Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Insidious Danger Of Propaganda And How It Has Infected Brains And Threatened Our Democracy

                    Delusional Trumpy Loons bark outside a Michigan voting center 

The insidious and destructive nature of propaganda and its effect on brains is the topic of this post. In particular how its spread can undermine and even destroy a democracy if too many citizens become susceptible.  What I hope to show, by numerous examples, is how specifically targeted propaganda - mainly about the 2020 election - has divorced millions of citizens from reality and caused them to take up "arms"  (mostly digital for now) against the sane, reality -based citizenry, and against democracy itself.  As Prof. Timothy Snyder has pointed out ('On Tyranny') , this is in many ways similar to a slow moving coup towards authoritarianism.

As one examines the examples below, the first thing noticed is a total detachment of the person from facts.  This detachment is then used to spin incredible rationalization, i.e. to explain how Trump really won a "landslide".   Reading through the codswallop takes enormous will power simply not to crack up at the sheer gullibility - along with the effort to spin B.S.    

The latter manifests in an incredible diversity of specious arguments, mind boggling rationalizations -  combined with unproven twaddle from conspiracy dens-   then manipulated into what the victims believe is truth.   As a first example we consider the codswallop about Trump written in a Denver Post letter by a Steven Gehrke, which shows a total detachment from facts and reality.  

Gehrke begins with obvious disproven nonsense,

 "President Trump does not govern by whim and tweet".

Of course he does!  One need only glance through the litany of his stupid tweets to see how many of them were catapulted into the public record.  As authoritarian specialist and author Masha Gessen has noted in a 2017 New Yorker piece, e.g.

How Trump Governs by Tweet: Start with Outrage, Then Escalate | The New Yorker

"The tweets of @realDonaldTrump express what the President of the United States is thinking, and that alone makes them noteworthy. On top of that, Trump appears to think that he can govern by tweet.

He is not exactly wrong. Presidential tweets do make policy at least some of the time. As we learned in the summer, after Trump tweeted a ban on transgender people in the military, the Commander-in-Chief can give commands in any manner he chooses.  Trump is unwilling, or unable, to consider the possibility that all of American society doesn’t function like the military. So, if a tweet fails to produce consequences, the President escalates, groping in the ether for levers to exert the power of his displeasure."

And even more, i.e.

"His Twitter attack on the news media has followed a similar trajectory: a hundred and forty characters at a time, he searches for instruments of power available to him. Prosecute leakersGet the Senate Intelligence Committee to go after journalists?"

Not content with that bollocks, Gehrke follows it up by stating categorically:

"Trump did not fail during the Covid crisis."

But he did fail! Big time! And merely facilitating the rollout of a couple of vaccines does not absolve him of the lying, downplaying, and worst now  -  mega failure in the distribution!  Trump's blowhards originally promised 100 million vaccines by the end of the month.  That went down to 40 m then 20 m and now there have been only 2.1 million vaccinations total. Trump, typically incompetent as he was with the ppe back in March, insists the states have to take care of distribution. No one told the states that, and there's been NO money supplied to the states or any local gov'ts via the COVID relief package.   As Dr. Ashish Jha plainly stated last night (ALL In): "The states do not have the resources to manage this kind of distribution, it needs to be centralized and organized!"

Author Lawrence Wright ('The Plague Year') also pointed out last night on ALL In that  Trump initiated the Covid disaster response from the time he politicized masks, lockdowns and social distancing.   That's arguably led to over 330,000 dead so far, and now with this distribution  snafu (and supply issue) with vaccines we can expect tends of thousands of more dead who shouldn't be.  See also:

Trump Has Sabotaged America's Coronavirus Response


" In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure. In numerous phone calls and emails with key agencies across the U.S. government, the only consistent response I encountered was distressed confusion."

Gehrke, seemingly in his own alternative universe bubble then proclaims:

"Trump restored the dignity of the office of the President after Barack Obama kneeled down on his American apology tour."

The last actually based on a phony video purporting to show Obama kneeling before some potentate.  But Gehrke's drivel is mainly taken from 2012 campaign critiques including by then Reep candidate Mitch Romney.  But as a CNN fact check pointed out:

When President Obama began his term, he made a number of speeches in the Middle East and elsewhere – all designed to forge better ties with Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.

Critics such as Romney have said Obama apologized for past actions in such addresses.

Obama did indeed mention past U.S. flaws in speeches. But in those addresses, Obama never uttered an apology for the United States.

Those statements were snippets, part of larger and grander narratives about repairing ties, building friendship and working together.

