From “Alternative Facts” to Alternate Reality
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” — Voltaire
Although we may not know the final results by the end of it, we have one more day until we’ll have a handle on whether or not our country wants four more years of lies, corruption, grifting, racism, bigotry, misogyny, bullying, trolling, wackadoodle conspiracy theories, and “owning the libs”, or if there are enough people with good, common sense to reject the fascist regime now occupying the White House and controlling the Senate.
Many of us have been waiting for this election for over four years. I was ready to gtfo of the country after Trump won in 2016; instead, I bought the rationalizations of my friends like, it’s only four years. How bad could it get? So I stayed. I fought. I protested. I wrote all the rant-y articles you can see on my feed, going back to when Trump first took office. I figured I could survive four years, and we’d just work our asses off to get him out in 2020. Little did I know that people’s literal LIVES would be on the line in this election year, and that it’s only by sheer luck and months of being super-vigilant, despite how badly I’d like to get back to normal life, that I’m not one of the millions infected with COVID-19 or the over 200k dead.
Meanwhile, Trump has done more damage than many of us who prepared for the worst-case scenario could even have expected. Damage to democracy. Damage to the rule of law. Damage to the foundation of trust required for a functioning society. Damage to our relationships with our global allies. Damage to our healthcare system. Damage to our economy. Damage to our relationships and connections with our fellow Americans by fostering bullying, hatred, violence and divisiveness. And most importantly — damage to our shared notions of reality and truth.
It’s that last item I find most disturbing. Approximately 40% of Americans form Trump’s solid, unwavering base. If it wasn’t for his cultish supporters, Trump would have remained a washed-up, failed businessman with a reality TV show. Unfortunately, a sizeable number of our fellow Americans bought into the mythos of the “successful businessman” Mark Burnett thrust on us with Celebrity Apprentice, and have plunged deep into the world of fakery and lies Trump constructs to hold onto power and stay out of jail for tax fraud, obstruction of justice, and any number of crimes he needs to eventually be held to account for. And they continue to buy the thousands of lies he tells to construct an “alternate reality” that distracts from his utter, abject policy failures and incompetence. He’s done a much better job with this construct than he has the “wall”, that’s for sure.
The cloak of deception was lowered right out of the gate when Sean Spicer exaggerated the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration at the first of many lie-filled press conferences. It didn’t matter that National Park Services had a fairly accurate count that was much lower than the one Spicer was touting. Or that memes were distributed with photos showing the extreme difference between Trump’s inauguration crowd and Obama’s. The administration stuck with the lie. It seemed like a really stupid thing to lie about, but makes sense when you understand the Obama envy that has become a hallmark of Trump’s political career.
Note: Spicer has since apologized. As if we don’t know that he was simply following instructions:
‘I Screwed Up’: Sean Spicer Says He Regrets Comments on Crowd Size and Hitler
The former White House press secretary says it felt “really bad” when he messed up during his time working for Trump.
Then there was Trump’s inauguration speech. Written by future baby-stealer Stephen Miller, it took on a very bleak view of America that made George W. Bush say, “that was some weird shit”, and the rest of us wonder what alternative universe Trump and Miller inhabit.
Here’s an excerpt:
“But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
The speech described a country with out of control crime, poverty, and violence. That is not the country Obama left Trump; however, it is what we’ve become under four years of his incompetence and grifting.
We’re Now Living the American Carnage Trump Promised Would End at His Inauguration
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Portraying the pre-Trump U.S. as a cesspool, a horror show that “only Trump can fix” in his inauguration speech was necessary to set up the mythos of Trump as saviour. As healer of the nation. The persistent lies of this budding fascist administration were euphemistically labeled “alternative facts” by his PR hag, Kellyanne Conway. I have argued with many Trump supporters about Obama’s accomplishments, and the strong economy he left Trump, and the low crime rate, the strong stock market, etc..they won’t have any of it. As far as they’re concerned, America was crumbling in 2016, and Trump FIXED IT. Right wingers primed by years of radio pundit and Fox News brainwashing bought the “American carnage” lie, hook line and sinker.
It’s now been four years of an auroborus of hell whereby Fox News bolsters the lies Trump tells, or their pundits tell lies of their own, then Trump picks them up and repeats them. (See my earlier article-Trump is the First Fox News-Brainwashed President)
They all inhabit Trumpworld, a place where:
systemic racism doesn’t exist
white “culture” and “history” is under threat
social media only censors conservatives
Black Lives Matter is a terrorist, Marxist group that has killed many people
the Trump-Russia collusion investigation was a “witch hunt”
Trump handled the COVID-19 pandemic just fine
Obama spied on Trump
The deep state tried to overthrow Trump with fake accusations about Russia
Obama and the Democrats created the “China virus” in a lab as part of a deep state plot to overthrow Trump
Joe Biden is a trojan horse where Bernie Sanders is waiting to impose a socialist regime
Joe Biden has dementia
Joe Biden is owned by China
..and many more
I could go on and on about the disturbing lies Trump’s base believes.
