One of the most insightful commentators on modern international politics is Anne Applebaum. She was interviewed recently on Amanpour & Co. She talked about something new she called Trumpism:
“Trumpism is not as it was advertised. It’s not what it has been analyzed as. It isn’t anything to do with economics. It has nothing to do with foreign policy or bringing home the troops. It isn’t anything to do with the issues it is attached to. The essence of Trumpism, the deepest meaning of Trumpism, is that it is a rejection of reality. It is a projection of victory for Trump by his followers no matter if that victory is real or not. The essence is the president declaring victory where he has lost… So we have the Vice-president, the United States Secretary of State, also following the same pattern. They aren’t contradicting the president. They know he has lost, but because they too are vying for the same mantle, hoping to someday lead the same political movement. They need to keep telling their followers that they’ve won even though they’ve not. And that is actually the essence of the movement. That is the piece of it that will carry on. We are now seeing the political successors to Trump who are trying to create that same feeling…We triumph over reality no matter what happens.”
Anne Applebaum is an expert on the undemocratic movements in Europe that have been expanding in the past few years. She lives in Poland and writes for The Atlantic. Europe and other parts of the world that have political leaders that want to follow the lead of Donald Trump from democracy to some form of autocracy. This Applebaum says is very important. They see how America has done it. They will likely want to use the same methods to achieve the same goal even though it looks like Trump, so far at least, has failed to achieve his goal. But he clearly showed it could be done. As Applebaum said, “the great power of American politics was always its example…that 250 years of peaceful change of power that inspired people, and this will now inspire in the opposite direction.”
As Applebaum reminded us, “We now live in an era when rumour and conspiracy theories travel much faster than real news.” According to the fascinating film “The Social Dilemma” lies travel 7 times as fast as truth, because lies are amplified by social media while truth is boring and ignored. We are in a highly volatile situation. Anything can happen. Explosions are hardly unlikely. We had better beware. All of us.
As Applebaum said,
“Distrust” is an insufficient word. People don’t have faith any more in so called mainstream media that involves going down with fact-checking, conversation, and research. They are willing to believe material they find on Facebook. The essence of Trumpism is also based on that. It’s developed out of that world in which rumour, imaginary victories, and the imaginary world is much stronger and more appealing than the real world. How do you deal with people who believe that Donald Trump will be inaugurated on January 21, 2021? Or that believe there is a cabal of pedophiles that is trying to rob the country? None of us have thought through the implications of this new world view It is all over the world.”
That is the problem. We have a world in which millions of people have given up on believing things based on evidence and prefer to believe what is convenient to their world view. They have lost respect for the truth. Such people can be convinced by their leaders of any conceivable lie. Such people can be convinced to do unimaginable things. Such people are dangerous. And we have to live with them. And we don’t know how we can do that.