Lies, Damned Lies, and Tweets

Sessions

Continuing to explore an issue I have addressed with morbid fascination these past months, Dana Milbank writes, Trump’s not a liar. He’s a madman.

I find Milbank’s conclusion curious. It seems to me that evidence is mounting that Trump’s lies are often conscious and strategic. Recent examples: the claim that the Democrats are responsible for separating children from parents at the border, and the assertion that there was an FBI “spy” in his campaign.

People who are actually successful have a number of techniques at their disposal, but Trump has only four: smarmy flattery, insults, threats, and lies. If you are the type of person whose behavior can be influenced by these techniques, then Trump has your number. If you are not affected by obviously insincere flattery, by verbal abuse, or by intimidation, and if you do not believe his lies, then Trump is flat out of luck, because that’s all he knows how to do.

Milbank cites evidence that the velocity of Trump’s lies is increasing at a dizzying rate. But the mere fact of lying is not in itself evidence of madness. It is instead evidence of desperation.

In addition, it seems that the lies are becoming so ludicrous that it’s like he’s just phoning it in.

As the dying cobra makes a last effort to defend itself from the mongoose by injecting more venom, it’s not crazy. It’s just ineffectual. ‘Cause the cobra has become immune to the venom.

Something like Shep Smith reacting to Trump’s venomous lies.

Explaining the Inexplicable: The Quest Continues

He’s Like Erdogan

Aardvark is pleased to share the astute observations of Freda Foxy, retired political scientist and fellow denizen of Happy Acres. Professor Foxy writes,

My analysis of Trump’s support is that the upper class is using populist appeals to lower-income groups in order to weaken the middle class, the class that traditionally supports democracy.

I know this is happening in Turkey.  The upper class, represented by Erdogan, has formed an alliance with the poor by building them needed housing.  The objective is to get the lower class, with its large numbers, to help do away with a free press and fair elections, elements of democracy that Turkey’s upper class allowed when they thought it would enable Turkey to get into the European Union, with all the economic benefits that would have brought them.

In an alliance of upper and lower classes, you know which class is dominant and in whose interest the alliance is operating.  I think a similar alliance is happening not only in the U.S. but in Hungary and elsewhere.

Democracy developed in stages as successive layers of people below the rulers pressured them for it.  The upper class historically resisted sharing power with people below them, often successfully, e.g. in Russia, the Tsar defeated the country’s nobles in the uprising that was comparable to the English uprising that wrested the Magna Carta from King John.

In the U.S., we have “bad” billionaires supporting Trump who is giving low-income people what he tells them they need, while implementing policies that are very harmful to them.  This is not to deny that Trump got help from Putin, who is also using nationalism and other populist appeals to roll back the steps toward democracy that occurred in Russia in the immediate post-communist period.

One could extrapolate from the situation in which the U.S. finds itself that the Democrats missed their chance to tie the poor to democracy through benefits like health care for all, free public college education etc.

He’s Like Elizabeth Holmes, Business Bamboozler Extraordinaire

In Grifters Gone Wild, Maureen Dowd writes,

Elizabeth Holmes shot to fame as the youngest female self-made billionaire after she dropped out of Stanford at 19 and then founded the company that became Theranos. She claimed to have created an easier, cheaper way to do blood tests, just by pricking a finger, but then it turned out she was a literal bloodsucker, defrauding investors of $700 million on a nonexistent technology.

As Maria Konnikova wrote in her book, “The Confidence Game,” “The whirlwind advance of technology heralds a new golden age of the grift. Cons thrive in times of transition and fast change” when we are losing the old ways and open to the unexpected.

We are easy marks for faux Nigerian princes now, when chaos rules, the American identity wobbles, and technology is transforming our lives in awe-inspiring and awful ways.

Trump voters allowed themselves to believe they had a successful billionaire who knew the art of the deal when he only knew the art of the con. They bought his seductive campaign narrative, that the system was rigged and corrupt and only he could fix it. After winning by warning voters they were being suckered, he’s made them all suckers.

He’s the Weasel of Oz

And Charles Blow draws yet another apt comparison:

The racism has become almost routine. Now it is the continued revelations of the degree to which Trump takes the presidency as a giant game, in which he is all-powerful, in which supplicants must come pleading, in which he has an unmatched ability to retain power by manipulating and deceiving the populace.

It’s like he’s playing the role of the Wizard of Oz, only this man is a weasel.

Aardvark Receives Severe Scolding from David Brooks

life

In a column headed Donald Trump’s Magical Fantasy World, David Brooks takes severe issue with the whole thrust of trumpedprogressives.org, writing,

The dangerous thing about Trump’s fantasy world is not when it dissolves into nothing; it’s when he seduces the rest of us to move into it. It’s not when he ignores the facts; it’s when he replaces them by building an alternate virtual reality and suckering us into co-creating it. …

The first problem is you can’t beat Trump at his own fantasy game. As Daniel Boorstin understood back in 1962, you can’t refute an image with a fact. Every pseudo-event “becomes all the more interesting with our every effort to debunk it.” Trump gets to monopolize attention ever more comprehensively and deepen his credibility as anti-establishment hero.

The second problem is that when you agree to operate within his fantasy, even if you are motivated by the attraction of repulsion, you’ve given the man your brain. Sometimes my Trump-bashing friends and I seem like puppets on his string. …

I miss people thinking about the world outside the gravity field of Trumpian unreality, and about the world after Trump — the world we should be building.

We’re in the middle of some vast historical transition, and it’s very hard to know what to believe in. The more time we spend on the Trumpian soap opera, the less likely we are to know where we are or what we should do.

Aardvark’s Animadversions

First of all, David, you are a good man. And because you are such a good man, you have difficulty understanding humanity. I applaud you for trying, though—and I hope and expect that you will keep on trying, and helping to enlighten the rest of us as you journey on life’s highway.

But you remind me of another good person: the character Guido Orefice in Life is Beautiful “who employs his fertile imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp.” That was a noble thing for Guido to do, but it didn’t solve the problem that father and son were incarcerated in a concentration camp.

That’s my first point. Your noble instinct is just to ignore the madness. But ignoring it won’t make it go away.

My second point is that madmen we always have with us. Trump’s madness is unusual, but not especially interesting in itself, unless you are a student of abnormal psychology, which Aardvark is not. What is interesting is that so many people supported him. That is what we need to understand and address. And we had bloody well better keep on trying to understand and address it.

If this crisis ever passes, we can all get back to thinking happy thoughts, and life will indeed be beautiful once again.

Yet Another Way Trump is Making America Great Again

voter

2018 has already outpaced 2017 in K-12 school shooting deaths

In all of 2017, there were 44 shootings in elementary and secondary schools, resulting in 25 deaths and 60 injuries.

So far in 2018, there have been 28 elementary and secondary school shootings, resulting in 40 deaths and 66 injuries. With the year not even halfway over, 2018 already has more injuries and deaths than all of 2017 and appears to be on track to outpace 2017 in terms of overall incidents.