When President Biden said Facebook was “killing people,” I think we all understood what he meant, though he was forced to elaborate the next day.
My first reaction was that social media like Facebook and Twitter are only multipliers of the disinformation being broadcast by Fox News hosts, One America News (OAN), Newsmax and other right-wing media. They are the ones providing the fake news and disinformation about Covid-19 and the vaccines.
One thing I have observed about my emails from right-wing readers is that they rarely speak for themselves, especially in their social media posts. Rather, they retweet and “like” memes, and repeat what they heard on Fox News, et al. They can’t, it seems, think for themselves, only parrot what others tell them that resonates with their inner and often unspoken beliefs and biases.
One term for this phenomenon is “confirmation bias,” which Wikipedia defines as “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values.”I realize that confirmation bias exists on both sides of the political divide. What makes it toxic is when those beliefs or values are rooted in demonstrably untrue facts. As both sides like to say in attacking the other, “You have a right to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.”
In that regard, you might ask why the Washington Post andmainstream media have sections or segments on fact-checking, but I don’t recall such a segment on Fox News.
The dominant tactic we’re seeing in Republican circles is the use of “wedge issues” to stir the anger and fear in its base.Think “critical race theory” or “Black Lives Matter” or “radical socialist agenda.”
Let’s look, for example, at critical race theory, a college-level course of study which is not taught in K-12. The allegation that it is taught in K-12 as a way of attacking the dominant caste (as Isabel Wilkerson calls white Americans in her bestseller Caste) is a great way of turning out voters to oust any school board member who would be so audacious as to defend the teaching (or even mention) of racism in our schools.
Wilkerson does a great job in Caste of comparing America’s systemic racism to the caste system of India and the Nazi demonization of non-Aryan races.
One comparison that relates to the debate over critical race theory is how Germany deals with its Nazi past versus how Republicans would like us to deal with our history of slavery, Jim Crow, and systemic racism. In Germany today school children are required to learn about Nazism and how it developed. They are even required to visit a concentration camp. There are monuments that educate about the horrors of the holocaust. Displaying the swastika is illegal. There are no statues of Nazis.
Not so in America. The rebel flag of the Confederacy is a staple of white supremacists, who fight to maintain that legacy. I’m not saying that displaying that flag should be banned legally — that would violate the First Amendment — but I am saying that we should recognize it for what it is, an expression of anti-minority hatred and fear.
The quote that keeps coming to mind is Winston Churchill’s 1948 paraphrasing of George Santayana, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” Germany lives by that lesson, but not us. Not surprisingly, Fox News, for example, totally ignored the centenary of the Tulsa massacre.
The Supreme Court has in the past upheld white supremacy and could do so again. The Dred Scott decision stated that the Bill of Rights didn’t apply to Black people. In 1883 the Court upheld Alabama’s law banning interracial marriage. The Court didn’t reverse that ruling until 1967.
That same year the Supreme Court struck down the 1875 Civil Rights Act. The 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision endorsed the “separate but equal” doctrine, not reversed until the 1954 Brown decision. Today’s conservative majority Court could “Make America Great Again” by upholding those new state laws promoting voter suppression.
When someone has lied to you, you probably started to question your relationship and whether they are lying to you again, right?
When a spouse cheated on you, were you able to forgive and forget? Or did it cause you to question when he or she was “working late” or going on a business trip without you?
When an employee or employer lied to you, did you “let it slide,” or did you begin to question future communications with him/her?
What’s most surprising about Trump supporters is that they know he is a habitual liar, yet they “let it slide” again and again and fall in line with his next set of lies. Here are some of the lies that surely they know were lies:
> He said he didn’t have sex with porn star Stormy Daniels, but Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to paying for her silence and went to prison for it.
> He excused his Access Hollywoodgenital grabbing language as “locker room talk,” then claimed it wasn’t his voice.
> He described the Jan. 6 insurrection as a “love fest.” I think we know better.
> It rained on his inauguration, but he claimed the sun came out when he spoke. He claimed his inaugural crowd was bigger than Barack Obama’s despite photos proving otherwise.
> He said that Covid-19 was a Chinese hoax, intended to help the Democrats.
> He accidentally said that Alabama was at risk from Hurricane Dorian, but because he can’t ever admit he was wrong, he not only lied about it with a Sharpie, but he pressured government agencies to confirm his lie.
