Alternative Facts? Or the Power of Positive Thinking?

“We have a president capable of standing in the rain and saying it was a sunny day,” John Oliver recently observed on Last Week Tonight, as he called Donald Trump a “pathological liar”. But what if he isn’t lying? What if his press secretary, Sean Spicer, is correct when saying that Trump really believes that what he says is true?

It should be clear by now that Trump doesn’t subscribe to a conventional notion of truth, related to verifiable facts and an independently existing reality. For Trump, truth is subordinate to attitude, an attitude that can be modified at will. This whimsical notion comes straight from Norman Vincent Peale, an American minister and motivational speaker who was close to the Trump family, even officiating at Trump’s first marriage, with Ivana. In his 1952 bestseller, The Power of Positive Thinking, Peale presents a simple and “workable philosophy” to help people live more effective and successful lives. The technique is simple: “prayerise, visualise, actualise”. By using this technique you can overcome defeat and take control over the circumstances of your life

10 thoughts on “Alternative Facts? Or the Power of Positive Thinking?

  1. National Public Radio (with television’s PBS, part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is consistently rated highest for accuracy of all U.S. news organizations) did a piece in January on Trump’s religious background, also highlighting his connection with Norman Vincent Peale’s teachings. I find spot-on their characterization of that teaching as what we would today call a type of the “prosperity gospel.”

    NPR also noted the Peale connection in Trump’s over-blown estimate of the size of his inaugural crowd.

    Interestingly, Trump’s parents and family were members of Peale’s church at the same time as the defeated Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon and his family. Peale officiated at the marriage of Nixon’s daughter to David Eisenhower, and at Trump’s first marriage. Peale was also a personal friend of Ronald Reagan.

    Many theologians and psychiatrists were highly critical of Peale’s “self-actualization” teachings. Prominent Democrat Adlai Stevenson also weighed in that “I find Paul’s gospel appealing, and Peale’s gospel appalling.”

    (I note too that Norman Vincent Peale was the great-great grandson of Charles Wilson Peale, through his son Raphaelle Peale, both noted American artists.)

  2. “I find Paul’s gospel appealing, and Peale’s gospel appalling.”


    One of the cleverest quotes I’ve seen for a while – not only amusing word-play, but also a very astute statement of truth.

  3. Trump’s proposed budget reflects the long-standing desire by the right
    to stop funding public broadcasting.

    He’s also against Meals on Wheels; the thinking likely that people
    who think right don’t need such help. Any need is to the disdain of the needy.


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  5. Hi, Marleen:

    I think you’ve put your finger on the great domestic manifestation of “conservatism” (actually Reaganism).

    Reagan’s assertion that “government is the PROBLEM” effected two evils simultaneously. The first was to reverse the traditional American idea of “government:” that government is NOT “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but rather an autonomous entity wholly separate from the people.

    The second was to characterize “government” as ill-intentioned.

    Reaganites consequently view government as illegitimate (separate from the will of “the people”); and all government’s actions toward “the people” as evil.

    That mindset puts Reaganites in oppostion to any government actions which “promote the general Welfare” (as the preamble to the constitution puts government’s purpose). In the traditional American view, such government actions are “the people” acting collectively for their own wellbeing, and that of their fellow-citizens. Healthcare, meals-on-wheels, environmental regulation, minimum-wage laws, educational opportunity, public broadcasting, sane gun-laws, etc., etc., are GOOD for us all. But Reaganites will always see such actions are “government over-reach,” despotism, and (horror-of-horrors !!) socialism.

    Despite Reaganites’ pretenses to “Christian values,” their operative principle fundamentally contradicts God’s first mandate to human rulers. Rejecting God’s command they be “a minister of God for GOOD” (Romans 13) Reaganites ensure their practice of government will always be evil. And we repeatedly see it is.

  6. The first was to reverse the traditional American idea of “government:” that government is NOT “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but rather an autonomous entity wholly separate from the people.

    Hi Steve,
    the above part of what you said about Reagan’s attitude to government came clear to me over the weekend while listening to a man on the radio promoting “neo-liberalism”. The basic idea was to get government out of the way and let “the market” determine the course.

    On hearing that I realised how anti-democracy that kind of conservative, neoliberal philosophy was; where democratic representation is pushed aside and non-elected businessmen are given control.

    It may seem contradictory to combine the ideas of conservatism and liberalism in the way I did in the previous sentence – but I believe those terms (as well as “right wing/left wing) are merely a smokescreen to hide what is REALLY going on in the political and business worlds.

  7. ” …I believe those terms (as well as ‘right wing/left wing) are merely a smokescreen to hide what is REALLY going on in the political and business worlds.”

    Amen ! The “differences,” by which we’re manipulated to embrace one world-faction in preference to another, are entirely illusory. And all alike human belief-systems of “kingdoms of men:” faith in which is humankind’s fundamental problem.

    It’s a win-win for the enemy. Persuaded the problem is other people and their ideas, we’re set at war against flesh-and-blood enemies. And most to our REAL enemy’s purpose, blinded to the fact our problem is spiritual, and its only solution GOD’s Kingdom.

    Interesting that the man you reference advocated “get [ting] government out of the way and let [ting] ‘the market’ determine the course.” A world-system which dispenses with God nonetheless requires an autonomous transcendant force which makes what happens, irresistibly happen…and confers blessing on those who serve it. That false deity is also much worshipped here by the political/business elite.

  8. It’s interesting that “the market” is personified and given power to determine the course of nations.

    These days whenever I consider the political loyalties so fervently promoted and defended, I don’t think in terms of left or right, liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist; I see it in terms of God or mammon.

    I have no hesitation in believing that personifying and submitting to “the market” falls on the side of serving mammon.

    …… reverse the party names, and pretend that Republicans are somehow a victim of unfair play.

    That’s hopelessly bonkers. In fact, it’s effectively the literal opposite of recent events …

    This isn’t complicated: if Republicans had better arguments to defend their behavior, they wouldn’t have to make stuff up.

    Republicans have been aiming to favor the rich or corporations over people as people. The guy they’re arguing for right now ruled against a man saving his life from hypothermia (or alternatively driving a compromised vehicle on the road and endangering other people on the road). And there are other examples. For instance, he ruled that a woman could not be in a category of disabled persons needing protection in the work place — because by very definition of having a job, she wasn’t disabled. Now there’s a catch twenty-two. And so on.

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