We can all be duped by demagogues

Soul-searching is something we all should do sometimes.

Long ago, I used to be an inveterate channel-flipper watching cable news and when there was some breaking news event, I would flip between the cable news networks and also ABC, NBC, and CBS.  It was a habit I developed in October of 1983.  I was almost 7 months pregnant with my second child and my husband had deployed to Grenada.  Then there was the news void during the first couple days.  I was anxiously hoping for some news.

From that channel-flipping news habit, I started watching all the TV pundits on TV, even the ones I disagreed with on almost every issue.  Back then I would listen to those with views diametrically opposed to my own and I was open to finding small points with which I agreed.

Over the years and with the advent of the internet, my news consumption changed, as I began to get more and more news online and much less from TV.  I think I did what most Americans do – when it comes to political commentary and opinion, I began to go to mostly websites where the views fit my own political viewpoints.  When I did read opinions from liberal writers, I read it looking for ways to counter their arguments, rather than seriously consider them.

President George W. Bush became akin to Hitler in the liberal punditry echo chamber. The election of President Bush followed not only a contentious election, but also the Clinton impeachment, which left American partisans deeply angry and divided.  Just as the mainstream media worked to feed the Bush Derangement Syndrome, FOX News played an outsized role in the constant stream of anti-Obama reporting.  That is the truth.

I disagreed with President Obama on most political issues and he turned me off early with his condescending comment about rural Pennsylvanians “clinging to their guns and religion” comment.  My childhood roots are in rural PA soil.  I also started watching mostly FOX News, when I turned on TV news, because the CNN and MSNBC Obama lovefest had turned me off quickly.

It didn’t take much for me to believe the worst of President Obama, because the Obama administration started talking about their “narratives”, which were concocted stories of events, often “evolving narratives” they hadn’t completely fabricated yet,  and it reminded me of the Clinton “spin”, which was talking points (lies), they colluded with their friends in the media to spread.  Often, the Obama narratives were quickly exposed as being untruthful, just like the Clinton spin.  These untruths fed the right-wing news and punditry information bubble and provided the base for a constant stream of whataboutism and paranoid distrust of President Obama.  The liberal media and punditry do the same thing and in their bubble of whataboutism and paranoia, conservatives are all haters and might be closet Timothy McVeigh wannabes.

I remember when FOX News brought on Glenn Beck and he was busily pointing out all the dangerous Obama administration connections to other dastardly doings and devious leftist demons, with his ever-widening conspiracy circles on his chalkboard.   Beck was entertaining with his presentation, but as I would try to actually connect the dots from many of his shows, I began to suspect he was a con man and something, besides his extremely bizarre emotional outbursts,  seemed very off to me.  Those circles never really connected.

Beck became too controversial and left FOX news and began his online show.  I subscribed and kept watching, trying to figure out what his real game was.  It was like watching a magician who does really amazing card tricks and trying to find out how.  He had on many guests whom I liked and he spouted enough right-wing views to keep me watching.  I still wasn’t 100% convinced he was a total con man and I still listened to him.

One day, I watched his show, where it finally clicked in my mind that his act is all fake. Long before I came to that conclusion I kept wondering about the commercials he ran on his show – the seed bank/build the bunker stuff, the guns, guns, guns, and the people in these ads seemed like total grifters.

The day it all clicked in my mind that he really is a con artist he had some man promoting a haven of American patriot bliss in Idaho on as his guest.  It was a ponzi scheme and Glenn Beck gave this man a platform to dupe people.  That Beck guest, an obvious con man, was selling an imaginary gated community, The Citadel, using American patriotism as a lure, just like Beck.  His gated community existed only as some online scam, where people could send monthly payments for the “collective” to buy land for the community.   He sold this as a place for American patriots to find like-minded people, united by their belief in patriotism, liberty, pride in American exceptionalism and preparedness.

Beck gave this con artist a platform, an audience and credibility to scam people.

I unsubscribed from his online show, but I still ask myself, why I listened to him for so long, despite the uneasiness I had with so much about him.  The answer, I think, is because he was feeding my fears and distrust of President Obama, but he was also carefully couching everything in Tea Party patriotic rhetoric.  I have always loved reading about the American Revolution, the founding fathers, and long before Beck came along with his Being George Washington, in fact since my early teens, I have been captivated by George Washington.

Many people on the right, myself included, lamented how so many on the Left fell for President Obama’s soaring oratory and we mocked Chris Matthews’ rapturous fawning that he felt a tingle up his leg, when Obama spoke.  We asked ourselves, “Why don’t these people see through his demagoguery?”  Then along came Donald Trump with his rousing rallies, flag-waving, get tough on law enforcement – “Make America Great Again”.

During the 2016 campaign, Glenn Beck was against President Trump and supporting Ted Cruz, but his bizarre, on his knees praying antics, actually hurt Ted Cruz.

I don’t have the answers to the scope of the media efforts to deceive Americans, but American news, across the board, has become a partisan wasteland, where tweeting poorly vetted news stories leads to viral stories spreading, long before anyone has even fact-checked the information.

The aftermath of both political parties choosing completely corrupt candidates, who lie constantly and engage in ruthless, scorched earth information war has left America an easy target for hostile disinformation efforts.  The 2016 campaign wasn’t just about the dangers of Russian influence.  It sure seems to me that the American cable news media and most of the other news media turned into total disinformation operations too.

