The Boy Who Cried Wolf: Why Trump’s Wiretapping Accusation Makes America Less Safe


Francis Barlow’s illustration of the fable, 1687


George Payne

A graduate of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, George Cassidy Payne  teaches philosophy at Finger Lakes Community College and is the founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International. 

Along with his contributions to Talker, the Messenger Post Newspapers recently invited George to be a Guest Columnist. His most recent piece was Trump’s version of Christianity as a state religion is un-American, 3/2/17

UPDATE: On 3/24/17, the following article was reprinted in the Oneida Daily Dispatch.

“Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.”

— Irish political thinker Edmund Burke

From the time Donald Trump promised to expose Barack Obama as a foreign imposter — only to expose himself as a bigoted opportunist instead — the world has witnessed the president’s true character. If I had to use just a few words, I would say that he is a hypocrite who can not comprehend his own self-deception. As a result, he is a man who lies with total sincerity.

There is no better example than the president’s recent wiretapping accusation levied against Obama. Setting aside the two tweets in which the president placed the words “wire tapp” in quotes, the other two libelous tweets in that series are not in quotes. Trump wrote:

The boy who texted Wolf.

cartoon by Tony Zuvela

I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!


How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

With zero evidence to substantiate these paranoid and malicious claims, it has become imperative for the president to manufacture a defense which will allow him to save face. As White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was ordered to tell reporters, “the president used the word wiretap in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities.” He also suggested Trump wasn’t accusing former President Barack Obama specifically, but instead referring to the actions of the Obama administration.

Trump himself offered yet another justification to Tucker Carlson. When asked how he got his information,  Trump responded, “Well, I’ve been reading about things. I read in…a New York Times article where they were talking about wiretapping…I think they used that exact term. I read other things.”

Somehow the president’s hypocrisy is still quite amazing to behold. On January 28, 2017, during another Twitter outburst, he made the claim:

The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!

As I recall this earlier tweet, I wonder if the president still sees the New York Times as fake news. If they are not fake and the president uses the paper as a credible source of information, then why would he call them fake before? If he believes the Times is fake news, then why would he use their information to validate his accusation against President Obama? Was he lying then or now?


Thomas Bewick, ‘The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf’ (The Boy Who Cried Wolf), 1818

This all reminds me of Aesop’s fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The moral of that well known fable is timeless: if you always tell lies, people will eventually stop believing you; and then when you’re telling the truth for a change, when you really need them to believe you, they won’t.

What will happen when the president comes on TV during a state of emergency and tells the American public that he needs our benefit of the doubt? How can the public put its faith in him when he has eviscerated our trust? What will happen when the president cries wolf but no one can bring themselves to hear the growling over the relentless static of his famous fabrications? What will happen to the integrity and responsiveness of our cherished political system when the leader of the free world is not worth listening to anymore? Has he become the boy who cried wolf?

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