And they never hold Trump or Fox News accountable when many of the claims they make fail to hold up, such as Trump’s claim the coronavirus would “just disappear like magic.” Or that “15 cases would go down to zero.” If you recall, prior to the 2018 midterms, the Trump/Fox propaganda machine stirred up fear about marauding, invading “migrant caravans” that were allegedly about to invade the suburbs and wreak havoc. Once the election was over, there wasn’t one peep on right-wing media about these caravans, which obviously failed to arrive. The fear talk then switched for the 2020 election to the threat of Senator Cory Booker invading the suburbs with low-income housing.
Speaking of people who swallow the lies and never question failed prophesies, the QAnon kooks really take denial and delusion to a whole other level. They exist in a world where most Hollywood elites and Democrats are involved in a global pedophile ring, and Trump was put into power to save us from them (never mind that Trump was good buddies with the man who actually DID run a global pedophile ring and was even accused in a signed affadavit of raping a 13-year-old with him.) COVID-19 was somehow caused by 5G technology, and Bill Gates wants to implant surveillance chips in everyone. Masks are a tyrannical plot. They don’t work, and in fact, they can kill you because you’re breathing in carbon monoxide or dioxide or whatever — it doesn’t matter because they don’t understand science, anyway.
We can laugh about these ridiculous misconceptions. But there are actual QAnon candidates likely to win House seats on Tuesday. And the science denial of Trump supporters is killing them. According to a preliminary Stanford study, 700 deaths can be traced to Trump rallies. It’s also killing us, because we’re now drowning in coronavirus, and their refusal to take even minimal precautions is facilitating the spread.
In February, Trump told Bob Woodward he was “downplaying the virus.” Still, this didn’t move his supporters one bit. As Steve Almond, who wrote the article below said:
“What matters isn’t this reality, but the fact that a rabid minority of our citizens have become inoculated against it. They live in a cultish bubble of partisan propaganda filled with protective buzz words and talking points, a hivemind fueled by rage, paranoia and shame. For decades, right-wing media demagogues have made billions of dollars exploiting their anguish. This is why the president of the United States can lie — without consequence — to Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson and Geraldo Rivera, even about a virus that could kill their viewers.”
Don't Be Shocked Trump Lied About COVID On Tape. Be Horrified That It Won't Matter
Wednesday confirmed something that most of us already suspected: Donald Trump knew all along exactly how deadly…
How do you argue with people who don’t even agree with you about BASIC facts? Who appear to be delusional and won’t listen to reason? This is our dilemma. Many of us have simply detached. We refuse to get caught up in the psychological acrobatics of irrational people. There are millions of people across this country who have intentionally disowned family members due to their full absorption into Trumpworld. Or been disowned themselves. There really should be support groups for Americans who’ve lost loved ones to the cult of Trump and Fox News.
We may get Trump out of the White House (not without a long difficult slog, and I anticipate some stunning ‘gee I didn’t think they could go any lower’ surprises), but his supporters will still be here. QAnon, the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo boys aren’t going away anytime soon.
Joe Biden has promised that, if he wins, he’ll heal the divisiveness and be a president for everyone. That’s all well and good, but how will we ever get these people who, if mental health experts were able to do extensive examinations and testing, would be judged way out of touch with reality, to come around?
How do you bring people into a wide tent they think is full of pedophiles and babykillers? You simply cannot work productively with people who don’t even agree with you on the most basic level about what the facts are. How do you get the “Deplorables” to see the truth after years of brainwashing?
Many pundits have decided it’s impossible, and the only thing you can do is keep them marginalized and make it clear that if their delusions continue to translate into illegal violent or harmful behavior, they’ll experience consequences. Watergate attorney John Dean, who wrote a book, “Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers”, analyzing why the Trump cult sticks with him even against their own self-interests, argues that we shouldn’t capitulate to them. Dean argues that there are intrinsic psychological aspects of Trump supporters, such as highly compartmentalized thinking and the ability to discount evidence if it doesn’t fit their world view, that make it very difficult to work with them.
According to Dean, “The only thing they understand is defeat.”
Moving forward, we really need to look at how to increase critical thinking skills in our population. A thriving democracy depends upon an informed populace. In my opinion, the steady erosion of resources into what used to be the best public educational system in the world since Reagan has set us up for this.
According to a University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center poll conducted in 2018, 37% of Americans can’t name a single “right” mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Just 26% could name all three branches of government, and 33% couldn’t name a single branch.
In a 2017 YouGov survey, 51% of Republicans said they believed Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Several years ago, Fairleigh Dickinson conducted a survey that found viewers of FOX News were less informed than people who watched no news at all. As of January, Donald Trump has made more than 16,000 false or misleading claims.
Of course, social media plays a role, but that’s too complicated a topic, for another essay.
In the meantime, you can try confronting them with facts. That often doesn’t go well, however.
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Sometimes, you just have to wait until Trump crosses some line that depends on the person — usually, it doesn’t happen until one of their selfish interests is threatened.
I think ultimately our country is due for a reckoning. Those who’ve left the Trump cult need to help the rest of us pull our loved ones out of it. It may not be pleasant, but if we are to move forward and avoid an even MORE unpleasant outcome, like a civil war, it’s necessary.
Copyright 2020 S. Wade