In a Time of Universal Deceit, Telling the Truth is Revolutionary.
Monday, June 17, 2024

Trump’s appeal to his ‘MAGA’ crowds

There are two aspects to the MAGA crowd who are cheering his lies and laughing at his nasty jokes that reasonable people should find troubling. One is their uncritical acceptance of any lie he tells and the other is how they respond with laughter at his cruel attempts at humor. There are two articles online today that focus on these phenomena.
Existential philosophers like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about bad faith. They described how people, “under pressure from social forces, adopt false values and disown their innate freedom.” (Wikipedia) Their lessons are very much applicable to the way the MAGA crowds and the member of the GOP who are smart enough to know better, follow and enable Trump.
Consider how applicable the following is to cross-roads our democracy is currently at:
According to existentialism, dedicated professionals of their respective moral codes – priests interpreting sacred scriptures, lawyers interpreting the Constitution, doctors interpreting the Hippocratic oath – should, instead of divesting the self of responsibility in the discharge of one’s duties, be aware of one’s own significance in the process. This recognition involves the questioning of the morality of all choices, taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s own choice and therefore; a constant reappraisal of one’s own and others’ ever-changing humanity. One must not exercise bad faith by denying the self’s freedom of choice and accountability. Taking on the burden of personal accountability in all situations is an intimidating proposition – by pointing out the freedom of the individual, Sartre seeks to demonstrate that the social roles and moral systems we adopt protect us from being morally accountable for our actions. Wikipedia
Much continues to be written from a Christain perspective as to why this supposedly Christain president is the least worthy to wear the mantle of religiosity. For example, recently a pastor wrote in USA Today “Evangelicals are paying high moral price for anti-abortion gains. What would Jesus do?”
Social scientists past and present have written about why people believe the lies of despots in fascist states. The first article which is from Slate article offers a good summary.
The second article from Politico which is about Trump’s jokes is more descriptive than scientific. If you want to read some of the science explaining why people think humor depicting human suffering is funny, check out Study Reveals Why We Laugh at Disgusting Jokes from Live Science and Why we Laugh at things that are not Funny from Popular Social Science.

Why Trump’s Supporters Will Believe Any Lie He Tells, from Slate


…in “The Authentic Appeal of the Lying Demagogue,” explain that those who want to destroy the “political establishment” willingly embrace a liar because they understand that the lies themselves serve a destructive purpose. The people who want to destroy the political establishment today are those who are threatened by growing diversity. Trump’s lies work toward that end.

In a totalitarian regime, state-controlled media normalizes the leader’s constantly changing stories, which serves to further obliterate any notion of a shared truth. Trump’s favorite news outlets similarly normalize his changing stories, thereby undermining factuality. When people can no longer sort out what is factual and what was invented, they conclude that the truth is unknowable. It’s the ultimate in relativism and skepticism. Without facts and a shared reality, jury verdicts have no meaning, and the results of law enforcement investigations are easily manipulated or even dismissed.


Steve Bannon explained a broader administration strategy for dispensing with facts. “The real opposition is the media,” he has said. “And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.” Yale professor Timothy Snyder, in his groundbreaking book The Road to Unfreedom


Trump’s final aim isn’t simply to escape accountability for his crimes. The final aim is to replace democracy itself with a form of autocracy, under which he and his cronies are forever unaccountable for criminal actions. Normalizing lies and flooding the zone shatters the public sphere upon which democracy depends. Without that shared reality, Mueller poses no threat to Trump. Similarly, without a shared public sphere, Trump doesn’t have to worry about resistance. As Yale professor Jason Stanley says, without truth it is impossible to speak truth to power, so there is only power.

The United States is on a steep learning curve. Because truth, factuality, and our very public sphere are under attack, our democracy (and republic) is in danger. The attack is devastatingly effective, partly because we have never experienced anything like this and thus are largely unprepared. Our task now is to save our public sphere.

It would be interesting to have social scientists study what else people who believe the Trump lies he spins also believe and how gullible they are in general. Consider that The Flat Earth Society is still making the news: The Flat Earth is Back.

In MAGA world, Trump’s jokes always land, Politico

The article includes comments from Trump supporters who find him funny. Here are some general excerpts:

Trump’s brand of humor — cutting, insulting and sometimes even downright mean — has long offended and shocked the president’s critics. But for his supporters and allies, Trump’s irreverent jokes, which have become a central part of his increasingly frequent rallies across the country, are a feature, not a bug.


Trump’s advisers say the president’s crass sense of humor is at the core of his appeal to a conservative base that has rejected political correctness — and they’re betting that his jokes, paired with his broader say-anything attitude, will help deliver a repeat of the success he saw in 2016, rallying Republicans ahead of the midterms and helping him get reelected in 2020.


Indeed, there’s no hand-wringing or finger-pointing in the West Wing after the president delivers a crude one-liner. In fact, some Trump advisers, one of whom privately compared his rally performances to a stand-up comedy routine, have urged him to incorporate more wisecracks into his speeches.


David Litt, a former Obama speechwriter who helped craft jokes for the 44th president’s WHCA addresses and is now a writer for “Funny or Die,” said Trump’s humor is often based in cruelty.

“He weaponizes what he would call jokes to an unprecedented extent,” Litt said. “All of the examples of him telling a joke are also examples of him being a bully.”

Litt added that the laughter at Trump’s rallies “is about solidifying a tribal identity at the expense of someone else. It’s laughter in agreement rather than laughter because something is funny.”

There is a world of reasonable decent people who live by a code of ethics and personal morality, who feel shame and guilt when they do something to hurt others. They may have laughed at Don Rickles but knew that his schtick was finely tuned insult humor but that his moniker “Mr. Warmth” was not only meant to be ironic but that underneath the persona was a good-hearted person.


Don Rickles, who Frank Sinatra insisted perform unrehearsed at Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural ball, was sometimes called the “Merchant of Venom.” Rickles called this the performance of his life.


The other Don never headlined in Vegas but had a brainless TV show which made him famous enough to become president. He is the true merchant of venom because he carries venom in his veins and he spews it whenever he opens his mouth.