The chaos generated on an almost daily basis by the presidential administration of Donald Trump is a deliberate strategy to diffuse a full and direct organized response to the growing authoritarianism of the regime.
— Gregory Grushko (@ggrushko) February 27, 2017
Trump attacks the fake news he helped to create with his outlandish birther claims, shifts focus for a moment to reductionist approaches on health care and budget matters, lies repeatedly about large issues (his historical Russian ties) and the mundane (his electoral college numbers), tweets once again his criticism of The New York Times, ignores obvious opportunities to fully condemn hateful acts of antisemitism and racism and reminds us, of course, for good measure about the flub at the Academy Awards ceremony. I could go on.
Trump is Big Brother. He’s everywhere. He demands and craves attention like no president I have witnessed in modern history, even the fellow actor Ronald Reagan. While it’s exhausting and the temptation is to check out into passivity, especially when the opposition party has been complicit in embracing the neoliberal agenda that helped create a political climate in which a liar like Trump could even get elected president in the first place and in which neofascism could get a firm foothold, this is definitely still a time—however brief it might be—for resistance and protest.
Meanwhile, Trump’s administration leaks its slime like a large sieve, with the compelling and not so compelling, which adds even more evidence to the growing nightmare of dealing with what some of the most intelligent people the world once warned us might well be the death of democracy in this country.
Then, in yet another twist to the chaotic narrative, and, yes, there is even more, we learn of Trump’s family business ties in foreign countries, with all the ensuing conflicts of interest and the constitutional violations because the president, as all evidence suggests, undoubtedly wants to make money out of all the madness he has created.
Still another twist came just last night when Trump’s supposed unity speech to Congress initially made a passing mention of Black History Month while also condemning recent hate acts against the country’s Jewish community and the recent murder of an India citizen in Kansas. So far so good, right? But this, of course, was soon supplanted by Trump’s typical xenophobic and nationalistic references to “the wall” and deporting immigrants, an appeal to the alt-right and those white supremacists among its ranks. His overall generalized proposals last night that feigned populism in terms of health care and jobs and infrastructure are simply not supported by his cabinet appointments or his initial executive orders that privilege Wall Street bankers over ordinary Americans or his specific tax ideas. The best one say about the speech is that it consisted mostly of hollow political rhetoric unsupported by his previous actions rather than the usual fare of easily discernible and outrageous lies. Unfortunately, some in the mainstream media seem to have bought into idea of a “new Trump,” at least for now.
As the poet W.H. Auden wrote in the poem “September 1,1939” after Hitler invaded Poland, “All I have is a voice/To undo the folded lie,/The romantic lie in the brain/Of the sensual man-in-the-street.”
Let’s parse that a bit, replacing the “I” with “we.” To me, “folded lie” fully describes Trump and the regime’s methods of repeating blatant lies sometimes walked back with half-lies or other qualifications. The lies get repeated in varying geometric progression and patterns, in some ways seemingly random, in other ways obviously deliberate. The “sensual-man-in-the-street” is, to me, someone who for whatever reason—and it’s no longer productive to search for that reason these days as if anything can be done about it—has given their lives over to the visceral instead of the rational while embracing a dark, isolationist vision for mankind in which official lies no longer matter and the authoritarian state creeps over our daily lives like an oppressive fog.
Literary interpretations aside, “we” do have a voice and personal agency to undo lies, and that’s mostly what only we have right now, and that’s what we need to deploy no matter how draining it becomes on a day-to-day basis. Remaining on the sidelines without taking a public position these days, no matter how that may manifest itself, is complicity.
Where we stand now a few weeks into it is that we know a mentally unstable and calculating person who repeatedly and openly lies and demeans decent people is president of the United States. There is so much verifiable evidence about his lies, in particular, that only calculating liars or extremely ill-informed people will deny it. Republicans in Congress, for example, fully know Trump lies and they are complicit in the lying as is the conservative press.
It bears repeating that the protest against Trump and his surrogates should be framed under the realization and outing of this basic foundation of deceit. Progressives concerned about individual issues, what gets called identity politics in the prevailing parlance, can surely rally around exposing this larger deceit because it crushes us all and all our movements and individual compassions.
The other big story for now is the incredibly obvious ties Trump and his surrogates have with the Russian government. We can intellectualize the tension between the deep state (our intelligence agencies) and Trump’s administration at this juncture, and waste time speculating on false equivalencies between contemporary Russia and the U.S., which even Trump has done and probably wants us to do, but that would be an error.
That the Russian government meddled in our recent election to help get Trump elected has been accepted by our government leadership. We know Trump has had previous ties with Russia business leaders. We know his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign, spoke to the Russian ambassador after then President Barack Obama announced sanctions against the country for interfering in our democratic election process. We know a former British intelligence agent has released a dossier about Trump’s ties to Russia, which includes salacious information, not yet confirmed elsewhere, that might compromise the president if used as a form of blackmail. Some of his non-salacious information has been confirmed, according to media reports.
These facts demand an independent investigator, perhaps even a grand jury inquiry, into how much contact the Trump campaign had with Russia leaders or operatives during the election and what business dealings the president’s businesses have had and now have directly or indirectly with Russia. Watch the below longer segment from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that deals with the Russian issue and how new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s Russian connections only add to a need for a real, non-partisan investigation:
Finally, I appreciate the new-found commitment to the truth by The New York Times, and I support its efforts to finally tell it like it is rather than continuing to engage in the he-said-she-said type of reporting that turned the non-sensational into the sensational, such as Hillary Clinton’s email server or the Benghazi investigation or some non-important Russian-hacked emails related to the Democratic Party. But they still need to open up their pages and staff pool to people who had it right in the first place and were criticizing them for sensationalizing Republican and Russian lies and dogma that got us to this precarious position in our history. Trump is what we got for the newspaper’s old journalistic rhetorical formulas and insular newsroom.
This applies to some other larger mainstream media outlets, too, such as The Washington Post, which are finding a new voice in calling lies out for what they are these days. Lies are lies, not one side of a legitimate argument.
Yet, tragically, many of the nation’s media outlets, especially the major networks, continue to normalize Trump as we saw last night in their analyses after his speech. One speech can’t even begin to normalize a Donald Trump presidency. If it only takes one “normal” speech to swing the American press back into complacency, then we know it is too late.