On Monday, Paul Krugman took note of a recurring theme in Trump's presidency:
Nothing the president says is wrong, whether it’s his false claim that he won the popular vote or his assertion that the historically low murder rate is at a record high. No error is ever admitted. And there is never anything to apologize for.
This "doctrine of Trump infallibility", as Krugman calls it, reached a new high (or low depending on depressed it makes you) when Trump surrogate Jeffery Lord came up with a novel new defense of his boss:
Lord recalled appearing on a radio show in Birmingham, Ala., earlier in the day and being told by the host that Americans outside of Washington understood Trump's accusation to mean more broadly that he was being surveilled by the FBI or another agency."
He says, you know, 'We speak Americanese out here, and we know what he meant,'" Lord said. "What he meant was the FBI was — or somebody else was — surveilling him. That's what he thinks."
This, of course, is 100% bullshit. But that doesn't matter because now that he's said it, it's real. Trump's followers will literally rewrite their own memories to accommodate the lie. Two weeks ago, they knew that Obama had directly ordered the phones lines in Trump Tower tapped because Trump said so. Two weeks later, after a firestorm of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans and every single intelligence agency that could have been involved saying, "Fuck you, no we didn't!", Trump's followers will now say they always knew that what Trump really meant was that someone was spying on him, not that his phones were literally tapped.
If this doesn't remind you of the phrase, "We've always been at war with Eastasia" and make your skin crawl at the same time, you're not paying attention to what's happening here.
There's two levels to this intellectual rot. The first is the conceit that "Americanese" is what real Americans speak, thus setting Trump's voters further apart from the rest of society. They already make a pretense of moral superiority combined with toxic patriotism to deny the majority of the country legitimacy as fellow Americans. Now they're going to lay claim to being the gatekeepers to the English language? I think not.
The second, more dangerous, aspect is that every dictator wants to be the sole arbiter of reality. That was the entire point of Orwell's 1984; tyrants will dissolve the concept of language and replace it as a means of control. Blind obedience is patriotism. Critical thinking is treason. My lies are truth and the truth is what I say it means.
The longer Trump and his willing accomplices warp the discourse, the easier it will be for the next white nationalist conman to come along, dazzle the Republican base, and fatally infect our body politic. And if this next would-be dictator is smarter and less deranged than Trump (a very low bar to vault), they will find they have a mob of millions already rendered incapable of discerning reality on their own, begging for someone, anyone, to tell them what to do and who to hate.
And that's when the camps open and the trains start rolling.
There are 594 days left to the 2018 elections.
- This article kills fascists
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