I blame MSNBC's Chris Hayes. Every weekday I record his hour-long program, then watch it while doing my at-home exercising.
Today a guest of his was Jeff Sharlet, who talked about a piece he wrote for Vanity Fair about the religious nature of Trump devotees.
Being anti-Trump and anti-religion, naturally I couldn't wait to read what Sharlet had written. But I didn't anticipate how scary it would be.
Tomorrow Trump holds his first rally since the COVID-19 crisis hit.
Since Trump likes to do the stupidest, most anti-scientific thing possible, the rally is going to be at an indoor arena that holds 19,000 people, where Trump supporters will be packed shoulder to shoulder, masks optional, screaming in adoration as they behold their Savior.
In short, COVID-19's dream, a marvelous way to spread itself.
I've always thought that the people who attend Trump rallies were crazed, but until I read "He's the Chosen One to Run America," I pictured those people as being more politically crazed than religiously crazed.
It turns out that they're both -- a really dangerous combination. The only good news is that Trump's approval ratings have been sliding the past few months. According to the highly-respected FiveThirtyEight web site, polls show Joe Biden with a nine-point national lead over Trump at the moment.
So most Americans aren't buying what Trump is selling, namely himself. Still, the fanaticism of his most ardent supporters is deeply worrisome. Hopefully they won't go berserk when, as I sure hope, Trump loses his re-election bid this November.
Here's some excerpts from "Inside the Cult of Trump, His Rallies are Church and He Is the Gospel."
In 2016, I attended Trump rallies around the country to witness the role played by religion. I found it in the fervor for oft-traded stories of the candidate’s riches, his private plane, “Trump Force One” and its golden interior, and in the promises of D-list preachers who opened his rallies with sermons ranging from the staples of abortion and decadence to the miraculous wealth with which God had anointed Trump.
Back then, the candidate was taken as living proof of what’s known as the Prosperity Gospel, a kind of country cousin to establishment Christian conservatism, not so much about saving society as it is about getting right with God by getting rich. Show your faith in his blessings, as revealed in the opulent lives of his anointed preachers, and good fortune will trickle down.
Like Trump, the Prosperity Gospel is transactional—a ready-made religion for a man who came by it, like so little else in his life, honestly. In the books he claims to have written, Trump invokes a personal trinity: his father, Fred, who taught him strength; his mentor, the red-hunting mafia lawyer Roy Cohn, who taught him cunning; and his childhood pastor, bestselling Christian self-help author Norman Vincent Peale, who taught him The Power of Positive Thinking.
Believe in it, preached Peale, and it can be yours. Quid pro quo, a deal with God: affluence (or the dream of it to come) in return for unquestioning loyalty. Trump’s campaign channeled a convergence of conservatisms: Fred Trump’s brutality, Cohn’s corruption, and the cross wrapped in a flag preached by Peale.
As Trump knows, the best kind of deal—the kind that pays—is not only transactional, it’s transformative. With some minor exceptions, the establishment Christian right has embraced the gospel of Trump, and it has prospered: Trump’s administration stocked top to bottom with its apostles, the movement mightier now than it was under George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan.
Trump, meanwhile, has fused his penchant for self-pity with the paranoia that runs like a third rail through Christian conservatism, the thrilling promise of “spiritual war” with dark and hidden powers.
In 2016, the Trump faith was name it and claim it, Make America Great Again, the prospect of the restoration of a mythic (read: white) past. Now, though, the kingdom has come. Trump is no longer storming the gates; he holds the power.
The faith for 2020, I learned at his rallies, is a secret one, its password a wink that’s really a warning, its enemy invisible and everywhere: the deep state, the pedos and the FBI, Democrat-ruled sanctuary cities and the “illegals” they send forth to pillage the heartland. MAGA has become KAG, Keep America Great—which requires not a new prosperity but the eradication of America’s enemies within. “If you do not bring forth what is within you,” as the gospel of Thomas puts it, “what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
...Four years ago, the mood at Trump’s rallies was electric but heavy, a mix of anger and the possibility of “winning”—winning so much, Trump promised, that we’d get tired of winning. Since then he has won; and won and won and won. The energy now is victorious—and even darker.
