Fake news leads to fake issues. The Trump administration’s relentless attempts to delegitimize the “mainstream” media add more evidence to a larger picture of onerous and corrupt governance. Unfortunately for Trump, there is such a thing as legitimate media: that which doesn’t base an operating plan on the crass dissipation of propaganda. Trump’s rhetoric is the stuff of the lowest common denominator. Tearing down the main stream works in his favor. Calling the NY Times totally corrupt is an attempt to elevate the relevance of his moronic tweets. Those echoing Trump’s hostility towards the media tend be people who are the least affected by the fear-based narrative being put forth, the working class in the Rust Belt, middle class and executive class white Americans firmly entrenched in their chain store suburban lives. For these people, the reality of a terrorist attack is the equivalent to being besieged by Boogie Men who would like nothing more than to steal their vitals.
Trump and his minions have chosen to harness their worldview through a keyhole. President Trump asks the country to view global politics as a black and white paradigm, which is a strange and perverse oversimplification. The world is complex and for all of Trump’s wealthy pedigree and worldly experience, he should know better. But his political agenda on the national scale is thus far limited to a series of restless and paranoid hack moves such as asking people to consider alternative facts and warring with the press. Trump’s take on international affairs is a real “this-is-your-brain-on-drugs” moment. For example, while those firmly connected to reality know that Mexico is not going to pay for that wall, many of Trump’s most ardent supporters passionately argue that Mexico will pay for the wall because Trump said so. Given this lack of actual diplomatic skill, it makes sense that he would want to downplay the legitimate press and all else capable of exposing him for the tool that he is. As Peter Tosh said, “you can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time…”
Donald Trump doesn’t listen to Peter Tosh. He is narcissistic enough, and pampered enough through a lifetime of privilege, to really believe he’s the smartest guy in the room. We must see the legitimate free press as a crucial safeguard of liberty because qualified journalism is the best platform for speaking truth to power. Donald Trump is quite comfortable peddling fictions. He’s the type of liar who never comes correct, but rather doubles down on the tall tales, each one bigger than the one before it, delivered with perpetual and disorientating urgency. The Trump boat is floated on the quiet helplessness of weak mindedness. But President Donald J. Trump seems out of his league on the world stage, as a First World leader anyway. He is unable to articulate even the simplest of actual policy positions. Rather, his tendency towards self-aggrandizement and propensity for gilding the lily more closely resembles the actions of a snake oil salesman or a third world tyrant. Questioning his ability to lead our country is not treasonous, as he would suggest, but rather patriotic as Americans’ true loyalty is always to their country and the Constitution rather than to any one leader, no matter how charismatic.
So now the serious media are knocking at Trump’s door looking for answers and his administration has to work overtime in an effort to outrun the lies with their arsenal of gaslighting, questioning YOUR reality, obfuscating information, dispelling disinformation, making shit up, making ominous threats about loyalty and patriotism, and so on. The Trump team is compiling a liar’s playbook for the modern era. The hypocracy and contradictions are endless. Donald Trump was created through media, particularly of the tabloid variety. He never met an opportunity for self-promotion he didn’t like, a practice that went on for decades. The media gave him the platform to raise a political base, starting with his propagation of racist birther sentiments after the election of Barack Obama. Yet many of his closest advisors are media people, coming from the same profession he deems adversarial. And Trump’s compulsive tweeting is an action that suggests not disappointment, but deep and unyielding faith in media even though his sentiments are of the cynical and self-serving variety.
In the first essay of this Fascism is Real series, I recommended removing the “deplorables” from your life - those who would lock step along party lines, continue the deceitful narrative of weaker minds and ultimately succumb to fascist tendencies. If there is any justice, they will find the error of their ways soon enough and perhaps even thank you for not contributing to their sickness. The point of this second essay is to defend institutions that promote knowledge and learning: legitimate media, public education, cultural heritage sites, and so forth. These institutions are under attack by the Trump administration, with the endgame being to whip up enough paranoia and public distrust so as to make critical thinking suspect in-and-of-itself. Once the American people and their instrument for checking the government, the media, have been disenfranchised, Trump’s inner circle will complete the take over they have already started by getting rid of the higher principles of our democracy and consolidating power amongst themselves in order to exploit power for personal wealth.
But know this: all the rhetoric coming from the Trump camp can be turned on its head. Develop an instinct for pointing out the hypocrisy – if not the outright lies - and respond, but not with reactionary fervor. Stay sane and logical and grounded in facts. We must not capitulate to a developing tyrant that chooses to promote “alternative” facts.