Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Trump Is The Inevitable Result

My latest newspaper column:
I know memory is fallible. One of JFK’s last and most quoted speeches was at my college, and his visit made a huge impression on me; on its semicentennial the college posted an online remembrance, proving my recollections differed significantly from the way it had been. But here’s where I differ from Donald Trump and his supporters: when I found out I’d been wrong, I accepted it. 
If Trump’s lies are usually deliberate (a Civil War battle happened on his golf course!) maybe his 9/11 visions are merely paramnesia. We saw throngs of people cheering the attacks in the Middle East, not in New Jersey. Rather than admitting he might have been confused, despite evidence that he couldn’t have seen what he claims, Mr. Trump digs in, and his followers love it. To them it’s about maintaining the narrative; no dissonance is allowed to challenge what they choose to believe. Belief is key. Repeated enough, preferred enough, it’s good enough. If truth is immutable, definitions aren’t. 
Having chosen lying as her lodestar, when shown that the video she describes of an aborted baby being “harvested” was a stillborn fetus bearing no connection to Planned Parenthood or abortion, Carly Fiorina characterized pointing it out as “typical liberal tactics.” Well, yes. Liberals, against the Foxolimtrumpic tide, pertinaciously prefer truth. But what explains the ease with which she deceives, and her certainty that her side won’t call her on it? 
Decades ago the formerly credible Republican Party was overtaken by shrewd cynics who realized their best shot at enacting regressive policies was by demonizing dedicated journalists, cowing them into submissive both-siderism; while simultaneously offloading b.s. in such quantities that it would swamp reality. Well-informed voters were a threat, they reckoned: and up sprang a “news” network and radio talkers dedicated to disinformation, repeating fabrications so often they began to sound true. Donald Trump is the inevitable result. Resentment and superficiality win tenderized minds as easily as lies do. Our president loves terrorists more than he loves us. Climate change is a hoax. The more dishonest and perfidious pablum they’re spooned, the more validated his supporters feel, the more irreversibly entrenched becomes the dishonesty, and the more receptive they are to demagoguery. 
This is painstakingly crafted blindness, its target audience, as intended, ultimately neither interested in nor having the tools to recognize what constitutes manipulation. After the Planned Parenthood shooting, right wing websites first claimed the attacker was a bank robber; then a liberal; finally, when his identity was undeniable, the favored fallback falsehood: fraudulent videos and hateful rhetoric are never a factor. If Trump is nominated, much less elected, let’s hope those who’ve chosen sham over substance live to recognize their role in America’s devolution into exceptional dysfunction, as it relinquishes its importance to the world. More so if it’s Cruz. 
Not everyone appreciates my tinyurls*. So, still believing that verity matters, I offer some unlinked facts, obediently denied by today’s “conservative” voters. If you don’t believe me, you can look ‘em up:  
The climate is changing, oceans are rising and acidifying, man-made emissions are central, and it’s a critical threat. Planned Parenthood doesn’t sell body parts, but does provide a wide range of health care to millions, of which abortion makes up only 3%. Torture doesn’t work. The Constitution says religious law can’t supersede US law, whether Biblical or Sharia. Republicans just denied health care to 9/11 responders and voted against preventing gun sales to people on no-fly lists. FEMA has no reeducation camps. “Thousands and thousands” of American Muslims weren’t seen cheering on 9/11 but many received murderous threats. 70% of women who have abortions identify as Christian. Racism persists. Demonizing all Muslims helps ISIS. Tax cuts don’t reduce deficits. Most people receiving assistance aren’t cheaters. Raising the minimum wage doesn’t kill business. Increasing wealth inequality threatens capitalism. Homosexuality isn’t a choice. Christianity isn’t under attack, but voting rights are. Unemployment is half of what it was when Bush was finished with us, and the budget deficit is one-third. Invading Iraq made everything worse. Fox is the least truthful network. Mass murders are easier with assault rifles, and “thoughts and prayers” won’t end them. 
There are lots more. Does it matter?  
*(In the print versions I've been writing out numerous links to relevant sources. On the paper's website, and on this blog, they've been hotlinked. Readers of the print version have complained that the written links are distracting.)
[Image source]


  1. It's stunning that the facts you listed could be controversial at all. I'll admit that torture not working is a bit counter-intuitive, but the rest are just such obvious statements of fact it's mind-boggling that anyone would think to counter them.
    How long can a society survive when half the populace rejects basic facts?

  2. Torture works fine for eliciting false confessions. Other than that, and TV shows like "24" notwithstanding, the vast majority of experts have said it's lousy at getting at truth.

  3. "The more dishonest and perfidious pablum they’re spooned, the more validated his supporters feel"

    I don't think this is what's happening here, it's better explained by a principle in the excellent book by Robert Cialdini titled "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" I highly recommend this book to everyone. What's happening here is taking advantage of a quirk of human nature Cialdini calls "Commitment and Consistency." Fox listeners have already bought in. Each time Fox ratchets up the BS the listeners face a choice. They can walk away and grudgingly admit that their friends who have been goading them about being dupes were right all along. Or they can believe this latest bit of "news".

    This principle is how you get someone to buy a car, put a sign in their yard, its even at work when someone sticks in a failing relationship. The smaller steps in the past lead to larger ones down the road.

  4. Oh, I'm not disputing that. I'm just saying that I can understand why people would think it does, it seems like it should work.

  5. I don't disagree, Anonymous. It's that Fox, Trump, and all the right-wing screamers, in achieving the dumbing down and the willing ignorance for which they've aimed, are using the described quirks and frailties of the human mind to their advantage. Just as other despots have done for centuries.

  6. "It's that Fox, Trump, and all the right-wing screamers, in achieving the dumbing down and the willing ignorance for which they've aimed, are using the described quirks and frailties of the human mind to their advantage. Just as other despots have done for centuries."

    True, granted, that his speeches really wind up the mob; but I am told they were much more effective in the original German!



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