Monday, November 7, 2016
Never has the state of our politics been so perfectly captured in two brief and separate moments. All you need to know about how far we've diverged from an intelligent electorate, from valuing truth, from being well-informed -- from wanting to be well-informed -- can be understood from words spoken in the last couple of days.
In the first instance, President Obama responded to a protester who interrupted his speech and who was being shouted down by the audience. Telling the audience to calm down (it took way too long for them to listen!), he pointed out that the man appeared to be a veteran and a senior citizen and deserved respect. He reminded the audience that we're a nation that values free speech. He suggested, as he has before, that rather than "boo," they should vote.
The day after that event, Donald J. Trump claimed that Obama had shouted at and insulted the man, implied he'd become unhinged. Oh, how the audience booed the evil Kenyan Muslim usurper. Booed as the man who's actually called for violence against protestors, who promised to pay the legal fees of any supporter who beat them up, lied about our president doing no such thing.
And there you have it. Everything, in a few moments. You see the fundamental decency of Barack Obama. You see how the view of him created by right-wing media over the past years differs from reality. You have Donald Trump flat-out lying. You have his audience lapping it up like poisoned water in a drought. You see Donald Trump, as he's done repeatedly, falsely accusing someone of doing something they didn't do, something he says he'd never do, when he's done it repeatedly. You see how none of his supporters care. Or care to know the truth.
You see the contrast mentioned on a few liberal sites, and you see it met with silence from the right.
In these two moments you see the power of disinformation, the degree to which the Republican party has been overtaken by propagandists, by people to whom truth is irrelevant; and you see how completely their cynicism has infected their followers. You realize that voters for Donald Trump only see what they want to see, that they need to, prefer to, believe the worst about everyone not like them. You see that our country, designed with the assumption of a modicum of education and reasoning ability in mind has, for around half the population, and as a result of deliberate dumbing-down, become refractory to reality.
It's brilliant in its Machiavellian perfection: the Republican party, having decided long ago that its success depended on creating and then misinforming a gullible population rather than arguing for the superiority of its ideas (because its ideas aren't superior for anyone except the very wealthy), embarked on a very long game. It put together a devastatingly effective propaganda apparatus aimed at erasing the ability and desire to think deeply about complex matters. To reject those who do. To believe that "otherness" is a greater threat than protecting and understanding the American form of governance. And it's worked to perfection. The people who designed it for their own purposes don't care as they continue the deliberate trashing of the kind of political comity that created and sustained the US for centuries.
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