full video clip shows that I was describing what I saw when I went to the crash site, including pieces of the plane “small enough that you can pick up in your hand,” I thought by engaging with the doubters, I could easily correct the record,” he writes.

“But in a decade of lengthy conversations with more than a dozen “truthers,” I never changed a single doubter’s mind.”

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To come back to President Donald Trump and our current extreme post-truth era. McIntyre cites a theory, presented by Scott Adams of Dilbert cartoon fame, on how Trump was able to marshal voter irrationality to win.

1. Trump knows people are basically irrational.
2. Knowing that people are irrational, Trump aims to appeal on an emotional level.
3. By running on emotion, facts don’t matter.
4. If facts don’t matter, you can’t really be “wrong.”
5. With fewer facts in play, it’s easier to bend reality.
6. To bend reality, Trump is a master of identity politics — and identity is the strongest persuader.

McIntyre acknowledges that he failed in his efforts to persuade 9/11 truthers. “But it’s only now — nearly two decades after I became part of a conspiracy theory and failed in my efforts to debunk it — that I truly understand how flawed my worldview is that there is an objective reality that can be understood through rigorous, rational thinking.”

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WATCH: Lewandowski’s lawyer freaks out, tries to block Congress from asking any further questions

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During the House Judiciary Committee testimony of President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about the Russia investigation, Lewandowski's attorney frantically crashed the witness table and demanded that Congress stop asking questions of his client.

"Mister Chairman, as you know I am counsel for Mr. Lewandowski—" began the attorney.

"You are not a witness and you should not be seated at that table," cut in House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sharply.

"I understand that," said Lewandowski's attorney. "I will leave after I register a formal protest based upon the debate that I heard. These seem to be unauthorized questions and I know you choose your words carefully—"

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Lewandowski’s testimony will let Democrats build Nixon-like articles of impeachment: Ex-prosecutor

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As President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski combatively testified before the House Judiciary Committee, he admitted that Trump asked him to communicate to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions that former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation must be shut down. Aside from that revelation, most of the testimony was unproductive, with Lewandowski lashing out at members of Congress and running interference for the president.

But as former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wrote on Twitter, these outbursts — and the fact that Trump sanctioned the way that Lewandowski behaved in the hearing — could be the basis for Democrats to write up articles of impeachment against Trump similar to those drafted against Richard Nixon in 1974:

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Putin aims a weaponized barb at Trump over Saudi attack – and hits the mark

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Russian President Vladimir Putin joked this week about selling defense systems to Riyadh following weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities. The gag was aimed at US President Donald Trump and it hit the mark with the precision of a guided weapon.

It was a masterful piece of trolling by the czar of trolls – a snide, disparaging jibe with an element of truth twisted into absurdity for maximum effect and laughs. At a joint press conference with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in Ankara on Monday, Putin cast his bait into the volatile Persian Gulf region just days after devastating attacks on Saudi oil facilities exposed the limits of the Gulf kingdom’s expensive defense systems.

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