Trump is in hospital with covid. Despite amusing conspiracy theories like he’s escaped to Russia, this is probably one of the few facts that can be relied upon. As for the rest…
Buzzfeed this morning,
“I’m old enough to remember the press briefings from Dennis O’Leary when President Reagan was shot. They were models of clarity and transparency. The country found them truly reassuring. And let’s just say this one did not meet that standard,” said Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
[Trump’s doctor] Conley’s “job is to give clear credible accurate information. We got misdirection, we got confusion, we got evasiveness,” Wachter added. “This was sort of a first pass to see whether we’re going to be able to believe what the White House puts out about Trump’s condition, and I’ve come out of this thinking they’re going to put out propaganda rather than truth.”
One of the reporters in that piece, Matt Berman, had this to say on twitter,
I am extremely confused and I have been covering this nonstop for days now. I cannot imagine how any normal person is keeping up with this or is getting anything close to a reasonable understanding of what is happening to the president.
One of the key fascistic techniques in use in the US since 2016 is the deliberate creation of confusion by telling lies or mistruths. This confusion leads to people not knowing what to believe, and along with multiple other techniques exhausts people cognitively and emotionally so that it becomes harder to resist or even keep up with what is going on. This makes consolidation of political power easier.
Random tweet about this, but fairly representative of what I’ve been seeing people in the US report over the past 4 years,
If you’re feeling like you’re crazy because you can’t figure out if this news is real or a ploy, it’s because we’ve been gaslit by this administration for 4 years. There’s nothing wrong with your judgment and reasoning skills. This is a result of abuse. #ThanksTherapy
It’s dangerous as fuck in a democracy and far surpasses the normal use of PR spin we see in politics generally (although I would say that the spin of recent decades has made us more vulnerable to fascistic techniques and in New Zealand we are at a cusp of normalising those because of our acceptance of Dirty Politics into the social and political landscape).
Looking at that sequence of events above, some of it at least is incompetence. Or is it? I don’t care at this point, because both work and not being able to tell which it is compounds the effect. You can do it intentionally and you can take advantage of when you do it by mistake in a high pressure situation, or even when someone leaks for genuine public interest reasons. Both lead to fear, destabilisation of useful social and political norms, and undermining of people’s ability to make sense of and act upon political information.
There’s been some debate in the past few days about what it might mean if Trump died. Some people’s immediate response of excitement at the prospect is understandable all things considered, but we really need to dig deeper here and fast.
The consequence of Trump’s demise from death or illness wouldn’t simply be that it stops his immediate program of legislative change (although that would be a relief). It may give the US a chance to avert from or at least put a stay on its current path to fascism. Trump going away doesn’t solve the myriad of significant problems like the white supremacy movements, the huge and antagonistic divide between Trump supporters and those against him, Pence as replacement president, the Republicans’ ability to choose an ultra conservative for the Supreme Court, the Democrat’s refusal to do anything other than status quo, but, it might change the dynamic enough for fate to tip our way.
If Trump recovers, there are likely to be significant sociopolitical repercussions as well.
I’m in two minds which would help progressives/democracy, and I’m not convinced progressives are in a good position to make best use of any change (focusing on the election, the validity of voting and getting people to vote still seems the surest bet). I also don’t believe that anyone can predict what would play out from each potential scenario. But I am a fan of tipping point theories, where the situation is so volatile that if Trump dies it could go any way, but how people respond can intervene in which way it tips. We’d best be prepared.
Wondering what the post title is about? As recently as yesterday, some left wing people are arguing that Trump’s not so bad, the other side are just as bad, and so on. The right have their own version of this. Minimising or being in denial of what is happening in the US risks helping the rise of fascism. You can read the original post here, or the series here.