If the arena is a safe space for Trumpers, a church where the like-minded can join together in a sea of red hats, the world outside is scarier than ever. “Secret murders everywhere,” says Pastor Sean, his voice low and growly. “Pedophiles and evil.” That’s why he loves Trump: because he believes God has chosen Trump for this hour. That which Trump’s critics see as crude and divisive, Pastor Sean takes as proof of his anointing. He is God’s champion, a fighter, a “counterpuncher.”
...Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,” declares the divine voice of perhaps the most famous gnostic text, a poem called “The Thunder, Perfect Mind.” So it is in the arenas of Trump, thousands of red hats just like his, the hats that at each rally he throws to the crowd, giving of himself. Such are the miracles of Trump, adored for his golden tower, his golden faucets, his generosity. He who has taken the most also gives the most.
...“He wants to discipline us,” Dave says. He, in this instance, means not Trump but his father: God. Like Trump, COVID-19 is an instrument of his will, and he has allowed the virus as a punishment for our “corporate” sin, our failure as a nation to fully embrace him and his messenger, Trump, a view not so distant from that of many Christian right leaders, including Franklin Graham, Fox News preacher Robert Jeffress, and Ralph Drollinger, who leads a White House Bible study.
...Only the truly initiated—Dave, Diane, QAnon—know the name of “The Storm” that’s coming, but nearly all of Trump’s devotees can read the signs, red flares over blue seas: A CNN crew arrested on camera, live, in Minneapolis; in New York, a viral video of a riot cop flashing the O.K. symbol; and in Washington, following a gas processional, the president of the United States marching through the sterile aftermath to hold aloft a Bible, upside down—a sign? A signal?—its red ribbon dangling along his wrist like a snake’s tongue.
What does it mean?
“Pray over it,” says Dave, of that which is given for our witness. “Let it settle.”
Could be a 2-term president despite everything, then what?
I find it quite bizarre how ppl are so obsessed with The Donald. I’m not talking about his supporters either. It’s the anti-trumps and the papers that analyze and hold onto his every word. Trump has a point which is that he basically sells news and they can’t get enough of him.
I’m all for BLM and equality, but I don’t think trump is a kkk wizard despite his ego and other grab’m failings.
And I’m not sure how equating Trumpy to a guru/cult makes any sense whatsoever but hey sense ain’t stopped you so far.
Posted by: Georgy Porgy | June 20, 2020 at 12:49 AM
It's apparently totally OK for protestors and rioters to congregate without Fauci's Rules. Or at least not a word is said about that.
But if the president holds a rally, that's an assault on scientific wisdom?
Somehow religion has something to do with this topic, though how is never explained. I think it comes down to what we want to do is rational, good and scientific, but what you want the rest what to do is "religious" and evil.
Anyway, science fans here are some facts scientific and otherwise:
1) states that locked down are doing no worse than states that did not. All the ornate rules regarding magic masks and the shutting down businesses don't seem to be producing any results, though it will surely go merrily along.
2) The average age of virus deaths is 80. No children have died from it (though the schools are still closed down -- a frightful assault on children's development, but again, not a word about that). The hospitals are not and have never been overwhelmed as Fauci told us they'd be. Overall, this virus is proving to be not much more lethal than a bad flu season.
3) It's not the state's business to curtail the public's Constitutional freedoms. True, the state should have the power to quarantine the sick, eg someone like Typhoid Mary. But the state isn't supposed to have the power to quarantine THE ENTIRE POPULATION because someone somewhere might get sick. At the very least, the state should have a plan in place for ending the wholesale quarantine. The state has no such plan and refuses to share what "scientific" parameters it's looking at to justify its unconstitutional abridgments of our freedoms.
