Meet “truthful hyperbole”

Is it lying or is it just colorful “hyperbole”?

A couple of days ago

Letitia James filed a 220-page lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court accusing Donald Trump and three of his children of using wildly inaccurate evaluations of Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago and multiple other properties to defraud lenders and cheat on taxes. The result, she said, was a “staggering” and “astounding” scheme that yielded an estimated $250 million in ill-gotten gains.

James termed these financial manipulations “the art of the steal,” a play on the title of Trump’s 1987 bestselling memoir The Art of the Deal. In that book, Trump (or, more likely, his co-author, journalist Tony Schwartz) called his aggressive salesmanship “truthful hyperbole,” which was explained as “an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

Stop right there. There is no such thing as “truthful hyperbole.” It may sound cute, if you’re not paying attention, but it’s a contradiction in terms, and is itself dishonest.

And when it comes to marketing there is definitely no such thing as “an innocent form of exaggeration.” We know it’s not “innocent” because it’s done to trick people into giving you more money. You don’t get to call that “innocent.”

That of course is all the more true when we’re talking about Trump, who is the least “innocent” person most of us have ever seen.

The reason, Trump (or Schwartz) said, was that “people want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular,” and Trump was more than willing to oblige them.

That is, he was eager to “oblige them” by telling them his product was the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular so that they would give him more money than it was worth. That’s not obliging them, it’s tricking them into giving him money.

It’s maddening that Trump basically informed the world that he was tricking people into paying him more for his properties than they were worth and the world just chuckled and left him to get on with it.

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