One also wonders where Gehrke was (or what he was drinking) when Trump:

- Sided with Putin at Helsinki  and actually suggested the interrogation of U.S. officials by Russian agents after being sent to Moscow

- Called KKK, Nazis and other vermin at a violent August, 2017 rally  in Chalottesville, VA  "some very fine people".  Indeed, Trump even failed to call out this scum at the first presidential debate,

Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, militia members in debate marked by disputes over race

-  While on a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, , he insulted fallen soldiers as "losers" and "suckers", as reported in an Atlantic magazine article, e.g.

Elements of the story were independently confirmed by The Associated PressThe Washington Post and Fox News — all citing anonymous sources.

Gehrke's delusions grow absolutely malignant when he writes:

 "Nor did Trump stretch presidential power, he worked within the limits of his office."    

 Seriously?  Where was Gehrke when Trump:   obstructed special counsels’ investigations of his wrongdoing, pushed foreign officials  (e.g. Ukraine  president Volodymyr Zelenskiy)  to dig up dirt on political rivals, fired inspectors general who found corruption, oh, and ordered the entire executive branch to refuse congressional subpoenas?  Each of these marked an authoritarian expansion of executive power far beyond what the Founders imagined.

Then there's Trump's going all out to overturn an election - a FREE and FAIR and SECURE election by filing dozens of nuisance lawsuits. That perfidy is "working within the limits of his office?"  This is nothing less than an assault on democracy and our election system, when any real president who grasps the true limits of his power would know when to concede.  Indeed, it is in the realm of genuine democracies that the erstwhile leader knows when it's over and graciously leaves the stage. But not Trump. He has effectively claimed the power of a tyrant or dictator by not conceding his loss even two weeks after the Electoral College certified Biden the winner.  In doing so he's shown he believes he transcends the electoral system and democracy itself, not to mention the will of 80+ million voters!

But perhaps the most monumental brain fart is the one Gehrke saves for last:  

"I believe Trump will go down as the greatest president since Washington and Lincoln, and perhaps exceeding them both."

 Not according to historian Michael Beschloss who referenced Abraham Lincoln's compassion and leadership on ALL In Monday night.  He noted that so many were being killed in the Civil War that a new cemetery was needed.  When asked where to build it, Lincoln replied "Near my summer house because I want to see the results of the terrible decisions I'm making" - to send men off to war.  Beschloss adding "That's what a real president does."

Gehrke is correct about the exceptionalism of Dotard, but not in the way he believes.  Rather as historian Beschloss put it Monday night:  

"Donald Trump is the kind of person we have never ever seen before in the presidency, and I hope we never see again."

In other words, an unmitigated disaster.  As Beschloss goes on to elaborate, most people on reaching the age of 6 begin to see the world as others do, and hence begin to develop empathy.  Not so with  Dotard Trump, who isn't fit to polish Lincoln's boots in any D.C. museum.

The preceding example of one diehard, brainwashed Trump lubber is not meant to be unique, only to show the extent of brain- debasement and damage that ingestion of propaganda can achieve. Gehrke was fortunate in the sense that his reckless claims and hyperbolic rhetoric about Trump found their way into a daily newspaper reaching a half million people. The Post editors were more than accommodating - perhaps excessively so -  in providing this brainwashed minion such  a soapbox to expound his Trumpie rubbish.   But most of the mind-virus ridden are (fortunately) not given that opportunity to spew their toxic offal. No, they typically retreat to the less visible rat warrens of the net, to spout their balderdash.  There the extent of idiocy and irrational claptrap reign supreme.

Some of the bilge one earnest person found in one pro-Trump, conspiracy rabbit hole online is exposed at the link:

Some examples of the sort of lazy thinking, slapdash reasoning, and regurgitated hogswill on display are instructive, e.g.:

So, here's where it stands. Democrats used mail-in voting, the Dominion machines, and other common means of voter fraud to steal the election from the American people. Estimated actual voter count nationwide....Trump 105 million, Biden 47 million. Trump CAN prove it. And be sworn in on the 20th. But it will take a call out to our military to seize machines and ballot warehouses


Most of the fraudulent ballots had only Biden checked. Time was short. New York had offices with persons filling in only Biden, then truckloads shipped out to Pennsylvania that night. Dominion machines were programmed to switch millions from Trump to Biden.. No effect to other races.. Common sense.. The Republicans WON the House races.. Yet Trump lost them?? I'm not missing anything. What you're missing, is what you'll (and the country) will experience if this monstrous lie gets Biden sworn in. A little logic. Something you are does an elderly challenged, locked in the closet candidate set an all-time record number of votes?? Impossible. In case you dream up a justification for that, ...common sense...tell me WHY Trump was kicking tail at 10 pm and the voting tabulation stopped?...only to be resumed the next morning. Come on. At least an objective democrat should be saying,"go ahead...RECOUNT!...make sure!" But no one is. Because the Landslide would appear. Even though several million have been destroyed to inch Biden a bit closer in his losing total.”recount, along with monitoring the Georgia runoff. The military is ready and Very willing.

