Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.
—Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963
Lies = Corruption
As of June 1, 2020, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker reports that “President Trump made 19,127 false or misleading claims in 1,226 days.” On April 9, 2020, The Atlantic published “All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus: An unfinished compendium of Trump’s overwhelming dishonesty during a national emergency.” On May 26, 2020, Twitter amended two of President Trump’s tweets for the first time with a label suggesting that readers “Get the facts.”
Why does this matter? Because Donald J. Trump is a vector for corruption—the corruption of truth, certainly, but also the corruption of ethics, oversight, science, expertise, independent thought and, ultimately, the corruption of the electoral process and American democracy. It is alarming that the office of the president gives every utterance (or tweet) from Donald Trump the imprimatur of the federal government—no matter how ill-informed, divisive, or false.
Poster 1: Trump: Lord of the Lies
Trump: Lord of the Lies revisits our 2016 poster Trump 24K Gold-Plated and features the same four whirling letter Ts. This time, however, four flies—agents of pestilence and rot—issue from the central motif. Via platforms like Twitter and Fox News, Trump’s lies are a contagion that spread to the four corners of the earth.
The text “Lord of the Lies” is a reference to William Golding’s 1954 novel and the ancient god Beelzebub, also known as “the lord of the flies” or “the dung-god.” If there is a contemporary embodiment of the dung-god Beelzebub, it is none other than President Donald Trump.
Our 2016 Gold-Plated posters were stamped in gold foil and then register embossed. They are bling-y. When we published the posters we wrote, “Let’s be clear: for some Americans, the attractive aspects of Donald Trump’s public persona can obscure his repellent views.” Although Donald Trump is the swamp—and most Americans can smell it—he and his supporters work hard to put a shine on all that corruption. As a result, Trump: Lord of the Lies will glint with metallic foils as well.
Posters 2 & 3: White Lies Matter Diptych
#WhiteLiesMatter ties President Trump’s propensity to lie about even trivial matters—little white lies—to his race-baiting rhetoric; his “White” lies. #WhiteLiesMatter is a refutation of “White Lives Matter,” a racist denial of the fundamental truth that “Black Lives Matter.” (“All Lives Matter” is the woolly-headed cousin of “White Lives Matter.”)
Donald Trump’s false equivalency between gun-toting neo-Nazis and anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville—“very fine people on both sides”—is but one example of a “White” lie. Other racist lies include Trump’s insistence that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, or that he is a secret Muslim. Trump specializes in racist innuendo and slander: Mexicans are “rapists;” any African-American NFL player—silently protesting police killings of unarmed black men—is a “son of a bitch;” and Covid-19 is “the Chinese virus.”
#WhiteLiesMatter reduces Donald Trump to his essence: an empty suit, meaningless gestures, and a narcissistic fixation on projecting an image of power—typically realized by defaming the “other.
The companion poster features the title White Lies Matter set in Swear Smoke, a typeface designed by our friend James Edmondson of OH no Type Company. Like his “White” lies, @realdonaldtrump is a fake—a delusory, vaporous exhalation of hate and fear. The impact of these exhalations, however, are quite real. As James Baldwin writes, “The glorification of one race and the consequent debasement of another—or others—always has been and always will be a recipe for murder.”
Bearing Witness with Our Work
Joyce Carol Oates has said that “One of the little-understood responsibilities of the artist is to bear witness—in almost a religious sense.” We create this work because we bear witness and, as designers, this is how we choose to bear witness: through design.
We believe in the power of design to condense an idea and fix it in one’s mind. We also believe in the principle of “amplification through simplification”: that as design reduces an idea to its essentials, it can illuminate.
We designed Trump: Lord of the Lies to create a succinct mnemonic for Donald Trump’s corruption. Likewise, the White Lies Matter diptych crystallizes Donald Trump’s history of rhetorical flirtations with white supremacists. And after he is voted out of office, this work will add to the body of evidence that many Americans can still tell the difference between what is true, and what is false.
Beyond bearing witness, however, please know that we are committed to using our work to help create a more equitable and just society. After meeting our printing expenses and the related costs of fulfilling our rewards commitments, a limited number of both posters will be available for purchase at Paper Sirens. We will be donating 50% of all future poster sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Cultural Impact of Our Work
Since 2016, our most recent agitprop posters—Trump 24K Gold-Plated and Trump (Moloch)—have been widely collected by museums, primarily in Europe. These include the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (V&A); the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Switzerland; the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Germany; and the Poster Museum at Wilanów, Warsaw, Poland. Domestic collections that include one or both of these posters include the Letterform Archive in San Francisco, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics (CSPG) in Los Angeles, and the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York.
Both posters were exhibited in “Protest! Resistance Posters” at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich in 2018. Trump 24K Gold-Plated was included in “Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008–18” at the Design Museum, London.
Why are we Kickstarting these Posters?
The last two agitprop posters we designed and published—Trump 24K Gold-Plated and Trump (Moloch)—we paid for entirely out-of-pocket. Whenever we sold the posters we donated all of the money to a range of non-profits, including the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and EarthJustice. Outlets that sold the posters on our behalf also benefited, including the Center for the Study of Political Graphics (CSPG) in Los Angeles, the independent San Francisco bookstore Christopher’s Books, and our local art supply store ARCH. (We didn’t use any of the money to offset even incidental expenses, like shipping tubes or postage.)
We do not currently have the resources to publish these two new posters without help, which is why we are launching this Kickstarter campaign. If you are able to support this effort with your participation we would be deeply grateful. Regardless, please share this project with your network of friends, colleagues, and fellow activists.
Trump: Lord of the Lies will be foil stamped in two foils, metallic gold and “bluebottle fly” metallic teal. The image and type will then be embossed to raise the stamped images slightly.
We will be printing on the same paper we used for Trump 24K Gold-Plated, Classic Crest Smooth Epic Black Cover, #130. This is a heavyweight cover stock not normally used for posters—especially agitprop posters. We will also be using the same printer who foil stamped and embossed Trump 24K Gold-Plated. The trim size is 18.75×22.5″.
#WhiteLiesMatter will be screen printed in black on Classic Crest Smooth Solar White, 130#; White Lies Matter will be screen printed in white on Classic Crest Smooth Epic Black Cover, #130. The trim size of both posters is 24×36″.