Every day Donald Trump does something that irritates me. But there's One Big Thing at the heart of Trumpism that worries me the most, because there's a danger it will live on after, hopefully, Trump departs the White House in January 2021.
Denigrating objective reality to such a degree, people aren't able to tell the difference between fact and fiction.
There are lots of signs of this happening to a scarily great extent. Here's some of them.
-- Trump decrying "fake news!" at every opportunity, even though the mainstream media is hugely more truthful than the lies that constantly spew from Trump's lips.
-- The Trump administration censoring and silencing scientists, especially when it comes to research involving the environment and climate change.
-- Trump's demagoguery where he responds to valid attacks on his character by spewing venomous epithets at those who dare to criticize him. Here's a screenshot from my iPhone today that illustrates this. (Bottom tweet came first, then the one above.)
-- Trump's shameless self-promotion where he tries to make everything about him, thereby doing his best to relegate the most important aspects of reality to the background, while he preens and prances in the foreground. Here's an example from the recent mass killing in El Paso. His smiling thumbs-up speaks wordless volumes about Trump's depravity.
A recent opinion piece by Alyssa Rosenberg in the Washington Post added to my worries about objective reality being cast aside -- "I understand the temptation to dismiss QAnon. Here's why we can't."
I'd been figuring that, as Wikipedia says, QAnon was just a wacky offshoot of the insane Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which claimed a pizzeria was the headquarters of a child trafficking ring led by Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta.
But Rosenberg discusses in a fascinating fashion how deep the tendrils of the QAnon mentality are reaching into certain gullible sectors of the American citizenry. Excerpts:
President Trump and his allies, including former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, are waging a covert campaign to root out an elite child-sex-trafficking ring. Mass arrests are imminent. John F. Kennedy Jr. is about to reveal that he has been alive all along so he can take Vice President Pence’s place on the 2020 Republican presidential ticket. And a mysterious government official using the handle “Q Clearance Patriot” is recruiting soldiers to the cause.
To most of us, these statements are almost too bizarre to be fathomed. But, for believers in the conspiracy theory known as QAnon, which the FBI recently identified as a domestic terrorist threat, they are important truths. I understand the temptation to dismiss anyone who believes in this wild concoction as merely easily misled.
Such disdain makes it easier to believe that QAnon and beliefs like it remain at the fringes of American life. But to focus merely on QAnon’s content and not the form it takes is to miss why the conspiracy theory has spread so widely — and why similar ideas may prove incredibly difficult to combat.
The best way to think of QAnon may be not as a conspiracy theory, but as an unusually absorbing alternate-reality game with extremely low barriers to entry. The “Q” poster’s cryptic missives give believers a task to complete on a semiregular basis. Even more so than conventional video games such as “Fortnite Battle Royale,” which rolls out new seasons with new scenarios roughly every 10 weeks, QAnon is open-ended — or it will be as long as the revelations continue.
...Once a person has started consuming QAnon content, the actual gameplay is relatively simple. Participants concoct their own interpretations of Q’s gnostic “bread crumbs,” or share those dreamed up by others.
If this were a conventional game, the play might end there. But QAnon players have shown an increasing tendency to enlist the rest of us as unwilling participants in their fantasies, sometimes with violent consequences.
...While most QAnon believers will never engage in violence, part of the appeal of QAnon for participants is that the conspiracy theory assigns enormous significance to even relatively minor acts such as posting on message boards or sharing Facebook posts.
...“It is addictive in the same way that a game is,” says Travis View, a researcher who studies QAnon. By contrast, “conventional political participation” is oriented toward far more mundane processes, and “That all has the impact of what, hopefully getting a state assembly member elected that you feel at best ambivalent about?”
View suggests that “Q offers something a hell of a lot more. You can sit at your computer and search for information and then post about what you find, and Q basically promises that through this process, you are going to radically change the country, institute this incredible, almost bloodless revolution, and then be part of this historical movement that will be written about for generations.”
...It’s one thing to try to debunk QAnon and white-supremacist ideas, whether by trying to prove that John F. Kennedy Jr. is definitively dead or to combat demographic narratives of “replacement.” It’s quite another to figure out how to offer adherents of QAnon and other distorted worldviews experiences that will be as thrilling and fulfilling as conspiracy games have become.
As View put it, we’re living not in a marketplace of ideas but in a “marketplace of realities.” And the tools of gaming have given disaffected people the ability to bend our reality to theirs, whether we like it or not.
A marketplace of realities. Great way to put it.
Like many progressives, I look back with a strange fondness upon the presidential days of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.
I disagreed with most of their policies, but at least our disagreements occurred in the same reality. Sure, they fudged the truth from time to time. Every president does.
However, in comparison to our current Reality Denier In Chief, these old style Republicans now seem appealingly reasonable. By and large, these conservatives embraced the same facts as their liberal opponents. So policy discussions occurred in the same reality, which is essential for productive debates.,
Trump, on the other hand, views everything through a political lens. He doesn't want intelligence officials to tell him what is actually going on in the world. He wants them to tell him what he desires to hear, a very dangerous presidential proclivity.