4) We are most definitely seeing the rise of a cult in American society, one that's calling for the ending of our police forces, one that's destroying art and banning books, one that's murdered and maimed countless people, one that wants to enforce a "bloodguilt" policy for ongoing social policy, one that bullies everyone who doesn't kowtow to their baseless charges of "systemic racism,", one that wants to empty the prisons, one that wants the taxpayers to pay every black person a reparations salary for life. The corporations are cheering this on for one reason -- they are making money from it (partly because small businesses are being crushed) and they are cowards who are scared to death to say anything against what the radical mob is preaching.
5) So much outrage over a president holding up a bible? Over holding a voluntary rally? I get it how some people don't care for the president's personality, but they are confusing patriotic fervor and genuine concern for Constitutional rights with mindless religion and cultism. I'm far more worried about the very real breakdown of our society via mob rule.
Posted by: j | June 20, 2020 at 08:38 AM
Cult deprogrammer writes that Trump is a cult leader
Posted by: trumpcult | June 20, 2020 at 10:05 AM
j, you are incorrect about some important facts. Here's some of them.
(1) Black Lives Matter protests haven't led to more COVID-19 cases. There's a big difference between most people wearing masks outdoors at a protest and a Trump rally where, almost certainly, many fewer people will be wearing masks indoors.
(2) Children have died from COVID-19.
(3) Masks are an effective way to prevent COVID-19. Red (conservative) states where people are likely to follow Trump's bad advice not to wear a mask are experiencing a higher rate of infections than blue (liberal) staes.
(4) Stay at home orders have saved millions of lives around the world, included large numbers in the United States.
(5) COVID-19 is much worse than the flu. For one thing, it is ten times more deadly and lasts considerably longer.
Posted by: Brian Hines | June 20, 2020 at 11:26 AM
"Cult deprogrammer writes that Trump is a cult leader"
By Hassan's definition, every elected president is likewise a "cult leader."
This points to the real cause of social division in America today: the average citizen has little to no concept of American civics. They view Trump as if he somehow usurped the presidency through voter fraud, collusion with foreign governments, or "lies."
But Trump was in fact fairly elected by our democratic system. A few thousand dollars spent by foreign nationals on Facebook ads didn't change the election results. It turns out there was no evidence of Russian collusion, despite the daily trumpeting by the "real media" that there was.
Our democratic system is founded on a basic human truth: people will disagree over the course of this country and who our elected leaders should be. But instead of accepting that some elections will sometimes produce leaders whom we dislike, a mass movement has started that promotes the false idea that what this president does is "tyranny" and "fascism" simply because we don't like it.
In my view, President Obama was a lousy president. I thought he was a fake poseur long before he was elected, and I still have that view today. However, during his 8 years in office, I never dreamed to be so bold as to call Obama unfit for office or demand his impeachment. That's because I recognized that Obama was duly elected by our system, and my respect for that system goes above whatever opinions I have for shit presidents like Obama and Bush.
I also never dreamed of portraying everyone who voted for Obama and Bush as brainwashed religious nuts under the spell of a cult leader. Again, this is because I recognize that people can think differently from me and have good intentions.
It seems our society is losing the ability to respect disagreement. We are losing it to the point where we feel that any means are justified to take down an elected leader we don't happen to like. We're drifting more and more to a rejection of American civics and an acceptance of mob rule. This isn't theory -- we're seeing segments of the public go on violent sprees, and companies bowing in fear to whatever activists demand of them in respect to giving them money and firing anyone who disagrees with the activist's bloodguilt platform.
The rule of the mob vs. the legal rule of a duly elected leader? I know which I prefer.
Posted by: j | June 20, 2020 at 11:35 AM
"But instead of accepting that some elections will sometimes produce leaders whom we dislike, a mass movement has started that promotes the false idea that what this president does is "tyranny" and "fascism" simply because we don't like it."
Oh, please. The right never missed an opportunity to call Obama a tyrant and a dictator...
"We are losing it to the point where we feel that any means are justified to take down an elected leader we don't happen to like."
Trump himself led a charge to delegitimize Obama's presidency by any means, amplifying the birther conspiracy...
Posted by: anami | June 20, 2020 at 02:36 PM
I wouldn't trust Trump with my daughter or my sister
I wouldn't trust Trump with my money (he will squirrel away from me somehow)
I wouldn't trust Trump to deal with dictators (see how "successful" he was with North Korea?)
