Trump's Tweets Need To Be Treated As Toxic Psychological Waste - And Ignored By The Media
"After my speech on Thursday night there was a big turn for the better. Troy wins a great victory during a very tough time of the year for voting." Trump tweet at 9:59 last night, with Ohio House District 12 results still too close to call and now provisional ballots, absentees must be counted.
The deplorable offal above highlights the problem with the chronic liar occupying the White House and the difficulty in transcending his incessant, duplicitous tweets. Even in the act of correcting them, one per force repeats them - else there is no context. In the case of the preceding balderdash Trump (perhaps correctly) assumes his gaggle of gullible Goobers will believe his twaddle. Betting that they are unaware that in fact the Ohio District 12 results ended in a statistical dead heat with Balderson at 50.2 % and the Dem Danny O'Connor at 49.3 % or a difference of 1,754 votes. A difference that can easily be made up after the provisional and absentee ballots are counted - which will be over the next ten days. So, in effect, Dotard has blabbed the results prematurely. (In any case whatever the results they're nothing to get overly exercised about as the two will face off again in November, when it really counts.)
So in no existing universe could Troy Balderson's tiny margin be considered a "great victory". But this embodies the inherent problems dealing with the illegitimate buffoon based at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Michael Massing's recent Nation article ('Journalism In The Age Of Trump:What's Missing and What Matters') fairly well set out the parameters and dimensions of the problem posed by Trump's barrage of lies - generally dispatched in his hateful tweets. But even his not so hateful tweets encompass distortions, exaggerations and outright dismantling of the truth. As Massing puts it:
"Trump’s venomous attacks on the press—as an enemy of the people, purveyors of fake news, a failing institution—have taken their toll. Journalists are denounced at political rallies, trolled on social media, and subjected to racist and misogynistic taunts. Such assaults, together with the unforgiving financial climate in which they operate, have made journalists feel under siege like never before. One result has been the development of a siege mentality."
This should not be news to anyone who's followed Trump's lies and tweets (which generally are synonymous)from even before his illegitimate ascension to the presidency. Now, however, there is the matter of what to do about them. How to respond? In particular how should the media treat them: as official communications with all the gravitas of a presidential official statement or announcement - through the orthodox, standard channels? Or as disruptive refuse no better than environmental toxic waste, say in the environment?
One approach is to repeat the odious tweets but to fact check them. For example, Journalism professor Indira Lakshmanan advocates inserting the lying tweets between two doses of fact to diminish their import. So suppose Trump tweets "Mexican rapists are swarming across the border endangering all real Americans." Lakshmanan would preface that with the fact that illegal entry at the border has actually decreased, then report the tweet, then its falsity.
The problem, as philosopher-economist George Lakoff has pointed out, is that this method repeats the tweet - so people (mainly vulnerable Trumpers)- remember the tweet but not its correction. Thus, Trumpers' erroneous beliefs and fables are merely reinforced in a kind of confirmation bias. Dickinson philosophy teacher Crispin Sartwell doesn't buy this because he claims 'Truth Sandwich'? Baloney! - WSJ
"Mr. Lakoff's account is as obviously false as it is patronizing" Noting: "The people watching CNN or reading the Times see and hear Trump's tweets as much as any AMericans and more or less universally oppose him". In other words, he argues Lakoff's take can't be correct if so many NY Times' readers and CNN viewers basically ignore Trump's tweets. dismissing them as lies.
But here is where Sartwell falls down- not appreciating Mr.Lakoff's description of the power of repetition of Trump's tweets mainly applies to Trump's cult members, i.e. his stooges or drooling goobers at his rallies who get wet dreams with his every syllable. It is they for whom each tweet incites "changes in their brain circuitry", in Lakoff's words.
Most germane here is the excellent PBS documentary series, ''The Brain', in which neuroscientist David Eagleman explored the role of that organ in social connections, as well as genocide and propaganda. His key finding?
"A basic, single word label is enough to change your brain's pre-conscious response to a person in pain, in other words, how much you care about them."
