Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Why Are Trump Supporters So Unwavering? They Have Given Me Some Answers.


Last week’s column generated a lot of emails and phone calls — mostly from readers thanking me for my “courage” and speaking out about what one reader called our “Moron-in-Chief.”  But it also drew the ire of many readers who were offended by the psychological analysis I presented of Trump supporters.
Mind you, it was not my analysis. I was publishing what psychologists near and far have written about Trump and some of his supporters. It’s a fascinating area of academic study these days.
I really appreciated (and responded to) all the emails I received, because they gave me additional insight into this phenomenon we know as Donald J. Trump.
It reminded me of my days as a bicycle activist in New York City, organizing a demonstration to create bike lanes on the 59th Street Bridge. It was so satisfying to see demonstrators on TV parroting the talking points which I had given them prior to the event. Donald Trump and his tribe at Fox News would be similarly gratified to see the president’s fans parroting a kaleidoscope of mistruths which are laid out for them. Some of them were new to me. Obviously I need to watch more of Fox News, especially the evening opinion broadcasts. 
By the way, have you noticed that what Trump calls the “lame-stream media” — NBC, ABC and CBS — don’t have any opinion shows during the evening? While Fox News Channel fills its prime time with pro-Trump, anti-Democratic rabble-rousers, the broadcast channels have nothing but entertainment programs — sitcoms, police shows, reality shows, and the like. There is virtually no opinion programing at any time of any day. All the president has to attack are the straight news reports of the evening news program and the Sunday programs which include guests with their opinions for and against the president.
But I digress. Back to the negative emails I received. More than one described Joe Biden as a “fantasizing senile plagiarist,” a picture being painted by Fox News. A woman I’ll call “Mary” was my favorite, diagnosing Trump with Aspergers Syndrome  (is Trump a savant?) with no mention of narcissism. She compared Trump to Einstein, saying “you will notice that geniuses generally are socially challenged and have unusual behaviors. Trump definitely is challenged and has unusual behaviors.”
She and I had begun to have a conversation via email, but she went silent after I wrote the following:
“So you believe that Trump is a genius – a stable genius, as he says?  This genius said yesterday that we should look into injection of disinfectants! He was touting hydroxychloroquine, so much that it was tried on veterans in VA hospitals. The results, reported today? Nine percent of veterans who were given standard treatment died, but 28% of those who got standard treatment plus hydroxychloroquine died. Because of his promotion of the drug, Trump actually caused the death of many veterans. And today his own FDA came out opposing the drug because of its failure to help and proven causing of death!
“This stable genius promotes coal, while the power industry itself is closing coal plants left and right in favor of cleaner, cheaper natural gas, wind and solar. You know the president only ‘digs coal’ for the votes it gets him in the Midwest.  He pulled us out of the Paris climate accord, making us the only nation in the world not to commit to reducing greenhouse gases. He ordered the EPA to remove the phrase ‘climate change’ from its website and all documents. This is a genius?  Geniuses [like Einstein] believe in the value of science.  If he were smart instead of narcissistic, he would leave the daily briefings to the scientists instead of using them to get screen time and make statements that appeal to his base and then require walking-back by the scientists at the very same briefings! This man is a walking disaster.  No I don’t ‘hate’ him, I see him for what he is.  And it’s scary for this country and this planet.”
If you’d like to write me, too, my email address is jimsmith@ecentral.com. I answer every email.
Many thanks for the additional donations received since last week’s column to help pay for this ad. The donation site is www.FundTalkingTurkey.com.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Why Are Trump Supporters So Committed That Nothing Will Change Their Minds?


This question has haunted non-supporters of the President from the beginning. We saw his support unaffected by numerous actions and statements which would have deep-sixed any other politician.
I’m sure you remember when Trump said he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose a single voter.  Or when he said he could get away with grabbing a woman’s private parts, and when nearly 20 women painted a picture of him as a sexual predator.
Now, remember when Gary Hart was photographed with a mistress on the yacht “Monkey Business”? That story of infidelity ended his 1988 presidential candidacy, yet multiple stories of marital infidelity haven’t had any effect on the support for President Trump -- including from the religious right.
As you might guess, the unwavering support of Trump has been a topic of academic study by psychologists. I suggest that you Google the phrase “psychological reasons people support Trump,” as I did.
One academic who has studied this phenomenon extensively and been published in Psychology Today is cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian, PhD, who is affiliated with George Mason University. On Dec. 31, 2019, he posted “Why Evangelicals May Be Hardwired to Believe Trump’s Falsehoods.” A post on June 14, 2019 was titled “The Psychology Behind Trump’s Unwavering Support,” and a Dec. 27, 2018, post was titled, “A Complete Psychological Analysis of Trump’s Support,” which includes a short video about “Terror Management Theory,” which I found really informative.


As Azarian wrote in that post, “The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitability of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface.”

