La Vita è Bella

In the 1987 film, Life is Beautiful, the character Guido Orefice, held in a Nazi death camp,

hides their true situation from his son. Guido explains to Giosuè that the camp is a complicated game in which he must perform the tasks Guido gives him. Each of the tasks will earn them points and whoever gets to one thousand points first will win a tank. He tells him that if he cries, complains that he wants his mother, or says that he is hungry, he will lose points, while quiet boys who hide from the camp guards earn extra points. Giosuè is at times reluctant to go along with the game, but Guido convinces him each time to continue.

Jonathan Chait, Trump Is About to Go Full Coronavirus Death Denier

At this point, Trump is about to try imitating Guido Orefice in the brazenness of his desception scheme. The difference is that he wants to convince 328 million people—many of whom are more than four years of age—not to see the death and destruction that surround them.

It’s akin to what the tobacco companies did to so many of our population. I have recounted hearing my father, sitting in the living room, puffing away on his Lucky Strikes, would say the word “statisticians” in the same tone he say “witch doctors” or “Mormon missionaries.”

Orange Man wants folks like my late father to use exactly that same scornful, angry, dismissive tone of voice when they say “epidemiologists.”

The tobacco companies, like Trump, adopted a business model and a marketing strategy that resulted in death for their customer base. The difference is that cigarettes kill you over a period of maybe a couple of decades. Whereas, if you walk about in the presence of a superspreader and take no precautions, you may be gone in two or three weeks. And, if not you, then your grandmother.

We are going to see how well that works out for Orange Man.

Aardvark Receives Severe Scolding from David Brooks


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