> He said the head of the Boy Scouts called him to say his political speech at the 2017 Jamboree was “the greatest speech ever made to them,” but a Scouts spokesman said no such call had been made — Scouts honor!
A Trumper might still believe one or two of that short list of Trump’s lies, but my own experience as a human being is that it only takes one lie from someone to make me question everything that person says in the future. I suspect that’s true for Trumpers — except when it comes toDonald Trump.
That’s very cult-like. “Cult-45.”
So, how do you explain that behavior by Trump supporters, if not by saying it’s a cult?
I think it’s largely racial. Trump has been successful by playing on voter’s racial fears — fears triggered by the U.S. Census reporting that we’re approaching a time when white Americans will be in the minority. He compounded that by claiming that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists, or worse — a claim that no amount of factchecking would fix, since it played to what his base wanted to believe.
In the 2020 election, Trump pleaded with suburban women that they should love him, because Democrats would end single-family zoning, bringing inner city crime to the suburbs. Again, the race card. But suburban women didn’t buy it in enough numbers to carry the day for Trump in 2020.
So now we come to the Big Lie — that the election which Biden won resoundingly was “stolen” through fraud. Again, the truth doesn’t matter to Trump supporters. Lesson number one from Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and other autocrats:repeat a lie often enough and it will be taken as truth.
Trump supporters ultimately should realize they’ve been conned by Trump except for one big thing: he speaks to their fears. They are less wedded to Trump himself than to his philosophy. Tucker Carlson is banking on that.
The one lie which strikes closest to home for me as a journalist, and now a columnist, is that the mainstream media are puppets of the liberal left. I don’t expect any Trumper reading this to be convinced otherwise, and that’s the problem — how to change minds.
The Trump GOP thrives on playing to the fears of its base, but now it’s filling us non-Trumpers with fear that they could succeed, that they could take control of the Congress in 2022 and the White House again in 2024.
I’m reminded of the saying attributed (erroneously, it turns out) to Abraham Lincoln that “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
Donald Trump and his enablers are working hard to prove that statement wrong — or at least to fool enough voters between now and the 2022 mid-term elections to gain control of the U.S. Congress. And just in case they can’t fool enough voters, they’re also working hard to keep non-Trump voters from the polls.
An actual quote from Abraham Lincoln is quite appropriate in this regard: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether our nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated [to the proposition that all men are created equal] can long endure.”
How much longer can the con we know as the Big Lie build and maintain momentum?
It’s reported that the well-armed and well practiced militias who failed in the January 6 insurrection attempt will take up their arms in August to “reinstate” Donald Trump as president of the United States.Apparently, they think they could succeed. If those militias do attempt such a coup — for that’s what it would be — and it fails, which it surely will, what effect will that have? Will the Republicans who still consider Trump critical to their own electoral future continue to hold their noses and stand behind him?Will they, as Republican senatorial candidate J.D. Vance put it so well, “suck it up” and stick with Trump even though they know better?
The fact that so many Americans actually believe the Big Lie (and all the lesser ones) says something very sad, and very disturbing about the United States — namely that roughly 30% of Americans are easily manipulated because they are so gullible and misled.
Surely you have seen the statistics about how uneducated Americans are about basic American facts such as how many branches of government there are. All you need to do is Google the question, “How stupid are Americans,” and you will [not] be surprised how many academic, comedic and journalistic entries you’ll find, such as this June 26, 2020, headline from The Guardian: “Trevor Noah: America ‘dealing with a deadly strain of stupidity’.”
Thom Hartmann’s email newsletter on July 8 reminded us that the term “drinking the Kool-Aid” originated with the Jim Jones religious cult which committed mass suicide on Jones’ order in Guyana back in 1978 by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide.
Hartmann calculates that for every one of the 913 people who committed suicide with Jim Jones, 438 Americans have died because they adopted from Trump a reluctance to take the Covid-19 vaccine. However, unlike Jones, who killed himself along with his followers, Donald Trump had himself and his family secretly vaccinated in the White House. This shouldn’t surprise us, but it also probably wouldn’t faze his followers, who have been nicknamed Cult-45.
There are two ironies that are apparent to me. The first one is that the craziness coming from the Republicans, QAnon, Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump himself is as motivating for those of us who recognize the con as it is for Trump’s base.
The second irony is that Covid is surging only in the states with low vaccination rates, and virtually all Covid deaths are people who declined to be vaccinated. In other words the virus is probably killing off Trumpers in numbers that may well match or exceed the number of non-Trump voters the same states are seeking to suppress.