I wouldn't trust Trump to be honest playing golf
I wouldn't trust Trump to think beyond himself and focus on others.
I wouldn't trust Trump to stop and think before he is on twitter.
I wouldn't trust Trump to be a real leader and stop name calling.
I wouldn't trust Trump in any of his so-called investigations, particularly on his exaggerated claims about
investigating Obama's birthplace.
I wouldn't trust Trump to release his taxes
I could go on and on.
But who cares about all that. He should be our "leader", our "president."
Geez, this planet is nuts.
Posted by: nutplanet | June 20, 2020 at 03:45 PM
"j" made some good points in both of his posts above. I agree.
He said: It seems our society is losing the ability to respect disagreement.
In the absence of a spiritual/philosophical/values foundation, which is rapidly disappearing in this country, it is easy for a political belief system to replace it as "gospel". Once it is believed Trump is evil, his evil will be seen everywhere by all true believers. The tinted glasses are on. It is fanaticism.
The Master (in RSSB religion) can do no wrong.
Trump, in the cult of "Never Trump" can do no right.
One has replaced the other.
Posted by: el pato | June 20, 2020 at 04:10 PM
j, you are incorrect about some important facts. Here's some of them.
Black Lives Matter protests haven't led to more COVID-19 cases."
I never claimed protests lead to spreading the Wuhan virus. I claimed just the opposite when I said that states that didn't lockdown are doing no worse than states that did lockdown. In other words, the lack of outbreaks from social gatherings, be they of political rallies or looters, shows that our science experts are wrong about the fetish for masks. The bizarre thing is that the more evident this is, the more the most liberal politicians enforce mask-wearing, ie the esteemed Mayor of Los Angeles.
(2) Children have died from COVID-19.
Actually, the CDC won't commit to saying that they know there's a link between the virus and other diseases. Speculation about possible cures is totally unacceptable, but speculation about children dying is somehow OK?
In any case, let's say 5 children did die strictly because the got the China virus. Does that mean the end of schools forever? That seems to be the thinking and it's absurd. No school is causing genuine problems for children, for families. It's all based on 5 children who may have died, and the doctors aren't even certain about the cause of death?
(3) Masks are an effective way to prevent COVID-19. Red (conservative) states where people are likely to follow Trump's bad advice not to wear a mask are experiencing a higher rate of infections than blue (liberal) states.
What else would the Bezos paper say? But actually, the stats show no such correlation between red states and more Wuhan flu, and therefore there can be no conclusions drawn with causation.
Again, states that did not lockdown are doing no better than states that did.
People who have medical conditions or who are elderly should be all means protect themselves by wearing masks and staying home. But this policy of having the entire population quarantine themselves is ludicrous, shows no worthwhile effect, and is causing the end of thousands of small business, mental and physical health problems, and a huge uptick in suicides. It also seems to be a factor is the cause of this epidemic of urban riots. Indeed, citizen Floyd was turned to crime because he was unemployed due to the lockdown.
This policy of mass quarantine is causing more harm than it's preventing.
(4) "Stay at home orders have saved millions of lives around the world, included large numbers in the United States."
Again, this can't be true, since it's been established that states that did not lockdown are doing on better than states that did. Lockdowns are doing far more harm than good.
(5) "COVID-19 is much worse than the flu. For one thing, it is ten times more deadly and lasts considerably longer."
Define "much worse." There is significant doubt from medical professionals about how death statistics are being recorded re who is really "dying" from Wuhan virus. There's no doubt that many have died, and the average age is 80. Many of them were in nursing homes -- this is where 99% of the attention should have been placed. These are the people who need to be in a lockdown of some kind. But the entire population? I don't have a better word for it than absurd.
And who really believes in the mask theory of medical protection? Is it just Trump voters who are flouting it? What about all those progressives who beat the Trump supporters to engage in mass public protests? Where were their masks and social distancing? Since as you point out there was no uptick in illness from their protests, maybe they intuitively knew what is obvious -- this virus scare is largely BS.
