And indeed, their most honest defense of his false statements has been to cast them practically as matters of religious conviction—he deeply believes them, so there. When White house Press Secretary sean Spicer was asked at a press conference about the millions of people who the president insists voted illegally, he earnestly reminded reporters that Trump has believed that for a while and does believe that and its been a long-standing. Which is why nearly half of Americans subscribe to that preposterous belief themselves. And in Trumps view, that overrides any requirement for facts. Do you think that talking about millions of illegal votes is dangerous to this country without presenting the evidence?, david muir, the anchor of abcs World News Tonight, asked Trump in January. Not at all—because many people feel the same way that. The idea that progress has some kind of unstoppable momentum, as if powered by a newtonian law, was always a very American belief. However, its really an article of faith, the Christian fantasy about historys happy ending reconfigured during and after the Enlightenment as a set of modern secular fantasies.
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And it has all worked for him, because so many Americans are eager to believe almost any conspiracy theory, no matter how implausible, as long as it jibes with lady their opinions and feelings. Not all lies are fantasies and not all fantasies are lies; people who believe untrue things can pass lie-detector tests. For instance, trump probably really believed that the murder rate in our country is the highest its been in 47 years, the total falsehood he told leaders of the national Sheriffs Association at the White house in early february. The fact-checking website politiFact looked at more than 400 of his statements as a candidate and as president and found that almost 50 percent were false and another 20 percent were mostly false. He gets away with this as he wouldnt have in the 1980s or 90s, when he first talked about running for president, because now factual truth really is just one option. After Trump won the election, he began referring to all unflattering or inconvenient journalism as fake news. When his approval rating began declining, Trump simply refused to believe it: Any negative polls that may appear, the president tweeted at dawn one morning from Mar-a-lago, are fake news. The people who speak on Trumps behalf to journalists and the rest of the reality-based world struggle to defend or explain his assertions. Asked about the presidents statements that are demonstrably not true, the White house counselor Kellyanne conway asked cnns jake tapper to please remember the many things that he says that are true. According to The new York times, the people around Trump say his baseless certainty that he was bugged in some way by Obama in Trump Tower is driven by a sense of persecution bordering on faith.
Only in with the fall of 2016 did he grudgingly admit that the president was indeed a native-born American—at the same moment a yougov/ Huffington Post survey found that a majority of Republicans still believed Obama probably or definitely had been born in Kenya. Conspiracies, conspiracies, still more conspiracies. On Fox friends Trump discussed, as if it were fact, the national Enquirer s suggestion that Ted Cruzs father was connected to jfks assassination: What was he doing with lee harvey oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting? The fox News anchors interviewing him didnt challenge him or follow. He revived the 1993 fantasy about the Clintons friend Vince foster—his death, Trump said, was very fishy, because foster had intimate knowledge of what was going. He knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide i will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. He has also promised to make sure that you will find out who really knocked down the world Trade center.
He is the poster boy for the downside of digital life. Forget the press, he paper advised supporters—just read the internet. After he wrongly declared on Twitter that one anti-Trump protester has ties to isis, he was asked whether he regretted tweeting that falsehood. What do i know about it? All i know is whats on the internet. Trump launched his political career by embracing a long brand-new conspiracy theory twisted around two American taproots—fear and loathing of foreigners and of nonwhites. In 2011, he became the chief promoter of the fantasy that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, a fringe idea that he brought into the mainstream.
Trump waited to run for president until he sensed that a critical mass of Americans had decided politics were all a show and a sham. If the whole thing is rigged, Trumps brilliance was calling that out in the most impolitic ways possible, deriding his straight-arrow competitors as fakers and losers and liars—because that bullshit-calling was uniquely candid and authentic in the age of fake. Trump took a key piece of cynical wisdom about show business— the most important thing is sincerity, and once you can fake that, youve got it made —to a new level: His actual thuggish sincerity is the opposite of the old-fashioned, goody-goody sanctimony that people. If he were just a truth-telling wise guy, however, he wouldnt have won. Trumps genius was to exploit the skeptical disillusion with politics—theres too much equivocating; democracys a charade—but also to pander to Americans magical thinking about national greatness. Extreme credulity is a fraternal twin of extreme skepticism. I will give you everything, trump actually promised during the campaign. Yes: every dream youve ever dreamed for your country will come true. Just as the internet enabled full Fantasyland, it made possible Trump as candidate and president, feeding him pseudo-news on his phone and letting him feed those untruths directly to his Twitter followers.
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He used the new hard and remade pieces of the fantasy-industrial complex as nobody had before. He hired actors to play enthusiastic supporters at his campaign kickoff. Twitter became his unmediated personal channel for entertaining outrage and untruth. And he was a star, so news shows wanted him on the air as much as possible—people at tv outlets told me during the campaign that they were expected to be careful not to make the candidate so unhappy that he might not return. Before Trump won their nomination and the presidency, when he was still a cancer on conservatism that must be discarded (former governor Rick perry) and an utterly amoral narcissist at a level I dont think this countrys ever seen (Senator Ted Cruz republicans hated Trumps. Kikuo johnson, during the campaign, Trump repeated the falsehood that vaccines cause autism.
