What he said
The New York Times' Charles Blow, that is:
Trumpian language is a thing unto itself: some manner of sophistry peppered with superlatives. It is a way of speech that defies the Reed-Kellogg sentence diagram. It is a jumble of incomplete thoughts stitched together with arrogance and ignorance.
America is suffering under the tyranny of gibberish spouted by the lord of his faithful 46 percent.
Trump’s employment of reduced rhetoric is not without precedent and is in fact a well-documented tool of history’s strongmen.
As New York Times C.E.O. Mark Thompson noted about one of Trump’s speeches in his 2016 book, “Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?”: “The super-short sentences emphasize certainty and determination, build up layer upon layer, like bricks in a wall themselves, toward a conclusion and an emotional climax. It’s a style that students of rhetoric call parataxis. This is the way generals and dictators have always spoken to distinguish themselves from the caviling civilians they mean to sweep aside.”
Thompson also notes that “Trump’s appeal as a presidential candidate depends significantly on the belief that he is a truth-teller who will have nothing to do with the conventional language of politics,” warning that:
We shouldn’t confuse anti-rhetorical ‘truth telling’ with actually telling the truth. One of the advantages of this positioning is that once listeners are convinced that you’re not trying to deceive them in the manner of a regular politician, they may switch off the critical faculties they usually apply to political speech and forgive you any amount of exaggeration, contradiction, or offensiveness. And if establishment rivals or the media criticize you, your supporters may dismiss that as spin.[...]
In January, Vanity Fair attempted to answer the question: “Exactly How Much TV Does Donald Trump Watch in a Day?” They did so by producing this utterly frightening roundup:
Early on in the campaign, Trump told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that he gets military advice from TV pundits. He couldn’t get through a 50-minute Washington Post interview without repeatedly looking at the TV and commenting about what was on it. In November, during the transition, The Post noted that, based on his biography, ‘He watches enormous amounts of television all through the night.’ And just this week, a source told Politico that Trump’s aides are being forced to try and curb some of his ‘worst impulses’ — including TV-watching, apparently: ‘He gets bored and likes to watch TV … so it is important to minimize that."
Trump has the intellectual depth of a coat of paint.
At no time is this more devastatingly obvious than when he grants interviews to print reporters, when he is not protected by the comfort of a script and is not animated by the dazzling glare of television lights. In these moments, all he has is language, and his absolute ineptitude and possibly even lack of comprehension is enormously obvious.
In the last month, Trump has given interviews to print reporters at The Times, The Associated Press, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. Read together, the transcripts paint a terrifying portrait of a man who is simultaneously unintelligible in his delivery, self-assured in his ignorance and consciously bathing in his narcissism.
In Trump world, facts don’t matter, truth doesn’t matter, language doesn’t matter. Passionate performance is the only ideal. A lie forcefully told and often repeated is better than truth — it is accepted as an act of faith, which is better than a point of fact.
It's Orwellian, but I think we are having a hard time grappling with that because we assumed that an Orwellian world would spring from someone or a group of someones who planned it with ruthless efficiency. I don't think it ever occurred to us that it would come about because our institutions would bend to a perceived necessity of propping up a celebrity imbecile and we'd all be sitting at home watching it happen on TV.