Fire and Fury: It’s False, That’s How We Know It’s True

<em>Fire and Fury</em>: It’s False, That’s How We Know It’s True

Stream: The False-But-True Fallacy

There’s concern in the City of Others Riches (Washington D.C.) that Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury book about the Trump White House contains as much truth as an advertisement for herbal male supplements.

Matt Labash at Weekly Standard read the book and told us of the author’s note

where Wolff states that many of the accounts in Fire and Fury are in conflict with one another and many, “in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue…and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself” is “an elemental thread of this book.” Or put another way: Despite him weighing the evidence and settling “on a version of events I believe to be true,” everything that follows might be a lie.

In spite of this sobering and cautionary warning that the book might better resemble one of Bill Clinton’s “explanations” than the truth, Labash concludes “what comes through loud and clear in Wolff’s telling is that no matter how bad you thought it was in Trump’s White House, it was actually much worse.”

Many are saying things like this. Sure, Wolff might have included stories like the one he heard from a guy, who himself got it “from a woman on the beach in Florida, who heard it in a carpool line”, but since these stories show Trump to be the moronic oaf we know him to be, they must be true. Even if they’re false.

Seeing What Isn’t There

The reception of Wolff’s book is thus a prime example of the False-But-True Fallacy.

The False-But-True Fallacy, which I sometimes call the Meta Fallacy because it is the mother of all fallacious arguments, is difficult to explain. So stick with me.

How it works is like this. A certain proposition is first conjectured to be true, like “President Trump is an idiot or incompetent”. Evidence for this belief is put forward, as in the case of Wolff’s book. This evidence, if accepted, confirms the belief.

But it is later discovered that the evidence is false, or likely false. Indeed, it is learned that the evidence might have been juiced, or even in part manufactured.

Since the evidence upon which people have been relying has been proved or judged faulty, it would seem that the strength of the belief in the proposition must diminish. But it doesn’t. If anything, it increases.

Logically Illogical

How could this happen when the rules of logic say it is impossible?

Because people argue like this. “The evidence would never have been juiced if the proposition wasn’t really true, because nobody would have bothered to make up stories unless there existed other stories like the made-up ones, but about which we never heard.”

Click here to confirm what you believe is true.


  1. Dan Diego

    I’m all in for anything that takes more of liberals’ money. The more they spend on nonsense like this or WaPo subscriptions, is just less available income they can donate to antifa, et al. Win-win.

  2. Leftist thought process – If it makes me feel better about myself, then it must be not only true, but Truth, and not only good, but Holy. Anything else is not just bad, but Evil.

  3. JH

    How could this happen when the rules of logic say it is impossible?

    Multiple possibilities:

    (1) No reliable evidence has surfaced to show that the evidence provided by Wolff is false.

    (2) It is the definition of Trumpian fashion.  No logic required.  Just say whatever comes to mind, and believe whatever you wish.

    (3) Wolff opines based on what he sees and hears.

    (4) It sells. And it is fun to read trashy stuff about Trump.

    (4) The same way, whatever it is,  as demonstrated by this post –

    (5)  Probably that

    Nobody seems to have explained to Wolff that men often heatedly call their bosses idiots, fools, and much worse, as a means of blowing off steam.

    (6) Others:__________________________________________________


  4. Kip Hansen

    Cmdr Briggs ==> Thanks for this — it is indeed a ubiquitous fallacy, which has been called, in the past, the “where there’s smoke there’s fire” fallacy.
    This is why the #MeToo movement and other social media “shaming campaigns” are to powerful and dangerous — being accused can be more damaging than than being actually guilty of a specific crime — the accusations alone lead to many more imagined crimes than any proof.

  5. Ray

    Is false but true the same as fake but accurate?

  6. Ken

    Who’s the real moron, the reader that chooses to believe what even the author states is suspect, or, the guy about which overt falsehoods are told … but who is succeeding just the same?

    And, isn’t it true in negotiating that inducing the opposition to underestimate you/your skills/etc. give you, the underestimated, a tactical or even strategic advantage (e.g., like a poker player inducing the opponents to conclude his cards are weaker than they are)?

    So, if Trump isn’t the moron his opposition chooses to believe — and behave — as if he is, doesn’t Trump gain in the overall transactions?!

    And what does Trump’s ability to induce his opposition to act & behave as if he, Trump, is less capable than he is? Isn’t that also known as, “clever like a fox”?

  7. Rich

    Is this related to, “I believe because it is absurd”?

  8. Gary

    Daniel Kahneman has explored this.

    Basically, the way many people decide is to substitute a different question for the one being asked because there is too much missing information to answer the original question. The substitute question has enough information to allow a comfortable answer.

    So, “Is Trump and idiot?” can be replaced by “Does Trump say outrageous things?”

    Well, sure; I’ve heard him nickname opponents in a somewhat nasty way (Crooked Hilary, Little Marco, etc.) and my brother-in-law who IS a real idiot does the same thing. So Trump probably is an idiot too.

    There; wrapped up nice and neat on an emotional level, despite no offered evidence that contradicts the original question.

  9. Jen

    Trump is a clown…we should all be required to wear clown attire as we read this book. It didn’t take this book to know we have a total incompetent idiotic white trash as President. It’s just gonna be fun reading this to the kids! Our poor history books. THANKS for dumbing our nation down Trump supporters! Good work!

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