And instead of undergoing a normal medical exam from a normal doctor and making the results public, like nominees had before, trump went. Oz show and handed the host test results from his wacky doctor. Did his voters know that his hogwash was hogwash? Yes and no, the way people paying to visit. Barnums exhibitions 175 years ago didnt much care whether the black woman on display was really george washingtons 161-year-old former nanny or whether the stitched-together fish/ape was actually a mermaid; or the way today we immerse in the real-life fictions of Disney world.
He sees conspiracies everywhere. He exploited the myths of white racial victimhood. His case of what I call Kids r us syndrome—spoiled, impulsive, moody, a 71-year-old brat—is acute. He is, first and last, a creature of the fantasy-industrial complex. Barnum, his sister, a federal judge, told his biographer Timothy obrien in 2005.
Although the fantasy-industrial complex had been annexing presidential politics for more than half a century, from jfk through reagan and beyond, Trumps campaign and presidency are its ultimate expression. From 19, california was governed by former movie actors more than a third of the time, and one of them became president. But Trumps need for any and all public attention always seemed to me more ravenous and insatiable than any other public figures, akin to an addicts for drugs. Unlike reagan, Trump was always an impresario as well as a performer. Before the emergence of Fantasyland, Trumps various enterprises would have seemed a ludicrous, embarrassing, incoherent jumble for a businessman, let alone a serious candidate for president. What connects an Islamic-mausoleum-themed casino to a short-lived, shoddy professional football league to an autobiography he didnt write to buildings he didnt build to a mail-order meat business to beauty pageants to an airline that lasted three years to a sham university to a fragrance. What connects them all, of course, is the new, total American embrace of admixtures of reality and fiction and of fame for fames sake. His reality was a reality show before that genre or term existed. When he entered political show business, after threatening to do so for most of his adult life, the character he created was unprecedented—presidential candidate as insult comic with an artificial tan and ridiculous hair, shamelessly unreal and whipped into shape as if by a pâtissier.
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Civilized Tennesseans, owl he wrote, had known for years what was going on in the hills. They knew what the country preachers were preaching—what degraded nonsense was being rammed and hammered into yokel skulls. But they were afraid to go out against the imposture while it was in the making. What the contemporary right has done is worse, because it was deliberate and national, and it has had more-profound consequences. The rise of Donald Trump, i have been paying close attention to donald Trump for a long time. Spy magazine, which I co-founded in 1986 and edited until 1993, published three cover stories about him—and dozens of pages exposing and ridiculing his lies, brutishness, and absurdity. Now everybody knows what we knew. Donald Trump is a grifter driven by resentment of the establishment. He doesnt like experts, because they interfere with his right as an American to believe or pretend that fictions are facts, to feel the truth.
Only four presidents have lacked a christian denominational affiliation, the most recent one in the 1880s. According to pew, two-thirds of Republicans admit that theyd be less likely to support a presidential candidate who doesnt believe in God. As a matter of fact, one of the constitutions key clauses—no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust—is kind of a theoretical development freedom. Not only have we never had an openly unbelieving president, but of the 535 members of the current Congress, exactly one, representative kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, lists her religion as none. Among all 7,383 state legislators, there are evidently about a dozen avowed atheists. im reminded of one. Menckens dispatches from the Scopes monkey trial in 1925.
voted for 14 Republican presidential nominees in a row, quit a party that had become too christian for her. The Christian takeover happened gradually, but then quickly in the end, like a phase change from liquid to gas. In 2008, three-quarters of the major gop presidential candidates said they believed in evolution, but in 2012 it was down to a third, and then in 2016, just one did. That one, jeb Bush, was careful to say that evolutionary biology was only his truth, that it does not need to be in the curriculum of public schools, and that if it is, it could be accompanied by creationist teaching. A two-to-one majority of Republicans say they support establishing Christianity as the national religion, according to public Policy polling. Although constitutionally the. Can have no state religion, faith of some kind has always bordered on mandatory for politicians.
The partys ideological center of gravity swerved way to the right of rove and all gender the bushes, finally knocking them and their clubmates aside. What had been the partys fantastical fringe became its middle. Reasonable republicanism was replaced by absolutism: no new taxes, virtually no regulation, abolish the epa and the irs and the federal Reserve. When I was growing up in Nebraska, my republican parents loathed all Kennedys, distrusted unions, and complained about confiscatory federal income-tax rates of 91 percent. But conservatism to them also meant conserving the natural environment and allowing people to make their own choices, including about abortion. They were emphatically reasonable, disinclined to believe in secret Communist/Washington/elite plots to destroy america, rolling their eyes and shaking their heads about far-right acquaintances—such as our neighbors, the parents of the future Mrs. Clarence Thomas, who considered Richard Nixon suspiciously leftish.
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For a while, republican leaders effectively encouraged and exploited the predispositions of their variously fantastical and extreme partisans. Karl rove was stone-cold cynical, the wizard of Ozs evil twin coming out from behind the curtain for a candid chat shortly before he won a second term for george. Bush, about how judicious study of discernible reality is not the way the world really works anymore. These leaders were rational people who understood that a large fraction of citizens dont bother with rationality when they shredder vote, that a lot of voters resent the judicious study of discernible reality. Keeping those people angry and frightened won them elections. But over the past few decades, a lot of the rabble they roused came to believe all the untruths. The problem is that Republicans have purposefully torn down the validating institutions, the political journalist Josh Barro, a republican until 2016, wrote last year. They have convinced voters that the media cannot be trusted; they have gotten them used to ignoring inconvenient facts about policy; and they have abolished standards of discourse.