Posted by: j | June 20, 2020 at 06:40 PM
"Oh, please. The right never missed an opportunity to call Obama a tyrant and a dictator..."
I'm saying that I didn't call Obama any of those things. But you're right that some on the right have played that game. I recall Rush Limbaugh's stupid "America held hostage" meme, though I don't recall him or Fox news invoking impeachment and screaming that he should resign. I don't recall marches in the street demanding that Obama resign.
Strong criticism was going on full steam back when Clinton was president. But what we've seen in the last 3 years is an new kind of opposition, and an over the top denial of the very legitimacy of the office of president. This is something new, or at least it hasn't happened in American politics since perhaps Abe Lincoln's day. What's being said about Trump by the media and the democrats is that he has no legitimate authority as president and therefore must be removed from office - not because of what he has said or done, but because of who he is. It's been going on practically since he took office. This isn't civil opposition, it's a denial of American civics and the authority of the Constitution. It's how the people act in banana republics.
Posted by: j | June 20, 2020 at 06:56 PM
Ah, Gore Vidal was write to call it "The United States of Amnesia."
How quickly we forget what Trump did with Obama about his birthplace and his right to be President, calling into question the very fact Obama was born in Hawaii. But Trump never lets facts interfere with his conspiracy-mongering.
And, as usual, Trump was wrong.
Ah, Trump cannot be civil even to the very people he claimed were going to be the best and brightest in
his cabinet. Instead he calls them all sorts of names, since they don't bow down to his unending narcissism.
The very leader of the free world doesn't know how to be civil himself. Go look at how many insults he has
spewed forth. It is Trump's incivility, his inability to take criticism, and his all over the map policies that has caused this ruckus. Banana republic? Trump isn't a leader. He is man constantly worrying about how much
credit he should get, or how big his crowds are, or how is ratings are.
He is completely unfit for the office. That is why he is so strongly opposed.
Simply put, he could have easily risen to the occasion and shown real leadership, shown skill in dealing with his critics ("there are no bad questions, just bad answers.").
Sorry, the buck starts and stops with Trump.
Yes, people are right to be irritated by this self-centered egotist who has been played by North Korea, played by the Chinese, played by the Russians, and all along claiming he is making America great again.
Sure. Bring back Nixon. He at least knew how to resign.
Posted by: dumptrump | June 20, 2020 at 08:26 PM
Just to add some factual information to this discussion about Covid.
This year, Covid 19 is the number one killer among several major causes of death in the world, including hunger and malaria, war, drugs, flu, fire, terror, poisoning, meningitis, etc.. Covid deaths top the list.
Watch the chart time series.
Posted by: Spencer Tepper | June 20, 2020 at 09:06 PM
@ And who really believes in the mask theory of medical protection?
You're partially correct about the potential protection of masks.
However, whatever its degree of efficacy, however small, it's a
best practice, along with distancing and frequent hand washing:
And, call me crazy, but I suspect mask haters probably aren't that
keen on distancing or hand washing protocols either.
Posted by: Dungeness | June 20, 2020 at 11:11 PM
Obama by far the best most capable president that country ever had. By a quantum leap - no one to remotely touch him. Shit the rest of the world should be so lucky to have this guy in charge for another 100 years.
Dubya was thicker than two short planks, senior was forgettable, Regan was an actor, Clinton did not have sexual relations with that women (probably the next best after kennedy), trump’s ego has landed, Johnson another redneck, Carter not bad but forgettable also, and then of course tricky dicky.
Posted by: Georgy Porgy | June 21, 2020 at 12:12 AM
"But what we've seen in the last 3 years is an new kind of opposition, and an over the top denial of the very legitimacy of the office of president. This is something new, or at least it hasn't happened in American politics since perhaps Abe Lincoln's day."
How do Republicans say Trump and Lincoln in the same breath? Pranayama? Lincoln has been spinning so hard and fast in his tomb that they had to pump in oxygen and replace the tachometer.
Posted by: anami | June 21, 2020 at 04:46 AM