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Zirpoli: Trump, Putin masters of false narratives

The White House accused Russia of putting out "false narratives" to "mislead the world" about their involvement with the Syrian government's chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians.

The charge is rich in irony and hypocrisy. Of course, the White House is correct. Russia is using false narratives about the use of chemical weapons in Syria to try to distract the world from their involvement. This is a tactic frequently used by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The irony, of course, is that this is also the standard operating procedure for President Donald Trump and his administration. Let's face it, no one tweets a better false narrative than our president.

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Former members of the Trump campaign and current members of the Trump administration are under investigation by the FBI (and a couple of congressional committees) for collaborating with the Russian government against Secretary Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign. Time for a false narrative to distract the American people from the evidence. How about this: Millions of illegal people voted for Clinton. Or this: President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. That should do it.

It has been estimated that at least eight people formally or currently associated with the Trump administration have had secret contacts with Russian officials. Some of these contacts were caught by U.S. and British intelligence agencies during their routine spying on Russian officials. Time for a false narrative to redirect the public's attention away from these contacts. How about this: The Obama administration was illegally spying on Trump's associates, not the Russians, and leaked what they found to the press.

You know what they say, the best defense is a strong offense. No one puts together a better offense than team Putin and Trump. Con men are good at distracting others from their sins, and these two have false narratives down to an art form. Putin has the added benefit of controlling the press in Russia. His false narratives get played without questions. Trump wishes he controlled the press in the United States. For now, however, only Fox News and some conservative radio stations will play along without question.

Putin and Trump even copy each other's false narratives. Putin stated that we can't trust America's intelligence community's assessment confirming that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against their own people. After all, said Putin, "To my mind, this strongly resembles what happened in 2003 when representatives of the United States showed in the Security Council what was supposed to be chemical weapons found in Iraq."

Who does that sound like? Trump used the same argument to trash the American intelligence community when they first reported that the Russians tried to interfere with our presidential election. In response, Trump tweeted, "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to leak into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?" Trump also encouraged Americans not to believe our intelligence agencies because, after all, they were wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Is Trump copying Putin or is Putin copying Trump with this line of defense?

Putin asked the international community to investigate his alternative narrative about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Trump asked Congress to investigate his alternative narrative about how his people were caught talking to the Russians. Both claim to be victims of false charges, rumors and political attacks. Both are pros at the art of deflection and pushing investigations into rabbit holes (still looking for those 3 million to 5 million illegal voters).

Both Putin and Trump are good at denying the obvious. Putin denied that Russian soldiers in Ukraine were Russian, even after the soldiers admitted that they were, indeed, from Russia. Like Putin, Trump is also able to deny the undeniable with a straight face, regardless of the physical evidence in pictures and/or audio. Regardless of a recording of Trump bragging about assaulting women, we are all supposed to ignore what our eyes could see and what our ears could hear.

The White House stated that Putin "spins out multiple, conflicting accounts in order to create confusion and sow doubt within the international community." Just replace the words "Putin" and "spins" with "Trump" and "tweets" and both statements are accurate.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is a professor and program coordinator of the human services management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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