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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/17/17

Trump, Celebrity Culture And The Politics Of Lying

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In a barrage of recent cable news coverage much currency and time has been given to the President Trump vs. Former FBI Director James Comey's political dust up. Both men have accused each other of lying. In the ensuing verbiage and media hype the big questions is not about the disintegrating state of the United States's body politic under Donald Trump, but a partisan line drawing about which side the American people are on, and who they support in the ugly lying kerfuffle.

Former FBI Director Comey's testimony is a matter of public record as are the president's tsunami of tweets and untrue statements that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. We also have the president's "thousands of Muslims in New Jersey dancing in the streets" in the wake of 9/11 and his "largest crowds ever at a presidential inauguration," not to mention the "millions of undocumented immigrants" who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections. All of those are lies repeated over and over by the US president. All were proven to be without any basis in fact or a shred of foundation.

So who will you believe in the accusation and counter accusation between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey?

Me? I don't bloody care. In fact, in the aftermath of the Comey testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Trump, with complete contempt for the truth and his adversarial relationship with it, tweeted that Comey's testimony vindicated him, adding that it was Comey -- not him -- who was BOTH a liar and leaker. The fact that Comey did not make public any classified information was lost on the president notorious for only seeing things his way. Moreover, there is some measure of humor and political irony here in that one of the biggest flaws in Donald Trump's presidency, his candidacy, and his ability and fitness to be president, is that he's a notorious serial fabricator.

"Those are lies, plain and simple," Comey said, referring to Trump's description of his firing. Of course, the fact that Comey was a highly respected FBI director and a Republican does not mean that he will not lie. But in the context of President Trump's declaration of war on the truth where dissembling is the modus operandi in the White House and "alternative facts" the character of the kakistocracy -- government by the worst people -- does give Comey the benefit of the doubt.

Moreover, President Trump cannot be trusted. He not only infects genuine political discourse with an arrogant language of hate, bigotry and lies, but also because he has allowed an ideology built on the use of disinformation and falsehood to take root in the White House. The end result is that under the Trump administration, the truth has become a casualty if politics, is distorted for partisan ideological, political and commercial reasons. Lying is now a Trump governing political industry and tool of power and control. Let me hasten to add: all administrations and governments lie. That is not in dispute. The difference here is that under Trump lying has become normalized and that is most troubling.

The roll out of the Trump Presidency had left no doubt that he's a combination of snake oil salesman and schoolyard bully. He uses his limited celebrity profile to browbeat any credible inquiry and lambasts the media as "the enemy" branding any unfavorable report of him as "fake news." His cozy embrace of narcissism and "I alone can fix Washington" is a mix of political bombast, super hyperbole, hyper-masculinity and an inflated sense of self that is found only in strutting generalissimos of bygone banana republics.

Recall the following: In the nine times Trump either met with or called James Comey, it was always to discuss how the FBI's investigation into Russia's alleged election interference was affecting him directly and personally, rather than concern for the security of United States. He apparently cared little about understanding either the magnitude of the Russian intelligence charge and threat, or how the FBI might be able to prevent another attack in future elections.

President Trump seems incapable of or unable to comprehend that a democracy cannot exist without informed citizens and educational apparatuses that uphold and protect standards of truth, honesty, evidence, facts and justice. His blatant disregard for truth and his combative relationship with it has produced an odd occurrence and outcome - disinformation now masquerades as news and truth. In this process, Trump's Twitter activities have become a weapon for legitimizing ignorance and civic illiteracy.

In the present political situation there is more at stake than the threat of censorship or the normalization of lying; there is also an attack on long-valued sources of information and the public actions and activities that produce them. Trump's government has become a powerful disimagination machine in which the distinction between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy, are erased. The president has aligned himself with a culture of immediacy, sensationalism, and the theater of the absurd where thoughtful reading, informed judgments, and respect for all uncomfortable facts disappear. In short, Trump capitalizes on a digital culture of immediacy and short attention spans in which complexity collapses in a barrage of tweets and the need for a narrative that offers a sense of consistency and a respite from fear.

Finally, with a toxic brew of lies, celebrity culture, disinformation and dishonesty the Trump regime peddles consistent narratives based in forms of civic illiteracy and a deep distrust of the truth. All of this reinforces and strengthens a disdain for measured arguments, an embrace of the spectacle, and an alignment with a banal theater of celebrity culture. Indeed, in this political theater of the absurd, rumors are more important than truth telling. In a culture of short attention spans, Trump provides a huge mountain of misrepresentations and values in which thinking is done by others, power is exercised by a ruling elite, and people are urged to cease narrating their own experiences and give up their ability to govern rather than be governed. Trump offers his followers a world in which absolutely nothing is connected, destabilized perceptions reinforce a politics that turns lethal, and community becomes dystopian -- unconnected to any viable democratic reality.

Sadly, what convinces "Trump's masses" are not facts. Not even those he and his Administration and the Republicans in Congress invent. The point of these fabrications is not to establish facts, but to create a coherent fictional reality. What a movement demands of its leaders is the articulation of a consistent narrative combined with the ability to abolish the capacity for distinguishing between truth and falsehood, between reality and fiction. In Trump's world to win, you don't need reasons anymore, only power.

I shudder to contemplate this creeping brand of modern American nihilism that is corrupting and affecting the body politic and the rabid embrace of same by large segments of the American population. Trump's nihilism does not state or contend that there is nothing but that everything is meaningless. Reductionism is the basis for his unwavering support among a group of people that reject education and learning, still believe that thunder and rain are things controlled by the whim and fancy of a supreme being. This of necessity breeds a cynicism towards all educated and enlightened things aided and abetted by a man well versed in peddling untruths dressed up as facts, and reason as undisguised ignorance.

This explains why Trump's supporters see nothing wrong with their champion grabbing women by their private parts, shoving his tongue down their throats, or obliquely inciting violence. Trump's movement is willing to and with complete adoration genuflect and collectively suck on his inert, stupidity phallus.

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)

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