And let us note here Trump habitually has used single or double word labels to attack his opponents, e.g. "little Marco", "crooked Hillary", "Lyin' Ted" etc. In other words, Trump's goobers' brains are already sensitized to receive his lies and further ignore those to whom Trump has directed his dpersonalized tweet attacks. There is no "pseudoscience" in this, as Sartwell insists, but more widely known actual neuroscience.
But I've dealt with Sartwell's nonsense before, e.g. last September when he penned another load of fulsome rot in the WSJ ('Texting andTwitter Make This A Golden Age For the Written Word').Sartwell, clearly under the influence of MJ candies or cookies, scribbled:
"Texting - to say the obvious - is writing. Snapchat conversations are written with thumbs, but they are written. Twitter seems to be getting blamed for many ills, including those of the Trump administration. But whatever else the president does as he tweets, he is definitely writing. Barack Obama composed a couple of decent memoirs, but he is not as prolific an author as Mr. Trump, a master of his chosen genre.It strikes me that Twitter is not only a social media platform, it is a poetic form, like haiku or a sonnet."
This elicited my response:
"I had to wonder what Sartwell was on when he wrote this unmitigated hogswill. I suspect it must have been a combination of MJ edibles and maybe booze. No sane human, certainly not a professor, could compare a bunch of incomprehensible, misspelled, cartoon tweets to Obama's memoirs - unless he wasn't in his right mind. And to compare a tweet to a sonnet carries false analogy to the same level as comparing a can of Alpo to a 5-course gourmet meal for a human. It is simply bare bollocks. Utter nonsense."
For those who dispute my take, I defy you to read a sonnet of Shakespeare's or of Robert Browning's and then read one of Trump's tweets. Any one. If you can seriously argue that they are equivalent as "poetic forms" - then I'd say you're more gone than James Eagen Holmes when he adopted the Joker personality. As for Sartwell, the fact this guy could summon such an absurd "argument" shows he isn't anywhere in the same league as Lakoff.
The actual cure for Trump and the disease of Trumpism may be staring us in the face, and was offered some weeks ago in a WSJ op -ed ('The Press's Cult of Trump') by a Swiss editor Patrik Müller who has compared Trump's rise in the USA - compliments of too much media attention - to that of Christoph Blocher.
Like Trump, Blocher was a billionaire who took over the Swiss People's Party and transformed it into an anti-immigrant party. As he put it: "Blocher dominated the headlines for years, much the way Trump does in the U.S. Amid dire warnings by virtually every Swiss news outlet, his party increased its share of the vote constantly. In retrospect, it's widely accepted that Blocher's exuberant media presence and his demonization, helped him rise. While meaning to do the opposite, the media made him the hero against the 'political class'."
As Massing puts it (ibid.): "With their constant drumbeat of 'Trump, Trump, Trump. Trump' watching these networks (MSNBC, CNN) is a soul sapping and demoralizing experience."
For his part Müllerbelieves that neither our media or Trump will break out of this toxic "symbiotic" relationship. He concludes it will continue until "the audience gets tired and stops reading articles." Oh yeah, and Trump's tweets too!
When I put this challenge to wifey she sneered and replied: "Are you kidding? We have to know what that shithead is tweeting to know how to combat him!"
"We have no historical database of presidential untruth on which to rely to make detailed comparisons, but it is certain that Trump’s rate of falsehood is beyond anything ever seen in the White House. Armed with Twitter and a mad and malignantly narcissistic penchant for twisting facts and truth in accord with his own ever-shifting sense of what serves his interests and hurts his perceived foes, this monstrosity is gaslighting the last flickering embers of civic democracy at a velocity that would make Goebbels green with envy.
Keeping up with Trump’s erroneous and duplicitous statements is exhausting work, hazardous to one’s own sanity. Just as depressing as Trump’s serial fabrication and invention is the apparent willingness of tens of millions of ostensibly decent and honest ordinary Americans to tolerate, dismiss or even believe the endless stream of nonsense and bullshit."