Donald Trump and his enablers continue to spread misinformation and conspiracy, to the detriment of his country's democracy and unity, writes Paul Begley.
Open your ears; for which of you will stop
The vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks?
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports,
… From Rumour’s tongues
They bring smooth comforts false, worse than true wrongs.
THESE LINES WERE written by William Shakespeare around 1590 from Henry IV Part 2. It’s a play that opens with a character called Rumour making reflections about conflicting reports in the immediate aftermath of Henry V’s Battle of Agincourt in October of 1415.
They are a reminder that the human race has been here before and we are seeing it all again. Something momentous is happening in the lead up to the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. In the middle of a global pandemic, we are hearing reports about the sitting President’s health that don’t tally with other reports, or with what we can see with our eyes.
It’s not possible to reconcile what William Reed Hospital doctors are saying with what Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows has said.
Nor can we readily make sense of bizarre PR stunts featuring a highly infectious President signing blank sheets of paper, his departure from isolation to wave at supporters through his secret service car window, and then call on Americans not to be afraid of the virus that has already killed 214,000 of their compatriots.
Why shouldn't they be afraid? Because Donald has contracted the virus himself as a “blessing from God”, and now after nine months of failing to heed advice, he claims that he “gets it”. With five hyperactive days having passed, he declares himself cured, possibly immune, and takes credit for deciding on the drug that has been dispensed to him by doctors.
Clint Watts is a disinformation expert with the U.S. Foreign Policy Research Institute. In July 2020, he had this to say in a report on runaway conspiracy theories that are now prevailing during the pandemic in many parts of the world, and especially within the United States.
'The biggest reason why this is a disaster is because there are no trusted information sources remaining that have not been undermined by the President.'
Conspiracy theories, rumours and disinformation abound among certain groups who like what the disinformation espouses regardless of evidence supporting its authenticity. Rumours also contribute to chaos and leaders like Trump thrive in an atmosphere marked by discord and turbulence. Conspiracy theories affect the conduct of those who hold them and help create a mood that contributes to herd behaviour.
Without doubt, they contribute to the rise of armed private militia groups that see their patriotic mission as defending America by way of invoking the Second Amendment to engage in vigilante behaviour endorsed from the Oval Office.
The mood also cultivates beliefs such as a widely-held theory disseminated by the mysterious Q, which proposes a cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophile Democrats operating a global child sex-trafficking ring and foretells of Donald Trump coming to their rescue in a glorious Day of Reckoning. It’s the perfect conspiracy theory: it lionises Trump while demonising Democrats.
Since President Trump took office on 21 January 2017, American citizens and observers around the world have been bombarded with assertions about the unreliability of media sources they have trusted for generations. They include the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, ABC, CNN and PBS News.
The public has been repeatedly told that these and other establishment news outlets publish only “fake news”. Exceptions are Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, One America News, Breitbart, Alex Jones’ InfoWars, and the like, all of which publish news stories that find ways to praise the President, whatever he does.
When Watts talks about authoritative sources that have been undermined, he doesn’t simply refer to the media. Trusted institutions that have also been methodically delegitimised include the judiciary, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the House of Representatives, as well as watchdog agencies that oversee government ethics and spending.
One of the things that has contributed to the widespread support for Trump and Trumpism is the belief that he is treated unfairly by liberal progressives, in particular, and the U.S. and western media in general.
He insists repeatedly that the mainstream media report no good news about the wonderful things he’s doing for America, are constantly on a "witch hunt" to get him, and have created "their new hoax" around the idea of a pandemic to destroy the “greatest economy in history”.
On the now trashed economy and the calamitous U.S. COVID-19 response, with upwards of 214,000 dead Americans and around 20 million unemployed, Trump’s answer is always the same:
“We are doing a great job.”
While a great many Americans find that comical and one of many examples of the big lie in operation, his supporters see Trump’s predicament as distressing: there he is, poor persecuted Donald, doing his best to govern the country against a chorus of carping critics and liberal malcontents.
Perhaps the most lamentable thing about Trump’s victimhood is how he has been able to turn it into a widespread belief in the notion of a "deep state" which is working relentlessly and single-mindedly to overthrow him.
For those millions of Trump supporters, every conspiracy theory becomes credible because it involves believing that the state has long been colluding in sinister agreement to concoct false narratives to cover for their evil activities and undermine the President’s legitimate authority.
Not content with a deep state within America’s borders, "Trumpers" believe that sinister "elites" work hand in glove with United Nations globalists to create a fake pandemic to bring down the Trump Administration. According to these theories, the coronavirus narrative is being peddled by the mainstream media to scare Americans and to wreck the “greatest economy that has ever existed”, all so that Donald Trump loses the 2020 Election.
Of course, this is easily refuted. Nations as diverse as Canada, Russia, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, China, Australia, Israel, Brazil and India all take the coronavirus seriously (to differing degrees). It's more or less impossible that they would go all along with this narrative merely to dislodge Trump from office.
There is no stopping a conspiracy mindset that has accepted the idea of a deep state because everything is explained within a universe that’s akin to having entered a twilight zone. Believers are genuinely convinced they are the beneficiaries of special knowledge and insights, and live in an enlightened alternative reality.
They are on a mission, and if they are of evangelical persuasion they are on a mission from God, one that involves Donald Trump being sent by the Almighty on high to fight the good fight against a multitude of terrestrial evils.
Trump himself doesn’t have to believe this hogwash, though he will continue to look favourably on those who spout it, sending an unmistakable signal to its adherents that God and Donald are on the same side — their side
Paul Begley lives in Melbourne, Australia.
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