Okay, fine… let’s talk about Trump

19 02 2017

A couple people have asked me to write a post about Donald Trump and the mess in America. Literally two people. Maybe the only two people who read this thing. Anyway, I’ve avoided writing about Trump because I don’t think he’s a particularly good subject because there’s nothing you can say about Trump that isn’t true about the worst aspects of humanity in general. He’s petty, insecure, ostentatious, egotistical, small-minded, insular, unforgiving… Go to dictionary.com’s thesaurus and you will probably come away with at least a hundred aspersions to cast at Trump, but I don’t believe Trump is the problem. My long-held belief is that most of us can’t think for ourselves and are easily led by those who hold our favorite brand of carrot.

I’m not just referring to Trump voters, by the way. I’m referring to everyone on both sides of the political spectrum. Right and left. Those who voted for Trump because they were sick to death of being treated as an afterthought by the liberal elite found a stupid, blunt-object solution in Trump’s message of division and falsehoods. Those on the left who believe the Occupy Wall Street movement was “important” and advertise their moral superiority through lazy hashtag activism live by a code of self-hating cowardice and deference for anyone who isn’t white.

Trumpism is alive and well on both sides of the political divide. Trump’s presidency isn’t about him, or the victory of the far right, or the victory of white over non-white… It’s about the victory of truth as a perception rather than as something that is a priori. It’s about the victory of identity over authenticity. It’s about believing in a lie because the source of the lie masquerades as a truth.

It isn’t even the lie’s fault that it’s believed. A lie doesn’t have to be malicious, necessarily. It just needs to be understood as refutable. Trump is refutable. So is Bono, for that matter. Both of them represent something false to their followers: Trump represents the falsehood of the downfall of  greatness in America; Bono represents the falsehood of Oxfam-brand equality for all. One could argue that there is an imbalance in these falsehood’s respective menace. Expecting a certain of kind of greatness in America carries with it all sorts of narrow, nationalist viewpoints that threaten the fabric of peace, while the assumption that there is such a thing as equality for all is sort of sweet and innocent rather than perilous.

The right and wrong of it doesn’t matter much. What matters is how much of your world view was built on personal experiences rather than the shared lie of pop culture. This is not to say that pop culture is to blame. This is to say that what it represents is not substantial enough to act as truth’s emissary and it shouldn’t be counted on to entirely inform your point of view. The belief that immigration is hurting America is just as precariously constructed as the belief that humanity can overcome it’s own nature and put an end to conflict and misery. The former is built upon fear and prejudice while the latter is built upon Utopian naivete.

Much has been said about the danger of the echo chamber that exists in the social mediaverse. We tend to follow people with whom we agree and block dissenting opinions. I think the problem is deeper than that. We’ve always been tribal, and social media proves that fact at least as much as it amplifies it. What’s new is how quickly we can align ourselves with tent-pole media personalities and merely ape what they say and consider ourselves informed. Deciding that immigration is hurting America because of stuff Trump says is just as hare-brained as claiming to understand climate science because you signed a petition at a U2 concert. Both are examples of Trumpism run rampant.

 

We are all guilty of cognitive bias, which is why Trump is in the White House. He didn’t get there because of who he is. He got there because of who we are.

 

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One response

29 03 2017
Anonymous

Hey Ulcer. I really like this post. My first urge is to post this elsewhere (with full credit, of course)…but I’d just be doing that knee-jerk thing. Man, social media is a bitch.
But, yes. Thanks for the words.

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