I’m sick and tired of hearing things, From uptight, short sighted, narrow minded hypocrites, All I want is the truth,
Just gimme some truth, I’ve had enough of reading things,
By neurotic, psychotic, pig headed politicians, All I want is the truth, Just give us the truth, -John Lennon — “Gimme Some Truth”
Donald J. Trump is a lying-ass liar who lies. In fact, of the many casualties of the now thankfully outgoing Trump administration, the truth may be the one with the largest metaphorical and literal body count.
As a man of many grievances, and many enemies — Trump positions himself as an unhappy warrior beset on all sides by threats both real and imagined. Of them though, no greater foe consumed Trump than that of The Truth. Trump staged bloody trench warfare against observable reality at a level that would embarrass most tin-pot dictators or politburo loyalists. So much so that Glen Kessler of the Washington Post was assigned one of modern journalism’s most daunting tasks: chronicling all the lies Trump has publicly told since taking office. At last count at the beginning of September, the tally had reached 22,510, and that’s before we were even in the last run-up to the election. By the end of October, Trump was belching out over 50 lies a day, which, even by his own miserable standards, was pretty jarring.
In the late 1970s and early 80s, the residents of the Soviet Union were aware on at least some abstract level that they were being lied to regularly as a matter of state policy. The cognitive dissonance between the scarcity that surrounded them and pretense being made by the government that they were flourishing as a society led to a state that Russian anthropologist Alexi Yurchak called hypernormalisation. It’s a shared illusion among a people so continuously lied to that they lose the ability to imagine virtually anything different — an endless exercise in perception management in the place where actual problem solving should be. One that eventually breaks the public’s will to be able to tell objective fact from fiction, even in the presence of irrefutable empirical evidence. Essentially, it’s the pot of gold at the end of the gaslighter’s rainbow. For a nation of entitled brats like America who were already predisposed to reality shopping, Trump’s version of reality had a built in aggrieved audience that was desperately searching for someone to validate the darkest impulses of their nature.
Some 70 million people gleefully dove down each new spontaneous rabbit hole that Trump reflexively digs when he doesn’t have a good answer for otherwise simple questions. Which is to say — a daily, if not hourly, occurrence. His followers became so enamored with this alternate reality that when he wasn’t generating new content fast enough for them — they built a whole genre of live action role play fan fiction (Q Anon) so convincing it lead to multiple real life crime scenes, and thousands of families contemplating interventions in the attempts to retrieve their loved ones lost to its cult-like grip.
Presently in America, no greater example of this dangerous gaslighting exists beyond the Trump administration’s response to the COVID crisis. A response well on its way to being the single greatest failure of government in the entire history of the republic. While the rest of the civilized world has long since largely tamped down on the spread of coronavirus — the United States is on its third wave of exponential growth. Trump’s professional life experience barely extends beyond running a mid-level branding firm, and as such, he simply lacks the cognitive or managerial tools to perceive any crisis beyond its PR implications. When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. In this case — the greatest public health crisis in a century simply becomes a messaging problem rather than an epidemiological one.
The irony of it though was that it was primarily a failure of messaging. The fundamental difference between our outcomes compared to the rest of the world’s largely centered on our inability to have a consistent, whole of government set of agreed on talking points regarding public health best practices to nominalize the impact of the virus while scientists raced towards treatments and an eventual vaccine.
Instead, Trump, being the petulant, shallow child that he is, decided to turn ignoring the simplest, most accessible widespread mitigation (wearing a mask in public) into some sort of political vice signaling act of rebellion in service of the most important objective of The Trump Doctrine — “owning the libs”.
One can only assume the harvesting of liberal tears must feel really, reallygood. A narcotic dopamine rush so deeply and existentially fulfilling that people otherwise capable of feeding themselves and operating simple tools would be willing to die for it.
Even after Trump contracted the disease himself, and spread it throughout his inner circle, his followers were largely unwilling to put on a mask to save even their own family members for fear of looking like they buckled under to some liberal tyranny of science. As Trump advisor Chris Christie clung to life in an intensive care unit battling a coronavirus he almost undoubtedly contracted from Trump himself, the campaign zig-zagged between some of the reddest hotspots in the country. These massive superspreader events packed hordes of unmasked COVID deniers elbow to elbow showering each other in their aerated Hillbilly Nuremberg Rally froth. The results speak for themselves. The degree to which the coronavirus outbreak is shaking a community to its foundations is now directly proportional to the degree to which Trump carried the state. We are now approaching almost 200,000 new infections a day, and there’s evidence that Trump’s last string of 18 rallies alone took the lives of almost 700 plus people. In MAGA land, that’s apparently a wholly reasonable price to pay to “own some libs”.