The coming months will get more and more interesting. The Trump organization and possibly Trump himself may go on trial. There may be that promised insurrection in August. There will be more books published about Trump and his actions as president and before he became president. Worst of all, however, there will be more hysteria manufactured about wedge issues such as critical race theory. Buckle up!
Many Americans, it seems, are so easily manipulated emotionally and politically, that it frightens the rest of us — and people in other countries — who know better.
Americans are also largely untraveled. If I recall correctly, Pres. George W. Bush had never been to Europe before he was elected president. Even today, only a third of Americans have a valid passport and only 38% have ever had a passport, even though a passport is now required to visit Canada and Mexico.
My family is quite the opposite. My sister Janet married a Swede whom she met in Turkey on vacation from her job chartering boats in Greece. This December she will celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary in Sweden where she and Staffan have retired. I attended their wedding in Stockholm’s “old city” in 1971 and have visited them twice since. I have also visited the other Scandinavian countries except for Norway, all of which happily thrive under “democratic socialism.”
A few months back, I described how Janet’s husband Staffan had a major surgery which involved a lengthy hospital stay and the flying in from Atlanta of a famous heart surgeon. The cost of that operation and hospital stay was under $100, thanks to Sweden’s socialized medicine.
I was reminded of that story on Monday, when “The Hartmann Report” consisted of a lengthy description of democratic socialism in the Scandinavian countries and increasingly in the rest of Europe. (I recommend Thom Hartmann’s “daily rant” on Substack.com.) The headline was “Why America Can’t Have ‘Nice Things’,” and the subhead was “So, if the majority of Americans want Scandinavian/European healthcare, schools, unions, wages and taxes-on-the-rich, why don’t we have these things?”
It goes back to how easily Americans are manipulated by those (primarily the wealthy) who don’t want us to have what Swedes and other Scandinavians have because it will mean they will pay substantially higher income taxes.
Income taxes are far more progressive in those countries than they are here, but the result is a universally higher standard of living — and zero bankruptcies due to medical debt, which is experienced by over a million American families every year. The result is also zero stress about being “one paycheck away from homelessness,” which describes the situation for far too many Americans.
I’ve posted Hartmann’s Monday “rant” about Sweden (which contains many links to supporting information) below in this blog. It’s a real wake-up call which you’ll want to share with others. We don’t need to have so much inequity and suffering in America.
It is truly disheartening that so many Americans have succumbed to disinformation by Donald Trump and his enablers that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have a “radical socialist agenda.” Come on, America, wake up! You are being duped by interests who don’t want you to enjoy “the good life,” because it will cost them money.
NOTE: This column is costing me over $900 per week to publish in the Denver Post. Please consider donating to my GoFundMe campaign. Find it at FundTalkingTurkey.com.
support provided by a reader:
Index (Scandinavian countries always rank in and around the top 5)
time back a woman living in Sweden, “Caroline” @SweResistance on Twitter, posted a thread
live in Sweden. We have social security, affordable health care, strict gun
laws, 5 weeks paid annual leave, 1 year maternity leave, etc. And no,
we're not a communist country, and not even strictly socialistic but
socio-democratic. And our freedom is not inhibited.
example, health care can cost a maximum of around $130 per year for visits to
health care centrals etc., hospital nights costs $12 per night with a $175
roof per month. Prescription drugs have a yearly roof of $250.”
is a democratic republic that practices an economic system often referred to
as “democratic socialism” or “social democracy.” Although Karl Marx
popularized the word “socialism” in 1848 to describe his proposed utopian
economic/political system, outside of the realm of Marxists and rightwing
cranks, Marx’s system is usually today referred to as “communism” and
“socialist” is the modern tag used to describe countries like Sweden.
it’s describing an economic system made possible by the political system of
democracy. Swedes have what they have because the majority of their
population has repeatedly voted for politicians who promised to put
democratic socialism into place.
not just Sweden. Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland have remarkably similar
systems in place, and the rest of the European Union isn’t far behind.
in any of those countries, including the entire EU, will ever, for example,
go bankrupt because of medical debt, something that happens to over a million American families every single year.
and the residents of most of the rest of Europe have voted for democratic
socialism because their political system is largely open, voting is not
restricted, and wealthy interests find it much harder to corrupt politicians
than here in the US.
