Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019 July 2019 August 2019 September 2019 October 2019 November 2019 December 2019


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Sunday, December 01, 2019

The conspiracy theorist in chief

 by digby

I think this piece by Peter Nicholas in the Atlantic goes a long way toward explaining Trump (and his followers') dependence on kooky conspiracy theories. The question is whether or not Republicans can, or even want to, turn this around is unanswered.

This is the conclusion.  I recommend you read the whole thing if you can. It's fascinating:
To grasp why conspiracy theories appeal to Trump, it’s important to understand the man. Mental-health experts have described Trump as a narcissist forever feeding his grandiose sense of self. Facts and evidence aren’t nearly so convincing to Trump as what makes him feel better about himself. Trump was an illegitimate candidate in 2016 who benefited from foreign interference? No, that was Hillary! “His perception, even his definition, of good and bad is what makes him feel good in the moment,” David Reiss, a San Diego–based psychiatrist who has studied and written about Trump’s psyche, told me. “There’s no sense of consequences beyond what’s good for me in the moment, and then that gets projected onto everything. What’s good for me is good for the universe.”

Joseph Vitriol, a College Fellow in Harvard’s psychology department who has studied conspiracy theories, told me that Trump “likely will gravitate toward anything that will make him feel good about himself and believe that he’s respected. That makes him averse to information that’s inconsistent with that perception, and makes him deeply suspicious of the motivations of people who criticize him. It also makes him unable to meaningfully engage with a broad range of information.”

This propensity for self-soothing combines with an anti-intellectualism that seems part of Trump’s makeup. He’s skeptical of elite opinion and not convinced that he has anything still to learn. As my colleague Ron Brownstein wrote last week, Trump and his Republican allies have been “escalating their war on expertise.”

Trump’s mind is thus fertile soil for bogus ideas to take root. A new book written by an anonymous senior Trump-administration official, A Warning, describes Trump pushing away facts and conclusions that don’t jibe with his own views. “When he does sit down for a briefing on sensitive information, it’s the same as any other Trump briefing,” the author writes. “He hears what he wants to hear, and disregards what he doesn’t. Intelligence information must comport to his worldview for it to stick. If it doesn’t, it’s ‘not very good.’”

“He gets his intellectual mojo out of television,” not other forms of learning, said Brinkley, who traveled to Mar-a-Lago during the transition in 2016 to meet with Trump and discuss past presidential inaugurals.

Conspiracy theory is a convenient umbrella term for various ideas Trump holds that lack foundation. But the phrase may be assigning these notions more gravity than they deserve. Trump often dishes up brute assertions that leave no space for rational argument. Statements that stoke anger, not thought. Democrats are out to get him because they’re “sick.” The impeachment inquiry is a “hoax.” Repeat as needed. Nancy Rosenblum, a government professor emerita at Harvard, describes it as conspiracy without the theory. The term she’s coined for this sort of mind-set: conspiracism.

“There’s no answer for it,” she told me, “which is why it is so seriously disorienting to people. We’ve never seen anything like it. We don’t know how to meet it. It’s an attempt to construct a reality, and when it comes from the president, he has the capacity to impose that reality on the nation.”
It goes on to describe all the various ways we've learned that people inside the White House, from Priebus to Mattis to Kelly and others, tried to keep him from accessing all this conspiracy nonsense. But they have all either been kicked out or eased aside and nobody can keep Trump away from Fox or his phone which means there's really nothing they can do.
Constructing his own reality necessitates an attack on fact-finding institutions that are central to American democracy—universities, nonpartisan government agencies, law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the news media. For Trump’s version of events to take hold, he needs people to accept that the facts leaping out at them aren’t to be believed, that institutions wedded to objective truth aren’t to be trusted.

Here, Trump’s imprint will be hard to erase. Trump acolytes inside the Republican caucus are aping his methods and standing with him as he advances his fact-free claims about Ukraine’s complicity in the 2016 election. Unceasing attacks on “fake news” have resonated with a certain audience. Polling from The Wall Street Journal/NBC News shows that in 2010, 60 percent of Republicans had either no or very little confidence in the national news media. As of June—two and a half years into Trump’s presidency—that figure had grown to 74 percent. “Conspiracy theories go right to the jugular of what a democracy is,” Vitriol said. “The stakes are as high as they could possibly be.”

One day, the conspiracist in chief will leave office. His successors will face a choice: Exploit the damage he’s done to democratic institutions and norms, or see if it can be fixed.
I think Trump is most essentially a cult of personality so some of this will fade naturally when he is no longer the center of attention.  But with the old-school conservative movement dead and the Republican Party reduced to nothing more than a party desperately clinging to power for its own sake, it's not hard to see this phenomenon hanging around, particularly when there's money to be made at it, which Fox and and the various profit centers of the right wing have shown can be very lucrative.

To most Americans, this stuff looks like a descent down the rabbit hole.  But to those inside it it seems to feel very comforting even though it makes no sense. Maybe that's the key. It just requires blind faith, loyalty and features a pleasant camaraderie --- reason is not required.