The author of the Daily Kos piece interjects at this point:

I attempted to educate my friend and his people by going through the entire registration and canvassing process as I have been an observer, election judge, elected official and served on voter protection forces. I discuss how ballots are verified and certified, counted, audited and secured. No one replies. I also inform him that the counts are not done in most states in precincts but by county clerk operations and then they are often audited again for accuracy. How scan machines are audited but this was to no avail.   

This eventually  elicited the less than rational response:

He's quite the educated Democrat. Looking closely at his posts, I see quite a bit of not dealing with the fraud or possible results of a militarization of the election processes and materials. They definitely do not want any investigations into vote tampering. Bob treats the whole Trump questioning as preposterous. Again. Trumps commanding lead only went away after the precincts "paused" the tallying for several hours election night. They also don't question how a hideaway candidate ended up with record smashing totals. We'll see if Trump goes all out for the reveal.”

The author again attempts to instill a residue of reason:

I explained that counting was paused in most places because they went home for the night. Other states waited till the next day to process mail-in ballots etc. If he really had read my posts or researched he would have found that in 2016 I was a Hamilton Elector and even went to the Supreme Court. Back to the discussion, in every counting there are at least two party observers and paid election officials. I failed to understand the code of militarization of election processes characterization. 

With his pal leaving the forgettable response:

I dont have proof. The President has thousands items of proof...Time for Republican Senators to step up and fight for the Presidency, like the Democrats would do if they had actually won. The proof is irrefutable! Massive late night mail-in ballot drops in swing states, stuffing the ballot boxes (on video), double voters, dead voters, fake signatures, illegal immigrant voters, banned Republican vote watchers, MORE VOTES THAN ACTUAL VOTERS (check out Detroit & Philadelphia), and much more. The numbers are far greater than what is necessary to win the individual swing states, and cannot even be contested. Courts are bad, the FBI and “Justice” didn’t do their job, and the United States Election System looks like that of a third world country. Freedom of the press has been gone for a long time, it is Fake News, and now we have Big Tech (with Section 230) to deal with. But when it is all over, and this period of time becomes just another ugly chapter in our Country’s history, WE WILL WIN!!!

The author again, approaching hopelessness:

I respond with the NY Times and Wapo articles categorially going through the court filings and hearing refuting every allegation above. 

But it is all useless, because the propagandized don't wish to hear it or think about it.  Hell, they don't wish to think at all.   They have been converted to grievance-filled avatars in an alternate universe, an alternate reality - one in which Trump actually won by  landslide and is set to resume another 4 years of dumpster fire "governance".  Given this, all fueled by an emotional need (as author Wright explained) they are able to dredge up any rationalization for what happened to their mutt in the election.

Why is all of  this germane? Because we damned well know in retrospect how democracies fail!  If enough citizens succumb to propaganda such that they fail to trust their democratic system any longer, it is but one step to electing a tyrant. That tyrant then will use the levers of power available to him to stay in control - like Hitler did  (with the "Enabling Act") after having achieved the Chancellorship of Germany in 1933.  

We are headed now in that dubious direction because so many Americans - basically four- fifths of one major party - no longer trust our elections and believe the incoming president is illegitimate.  Political theorist Hannah Arendt ('The Banality of Evil')  noted that the most successful totalitarian leaders of the 20th century instilled in their followers "a mixture of gullibility and cynicism".  So when they were lied to, they chose to believe the lies, rather than disbelieve their great leader - leading them by the nose.   

Worse, the onslaught of propaganda conditioned these de facto zombies to "believe everything and nothing" and also that everything was possible (i.e. Democrats could control all election results remotely and change votes to Biden)  and that nothing was true (i.e. Biden could have been legitimately elected and the election system worked without any major issues - as even former AG William Barr conceded)    The effects of propaganda on the brain, including in genocides, is also worth considering, e.g.

Sadly, nothing short of a major re-education program - or maybe 75 million lobotomies-  is likely to save our democratic system - which only awaits the more competent tyrant (clearly not Trump...yet) to try to take control. 

See Also:

by P.M. Carpenter | December 29, 2020 - 6:25am | permalink


by Alex Henderson | December 30, 2020 - 8:36am | permalink

— from Alternet


by Ted Rall | December 28, 2020 - 7:04am | permalink


by Robert Reich | December 28, 2020 - 6:55am | permalink

Most of the 74,222,957 Americans who voted to reelect Donald Trump – 46.8 percent of the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election – don’t hold Trump accountable for what he’s done to America.

Their acceptance of Trump’s behavior will be his vilest legacy.


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