“If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country…” Donald Trump, interview in People Magazine, 1998.
Credulity. It wouldn’t be credible to argue it only infects Trumpofoxians. Nevertheless, one sees far fewer obvious falsehoods coming from the online left than from the right. Cultivated credulity has created such a hermetic barrier between left and right that it looks impossible ever to find a way back. And whether or not it’s equally distributed (it’s not), the deliberate nurturing and propagation of it comes mainly from one side.
Among liberal cable news partisans, there aren’t intentional liars like the stars of Fox “news” and the screamers of Limbaughland. Or Trump. Or foreign-based, online efforts to divide Americans and bring down our democracy by reelecting Trump; or, if it fails, to discredit the election.
Last week’s column addressing Trump’s and Fox’s lies about antifa fell on deaf eyes, as usual. One Trumpist responded with pictures of so-called antifa members arrested in recent riots. He declined to supply the source, but I found it, and, surprise, it was a compendium of people charged in a Portland uprising a couple years ago, not a single one of whom was identified as antifa.
Next came a link to an end-times website, posting about Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, CHAZ. Complete with mischaracterized pictures, it claimed “Antifa soldiers” had beat up a sidewalk preacher there, choked him as he cried out “I can’t breathe,” while onlookers jeered. Amazingly, it included video which showed he was being hugged, not choked or beaten.
How credulous must one be to believe, despite evidence of the opposite? How mushy is the mind that accepts the horrifying but fabricated descriptions of CHAZ Fox “news” offloads, and not actual live feeds from local sources?
Then, as darkness follows night, came assertions about George Soros funding antifa, and the tired claim that he collaborated with Nazis in WWII, and is now working to destroy democracy. Which, as one can learn from a moment’s searching of responsible sources, makes Trump’s coronavirus lies seem positively Socratic.
Why and how Soros became bogeyman #1 for Trumpists isn’t mysterious, but given who he is and what he actually does to support democracy around the world, it’s credulity to the ninety-ninth power.
In Trump’s greatened America, fifty-three Qanon believers are running for Congress: paranoid people who accept the stupefying conspiracy that Satan-worshipping pedophiles rule the world, possibly from pizza parlors.
There’s more, like video of people screaming at city council meetings, convinced that wearing masks dangerously raises blood CO2 levels. Masked for hours almost daily, as a surgeon for decades, I … disagree. While cases surge, mask-eschewing Trump just announced the virus is “fading away.” What does it say if he believes that? What does it say if he doesn’t?
“The breakup of the United States of America is already under way,” brayed a member of the Russian Duma recently, thus illuminating the real significance of America’s credulity problem: it serves the enemies of democracy, including Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Trump. When Americans are unable to separate fact from fiction, those foes win and our republic loses. (tinyurl.com/2russia4love)
Spreading disinformation to the credulous isn’t new, but Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, and now, Trump, weaponized it, flooding the zone with so many lies that people gave up calling them out. So successful is it that those adversaries recognized its potential to further their aims. Not only have they exploited widespread credulity to influence our elections, aided by Trump and his Congressional co-conspirators, they’ve convinced millions they haven’t. That’s meta-credulity. (tinyurl.com/fake2u)
Education, to which Republicans refer as brainwashing, is a powerful antidote to credulity. Equally potent are the workings of a free and skeptical press, which is why Trump calls it “fake news.” For too many currently in power, too much depends on keeping credulity alive. And too many Trumpophiles welcome the slumber of its comforting embrace.
Trumpist credulity now faces its biggest challenge. Confirming everything Trump’s impeachment exposed, and more, John Bolton’s book has discharged a Foxotrumpian effluvium, enjoining the credulous to deny or excuse the malversation to which he bears witness. (Which is it? Lies, or classified?)
During the impeachment trial, Senate Republicans cravenly refused to call Mr. Bolton. Do terminally credulous Trumpists finally understand why?
Oh. Almost forgot: that Trump quote, still around, is fake.