We have a president who is really jazzed about waging information war against the mainstream media, FOX News spreading Trump disinformation 24/7 and most of America’s other journalists and political pundits hanging out on Twitter retweeting each other’s “hot takes”.  Most of them are liberal, most of them supported Hillary, most of them loathe Trump and most of them are click happy about retweeting any negative Trump story, without thorough fact-checking.   In February, even the Washington Post  fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, retweeted the fake racist Fred Trump campaign ad video, without fact-checking it.

Trying to ascertain facts is harder now than during the news void during Grenada.  In 1983 I trusted the U.S. Army to let me know my husband was okay.  When the news networks started getting news during Grenada – they reported the same things about the events.  Now, there are completely different realities being reported, depending what cable news channel you watch.

With so much disinformation swirling, I know I can’t trust the mainstream media, FOX News, the partisans on both sides and most especially I can’t trust President Trump to tell the truth.

My soul-searching has led me to wonder why I listened to FOX News and many of these “conservative” pundits for so long.  I cringe when I hear these Trump supporters on FOX News selling their “Deep State” conspiracies and character assassinations of honorable men, like Robert Mueller and General McMaster, men who have spent their lives dedicated to serving America.

Demagogues feed our fears and prejudices.  President Obama played to the fears of people who distrust conservatives and believe they are all closet racists.  Beck played to conservatives’ religious and patriotic beliefs, while drawing nefarious Obama conspiracy circles on a chalkboard.  I distrusted President Obama after his “clinging to their guns and religion” remark, so it was easy to feed my fears.  There were also lots of signs of corruption in the Obama administration, lots of mishandled classified information (way beyond just Hillary), lots of information requested by Congressional Oversight Committees that never was turned over.  I suspect there’s a lot of criminal leaking of classified information from former Obama officials going on now.

CNN and MSNBC have been spinning for the Left for decades and their anti-Trump slant is obvious.  I recognized the liberal spin long ago, but I did not recognize the extent of right-wing spin.  What frightens me is how many people watching FOX News completely believe the Trump spin.  They were conditioned since 2015 to alter their belief system and accept that “Trump being Trump” is good, because he’s fighting to “make America great again”.  They were sold that “Trump doesn’t play by the rules” is great too, because  Trump’s fighting to “make America great again”.   Whenever FOX News and Trump supporters have to acknowledge something negative about Trump, it’s always wrapped up in more whataboutism than even Russian propaganda.

Trump mocks the media as “Fake News”, while many in the mainstream media, along with pointing out all the Trump lies, keep churning out highly dubious or grossly misleading information, that Clinton and Obama operatives have leaked to them.

It’s becoming very hard to get to facts, as the pile on continues, because of the speed and amount of disinformation being dumped.  It’s exhausting even trying to keep up with the Trump and media information battles. My fear isn’t just about hostile foreign disinformation efforts, my fear is that this information war between Trump and the media has created a vast, domestic disinformation wasteland.  Discerning facts is harder as the mountain of disinformation (spin) grows and it’s harder to even find the facts buried in the pile of lies.

In Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, a young neo-nazi ran his car into a crowd of people. One young woman died and many others were injured.  Immediately, President Trump tried a whataboutism approach, with his “many sides” comment.  Alt-right and neo-nazis brag that President Trump supports them.  During his campaign,President Trump refused to denounce David Duke, by pretending he didn’t know who David Duke is and what Duke stands for.  His “many sides” comment was a repeat of his David Duke performance.

Whataboutism thrives on binary thinking, where people start believing in the lesser of two evils .  It’s like dealing with children and one child is caught doing something wrong, but he starts pointing out what all the other kids did wrong.  If you start buying into those excuses, you start losing focus about right and wrong.  Whataboutism destroys moral clarity by muddying the water with misdirection and misleading facts.

The 24/7 FOX News and Trump pundits have ramped up Trump damage control, another whataboutism disinformation campaign (the “many sides” evil alt-left and Leftist hate groups), will throw enough misdirection to prop up Trump.  And as a last resort, there will be Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich to remind the right, “at least Trump isn’t Hillary” or “but Gorsuch!”.

The truth is President Trump is a lying demagogue just like Hillary; he even borrowed Hillary’s spin – “it’s all a witch hunt” and the Trump version of the “vast, right-wing conspiracy”  is the omnipresent “Deep State”.

Update in light of President Trump’s press conference this afternoon, where he was using morally relativistic dodges to avoid condemning neo-nazis.   Hillary Clinton used the same lying and demagoguery techniques,  BUT he is the President of the United States and must be held accountable for what he says and does.  He is totally unfit to lead our great nation and a national disgrace.

3 Comments

Filed under American Character, Corrupt Media Collusion, Culture Wars, General Interest, Politics, Public Corruption, The Media

3 responses to “We can all be duped by demagogues

  1. JK

    “[B]ut I still ask myself, why I listened to him for so long, despite the uneasiness I had”

    Cut yourself some slack LB.

    I’ve personally witnessed, and vouch, that you’ve limited yourself to those golden kernels.

    But yes – it’s exceedingly difficult. Occasionally heartbreaking.

    But – carry on.

  2. JK

    Pressed for time just now LB, take a few days but I’ll be back to check in. Cotton picking time in my general vicinity just now. M won’t even be able to reach me by text.

    Be totally offline for … likely 5 or so days.

    I’m well and expect that’ll remain so barring distracted drivers and/or et cetera. You’re doing fine. Admitting I’ve not read your latest post. Yet

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