Despite Biden’s six million votes plus drubbing of Trump in the 2020 general election, Trump is still insisting that he won, even going so far on Twitter as to declare states for himself he lost by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of votes by simply using the word “hereby” in a sentence in a tweet. Just as in all the other emperor’s new clothes moments spread throughout the last four years, a small army of otherwise reasonable adults had to go through the public professional humiliation of having to pretend the insane ramblings of a junior varsity wanna-be autocrat weren’t just that.
Spare a thought for the teams of lawyers Trump has dispatched throughout the country getting laughed out of one courtroom after another trying to sell this bullshit. Of the 16 lawsuits Trump has fielded concerning the 2020 election, the only one where his lawyers weren’t summarily laughed out of court was an emergency injunction to allow his amateur, untrained poll watchers move from a distance of 10 feet away to 6 feet closer to action they clearly didn’t understand at any distance. To hear Trump describe it though, it was if they single handedly rewrote the entire Bill of Rights in a weekend.
Many of the anecdotal stories and eyewitness accounts alleging election malfeasance Trump’s lawyers brought mainly had to do with the fact that the people coming in to be poll watchers on Trump’s behalf had absolutely no training and no idea what they were looking at, much less for. All they knew was that their president told him that violent anarchists had taken over the entire engine of American democracy and he needed as many of them as possible to be in the room to represent the only bulwark between them and socialist tyranny. The Trump legal team’s chore of trying to reverse engineer non-existent evidence to buttress the President’s wild imaginary claims has proven a tough row to hoe. At least two of the law firms hired by the Trump campaign have dropped charges and fired Trump as a client, rather than further jeopardize their license to practice law.
There can be no more fitting end to the mountain of bullshit that was the Trump presidency than the announcement of Biden’s victory during the middle of Guliani’s makeshift press conference in an industrial park driveway in between a crematorium and a dildo shop, and yet still the steady drip of bullshit still goes on.
A full 70% of polled republican voters now think that Biden somehow stole the election. That’s up 50% since the day after the race was called. What’s hard to tell is if Trump’s army of goons actually believes this shit, or they simply know that saying they do drives the rest of us crazy.
In fact — that may be the question future generations will wrestle with. How much of this was just a troll? Granted — if Q-Anon taught us anything — it’s how shockingly impressionable and naïve the red hat set is. They want to believe, and no fabrication in service of their confirmation bias is a bridge too far. As long as it passes the sniff test of driving anyone outside their MAGA orthodoxy up a wall — well then it must be true. That’s essentially the whole of the Trumpian Scientific Method, such as there even is one. But for those of us still living in the evidence-based world, the day when the nation’s most impressionable dipshit no longer holds the keys to the largest nuclear arsenal on earth can’t come quickly enough. As relieved as all of us were to see Trump get his ass beat on national television — it was quickly tempered by the realization that we have to now survive 71 days where the world’s biggest sore loser will attempt to make us all pay for the sin of not worshiping him into a second, third and fourth term using whatever levers of the executive branch he can still figure out how to use. We do know, however, that the longer this bullshit goes on the more violent his supporters will become and the closer we come to an incident that ends in a fatality. Ginning up a bunch of pre-diabetic open carry zealots into thinking it’s go-time to water the tree of white supremacy is the surest path to a second civil war since Appomattox.
The only consolation we have is Trump’s own ignorance and total lack of attention span. It’s the only thing that mitigated the amount of destruction he was able to render in the short time he ran the country. I’ve often compared it to the concept of a rampaging silverback gorilla getting a hold of your car keys. Your car is absolutely going to sustain a lot of damage, but the chances the gorilla will figure out how to stick the keys in it and drive away are vanishingly small.
What now hopefully follows Trump’s exit from the White House is a deep reality-based assessment of the struggles that face us as a nation — beginning with starting to take COVID 19 seriously. Maybe without their deep-fried piper in their ear all the time, the brutal scenes of freezer trucks filling with bodies in flyover state hospital parking lots may be enough to convince the last MAGA holdouts that keeping Me-Maw and Pap-Paw alive is more than a coastal state conspiracy meant to make America Not So Great.
Our first step towards a post-Trump world involves getting back to just being honest enough with each other to make a government that trusts its citizens enough to be straight with them on some tough things, instead of treating us like sheltered idiots that would rather recede into dangerous conspiratorial bullshit over the work of facing up to challenges we could easily collectively overcome if we could agree on a basic set of facts. We don’t even have to like each other to do that.
We’re all ready for some truth.
Just give us some truth.