Nordic Council of Ministers notes on their website about, for example, Sweden: “Everyone who is
entitled to vote and who is registered in the Population Register in Sweden
is automatically included on the electoral roll (röstlängden) and receives a
voter card by post.”
This is true of all the Nordic countries and most of
the rest of Europe: if you’re a citizen you’re automatically enrolled to vote
when you turn 18 and voting is super-easy whether it’s done at a polling
place or by mail.
America, the majority of people would very much like an economic system like
Europeans have, particularly the Scandinavians.
A recent Harris poll asked, “Do you support a
proposal that would make public colleges, universities and trade schools free
for all and cancel all student debt?” Americans said “Yes” by a 58% to 42% margin.
enjoy higher wages and radically less income and wealth inequality than
Americans for two main reasons:
answer is actually pretty straightforward: “Conservative” billionaires and
the Supreme Court they created.
since Lewis Powell wrote his 1971 Memo on how the morbidly rich
could seize total political and cultural control of America — and Richard
Nixon put him on the Supreme Court the following year — rightwing
billionaires have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get their people
on the Supreme Court, elect “conservatives” to Congress and in state
legislatures, and influence public opinion.
Reagan Revolution of 1980, the GOP had been entirely subsumed by the money of
the morbidly rich and big corporations, and in the 1990s quite a few elected
Democrats joined their ranks (and continue to support them by opposing ending
the filibuster, for example).
Supreme Court decisions] violate the essence of what made America a great
country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited
political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president
or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S.
senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion
of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and
expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”
though, doesn’t just describe people who want to use their riches to own
politicians who will, in turn, keep their taxes low by depriving the American
people of the “nice things” we’d mostly all like to have. It also
describes racist white supremacists both among the conservative billionaire
class and the Republican base.
“conservatives” who fought against the abolition of slavery prior to the
Civil War, and who fought every attempt at Reconstruction or Civil Rights
legislation from 1865 to today. They did so in the name of
“conservative principles,” which white supremacists have fought to preserve since
the founding of our republic.
of the main ways they maintain their political power is by using a system
unique to America, started after the failure of Reconstruction in 1872, of
“selectively registering” voters, “purging voter lists,” and putting up
barriers to reduce voting by anybody who’s not white.
maintain white supremacy post-1872, most states developed elaborate systems
requiring “undesirable” people to jump through multiple hoops to register to
vote, to vote, and even to ensure their votes are counted and they can stay
on the voter rolls. This Jim Crow vestige of Confederate ideology now
pollutes our ability to vote in most of our states.
European country has anything that even vaguely resembles this byzantine
labyrinth people must navigate to become eligible to vote and have their vote
as Lee Fang reported, Republican politicians and the billionaires who own
them are now dropping any pretense at all to caring
about the fate and future of our country’s fiscal health, so long as they get
their tax cuts now.
billionaires, who know if we can all vote we’ll soon raise their taxes and
give ourselves healthcare, education and good pay, are funding voter
suppression efforts in every state in the union as well as challenging voting
rights at the Supreme Court.
also why they fund rightwing TV & radio networks and “news” websites to
freak out white people about “Black Lives Matter and Antifa” so the white
majority in America will be so terrified of Black and Brown people they’ll
keep putting corporate- and billionaire-shills into office.
Democrats in Congress, impeded both by Republicans and a few of their own
members who’ve sold out to these dark-money interests, are trying to break
the stranglehold conservative billionaires have on American politics through
their dark money.
The For The People Act takes a good
first step in this direction, although reshaping the Supreme Court itself is
probably going to ultimately be necessary to break dark money’s stranglehold
on our political system.
ever want to have the “nice things” enjoyed by average Scandinavians and
Europeans, it’s going to take one huge lift to break the filibuster and get
legislation like the For
The People Act into law.
democracy began in 1789 in America, but “conservatives” have fought a truly
multiracial democracy every step of the way, particularly as low-wage workers
and racial minorities have struggled to gain equal representation and equal
tragic commentary that countries like Sweden that initially emulated us have
now become more “free” than we have…just because rightwing billionaires here
have so successfully mobilized racism as a political strategy.
Americans deserve better, and the only thing standing in the
way is a group of billionaires who’d rather shoot themselves into outer space
than let unions into their workplaces or pay reasonable taxes…and can pay
politicians and stack our courts with racist judges to keep it that