‘Trafficking in unreality’: Trump takes the US further down the road to authoritarianism

Perhaps understandably the UK media’s daily reporting on Donald Trump was dominated yesterday (Wednesday) by the release of a recording of a conversation between Trump and his (ex) personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The recording provided irrefutable evidence that Trump has been lying since before the Presidential election about what he did or did not know about actions taken to suppress the revelations of a former Playboy model that she (allegedly) had an affair with Trump while he’s been married to his current wife, Melania.

There is a fascinating – and potentially explosive and highly damaging to Trump – dynamic playing out here. However, it has little to do with the fact that he lied (he is, after all, the Liar in Chief so why should we be surprised with yet another example), or with an ex Playboy model. Instead, it centres on Trump’s (and members of his family and other acolytes’) ‘dissing’ and abandonment of someone – Cohen – who’d been a long serving, and very loyal, employee. Cohen has now learnt first-hand, as others have before him, that when Trump talks of ‘loyalty’ – as he does frequently – this runs only one way. And when push comes to shove that’s not from Trump to anyone else, except perhaps his offspring (I’ll venture to suggest that once he’s no longer President, Melania and others now willing to do his bidding will rapidly find that out too).

Leaving that feature of Trump’s character aside, several less reported but highly significant and ominous developments also took place in Trumpland earlier this week, all of which were reported on by Rachel Maddow on her current affairs show on MSNBC http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show. The first was the White House ‘doctoring’ both the transcript and video of a certain portion of last week’s press conference between Putin and Trump. Specifically, the segment where a Reuters reporter asks Putin if he wanted Trump to win the presidential election. ‘And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that.’ To which Putin replies (according to the interpreter), ‘Yes I did. Yes I did, because he talked about bringing the US-Russia relationship back to normal.’

In the version (both transcript and video) released by the White House the first part of this question – did Putin want Trump to win – has been removed, so that the question to which Putin replies, ‘Yes I did. Yes I did…’ only relates to ‘did you direct any of your officials etc’.

Now keep this in mind when considering that at 11.50 am on 24th July Trump tweated: I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!

And in an obviously well planned move Trump also tweeted a link to footage that purported to show Hilary Clinton, when Secretary of State, speaking in support of a ‘strong and prosperous Russia.’ – a story that was subsequently picked up by Trump supporting media in the US and elsewhere.

So, here we have a deliberate and brazen attempt to ‘turn’ a story. Now Trump is the “victim” (and thus Republican politicians who support him) – or, more precisely, is going to be the victim come the mid-term elections in November – of Russian meddling. And if that ‘turn’ requires the doctoring of evidence that Putin actually did – and presumably still does – favour Trump as President, and the Republican Party acting as Putin’s party does in Russia (going along with everything the boss says), so be it.

Of course, this was yet another milestone on the road to the model of authoritarianism that Trump and his acolytes clearly have in mind for the US (presumably taking their lead from Putin’s ‘managed democracy’ in Russia). Along the way we’ve so far seen the complete trashing of almost any form of convention, practice, norm, or ethical standard that previously stood as a symbol of US government and democracy.

But this is far from the end of the story. For having established that anything or anyone who reports anything negative about him or anything he does is ‘fake news’, Trump has now upped the ante, as Steve Benen wrote on The Rachel Maddow Show blog on Wednesday:

…watching Donald Trump Sr. in Kansas City yesterday, where the president addressed this year’s national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Officially, this was an official White House event, but practically, it wasn’t long before Trump turned the gathering into another partisan campaign rally, which included this unscripted declaration:

“Just remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Benen continued: ‘In his novel 1984, George Orwell wrote, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

Seven decades later, the dynamic Orwell described seems eerily familiar. Americans may see and read about current events, but their president is asking us not to trust our lying eyes. Instead, to understand “what’s happening,” we must instead turn to Donald Trump and those who deliver the kinds of messages he approves of.

I’d recommend reading the whole story – http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/trump-tells-supporters-what-youre-seeing-not-whats-happening#break – for it’s troubling in the extreme – and that really is saying something in the context of Trump and for what now passes for a Republican party.

As Rachel Maddow comments in the segment of her 24th July show that relates to this subject (White House leaves Putin support for Trump out of transcript) this is ‘deliberate trafficking in unreality’. Further, it is as Rachel rightly points out, a central feature of ‘information warfare’ where ‘black is white and up is down’. If Trump and his supporters win this war – and despite what Democrats, liberals and progressives in the US seem to think I’m far from convinced their democratic or legal system is acting as much of a bulwark against Trump – it will be more than just the citizens of the US who pay a high price.

On which point, I’d argue that Orwell – and 1984 in particular – has much to teach us about Trump and the direction in which the Trumpian Republican party are heading, as this example illustrates:

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them…The process has to be concious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconcious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use concious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.

If we substitute Trumpism for ‘Ingsoc’, and the Republican Party for ‘the Party’, is Doublethink not exactly what we see emerging from Trump and his accolytes and devouring the GOP – and particularly House Republicans (those in the Senate are not immune either)? And sadly, in the UK has Brexit not launched our own version of Doublethink, as daily practiced by arch Brexiteers and the Brexit supporting media?

Although I want to believe otherwise, logic tells me that the US will not get rid of Trump until far greater damage than can be imagined has been done to the democracy the Founding Fathers set out to establish – and I take into account when saying that, a positive outcome for the Democrats in the mid-term elections.

Similarly, I’m in no doubt now that Brexit will not end well. Taking into account the subject of this blog and that we’re due to exit the EU at the end of March 2019 the opening line of 1984 may prove prophetic:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. 




  1. Peter May -

    Very disturbing.
    I wonder is the difference between Trumpism and Brexit that Trumpism is fantasy all about one man, whereas Brexit is a fantasy from the past for quite a large group?

    1. Ivan Horrocks -

      The trouble is that beyond – or more precisely, under cover of – the ‘all about one man’, which much of it is, there’s a really right wing, republican agenda being enacted, Peter. Just this week numerous environmental protections were ripped up to enable oil, gas and mining operations, and pretty much every policy that industry and big business have been unhappy with (the massive tax cuts having already been delivered) because it limits their ability to maximise their profits are being trashed. So, in short, much the same as will happen in the UK once Brexit is delivered. Let’s not forget Brexiteers and so called ‘Freedom Caucus’ republicans are cut from the same cloth.

  2. Samuel Johnson -

    Too bad Manafort is digging his heels in. I wonder why? It’s not as if he can count on a presidential pardon. Too much to hope that Trump will be the first president removed from office and jailed? I’m willing to bet he’s a crook through and through.

    Of course, if Trump starts a war and demands emergency powers, who knows what could happen.

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