Because of this ever-present sense or our mortality, he argues, we are easily manipulated by stoking fear, which Trump does most effectively. It started with immigration, but you see it in many of his other issues. In the “hardwired” post mentioned above, Azarian asserts (citing scientific studies) that it takes more brain effort and resources to question a statement than to believe it, and cites studies which show that people with a conservative worldview are more susceptible to fear-mongering than people with a liberal worldview.
In a June 24, 2019, post, Azarian wrote, “While the analytically-minded may see Donald Trump’s opinions and answers as superficial and uninformed, many people view them as straightforward and relatable. A certain degree of perceived ignorance can be beneficial for a presidential candidate, especially if he can pass it off as being folksy."
Of course, when the person promoting fear or telling a lie is a leader for whom you voted, it’s even easier to believe it, and having both TV and radio hosts echoing those fears or lies gives them more credibility. That’s the world we’re living in now, and Azarian addresses the issue of supporters not being exposed to other information or viewpoints. Fox News has given its viewers the impression that it is complete enough that viewers don't need any other television news source. By listening to AM talk radio, which is dominated by Trump supporters, the right's information bubble is complete and largely impenetrable.
In my previous “Talking Turkey” I wrote about Trump’s mentor, Roy Cohn, who taught him that a lie repeated often enough becomes accepted as truth. According to Azarian, it may not have to be repeated much at all. Lies told only once by Trump immediately come to life in the echo chamber of Fox News and talk radio. And those same outlets, which Trump follows, have the power of starting those lies, which Trump then repeats in a tweet, and the outlets then attribute the statement to Trump, giving it greater and greater credibility.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Covid-19 Crisis Is Putting Trump’s Disdain of Science to the Test. How’s He Doing?


As I witness the unfolding of the Covid-19 pandemic in our country and our president’s handling of it, I find myself thinking about climate change.
Some cartoonist will draw a cartoon of Trump being hit over the head by a 2x4 labeled “Covid-19” and “Science.”
The pandemic is, hopefully, a wake-up call for Trump regarding the importance of science in addressing the world’s challenges, such as climate change.
Trump has said he knows more than the generals, more than the experts in every field of study. He bathes in the adulation of evangelists who actually believe that he was sent by God to save our country, to “make America great again.” They truly think he can do no wrong.  Or can he?
I’ll never forget the 2-hour Frontline program on Sept. 27, 2016, called “The Choice 2016” about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, which I wish PBS would air again.  You can watch the full program online.
In that Frontline report, we learned about “the Donald’s” personality in ways that ring even more true now that we’ve experienced over 3 years of him playing the role of President.


Fast forward to 36:18 of that documentary to see how Trump found a mentor in Roy Cohn, a lawyer hired to defend the Trump Organization in a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in their rental properties. In the following 4 minutes of that documentary you’ll see exactly where Donald Trump acquired the persona which we see every day in our president. The key rules instilled by Roy Cohn are:
  • Never settle or admit anything, never admit a mistake
  • If someone hits you, hit back harder and never stop
  • Even when you lose, claim victory
  • Tell a lie long enough and people will think it’s the truth
  • Use lawsuits like machine gun bullets
  • Take no prisoners
Roy Cohn was described as a “street fighter,” and in Donald Trump we see what it’s like when a street fighter becomes president.
I believe that history will not be kind to Donald Trump once he is gone, nor will it be kind to those who fell under his spell, whether they are US Senators or Representatives or ordinary citizens. The 2018 elections were the first proof that.



Thanks to All Who Donated to ‘Talking Turkey’


    In my column on March 26th, I said that this column, published in the Denver Post on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursday of each month, will cost me $8,000 to run through the November election. Within days, over 20 readers contributed over $2,000 at www.FundTalkingTurkey.com. I welcome additional donations to help cover the cost of this ad.
   I did receive a few hate emails, phone calls and two anonymous letters telling me to “shut up!” But they were far out-numbered by support — and backed up by donations. Thank you so much!
   Let me know if you or someone you know would like to get this ad by email. My email is JimSmith@ecentral.com.  Or subscribe to this blog, where all these articles are posted.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

I Found This 2019 British Take-Down of Trump -- It's a Must-Read

It's hard to dispute a single paragraph of this 2019 article or blog post (not sure) by Nate White, described as "an articulate and witty writer from England." It's making the rounds on the internet and I'm happy to share it here.

He was answering the question, "Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?"  It was posted with this classic (and unfortunately typical) picture of Donald Trump with former British Prime Minister Theresa May.


Here's what Nate White wrote:


"A few things spring to mind.
Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.
For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace - all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.
So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing - not once, ever.
I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility - for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.
But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is - his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.
And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults - he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.
There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.
Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.
Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.
And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.
Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.
He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.
He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.
That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.
There are unspoken rules to this stuff - the Queensberry rules of basic decency - and he breaks them all. He punches downwards - which a gentleman should, would, could never do - and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless - and he kicks them when they are down.
So the fact that a significant minority - perhaps a third - of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think 'Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
* Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.
* You don't need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.
This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.
After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.
God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.
He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.
In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws - he would make a Trump.
And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:
'My God… what… have… I… created?
If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set."