From the moment Trump first entered the political fray I tried my best to engage with those that identified themselves as his supporters. Not for the sake of conflict but for the sincere urge to understand how any educated person could feel any affinity towards a man that for most of the world induced only derision. It was a genuine case of intellectual inquiry, I wanted to understand how they equated things he had said, his hypocrisies, his lies, his narcissism, his overt character flaws, and somehow considered him a messiah.
The biggest hurdle I faced when attempting any form of civil discourse however, was not so much over points of morality or ethics, but actually on points of basic fact. Increasingly, as I spoke to more and more Trump supporters I encountered more and more historical facts in which we couldn’t agree, almost invariably over points in which they would continually suggest the existence of some counter narrative to the accepted state of affairs, usually in the form of what I would call conspiracy theories.
I then looked at the hand full of Trump supporters I knew and I suddenly realised, almost all of them expressed at least some doubt over who was responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. There isn’t a respected academic, politician, or journalist in the world that believes there is any doubt over this moment in history, yet disproportionately amongst Trump supporters it was unapologetically still up for debate. It was staggering yet irrefutable. But why did this correlation exist?
The reality is, to support Trump you must, as a default, reject mainstream thought. There is almost a complete absence of respected intellectuals prepared to indicate any support for the man and every single living President, from both sides of the political spectrum, have voiced their objection to him. To support Trump requires a complete rejection of the social and political norms to which every other President was held. Trump supporters have the capacity to suspend accepted reality for the purposes of maintaining their own political reality.
It is no coincidence Trump built his political capital on suggesting President Obama was born in Kenya despite having absolutely no evidence, and despite Obama eventually producing a birth certificate to prove otherwise the notion that Obama was a Muslim and a foreigner is still consistently supported amongst his supporters.
The propensity for his supporters to believe in the conspiracy narrative allowed for the easy propagation of stories regarding Hillary Clinton during the election. Despite being salaciously linked to everything from pedophile rackets to murders, Trump never once distanced himself from these fanciful sideshows or ever dare to suggest they weren’t true (like John McCain had made a point of publicly doing when similar absurd rumours regarding Obama were raised during their election). However his decision to allow for these conspiracy theories to cultivate within his base was not solely to allow for the spread of defamatory stories on his political opponent, he had another motive.
Trump thrives in a world in which there is doubt over facts. His ineptitude, his propensity to lie, and his hypocrisy becomes obscured when we as a public have lost the ability to agree on what is accepted truth and who is telling the truth. By creating doubt on what we believe, the reality of Trump is by default still up for debate.
Alex Jones and the National Enquirer have, from the start, maintained close and cosy relationships with Trump whilst unashamedly promoting false flag theories over mass shootings like Sandy Hook, and promoting every other far fetched “Deep State” conspiracy theory that would never earn the interest of mainstream news. Meanwhile the broadly respected CNN, MSNBC, and BBC that have maintained and mediated political discourse for decades have instead earned unprecedented public Presidential attacks as “fake news” in an effort to perpetuate doubt in the veracity of any report of theirs, especially those that may not support his preferred narrative.
In a normal world a President suggesting that Climate Change was a hoax would suffer fatally by the accepted opinion of countless respected scientific bodies arguing otherwise being published. But by cultivating a base of supporters who are eager to doubt any accepted truth, question any authority, and reject intellectualism as elitism, Trump has instead painted himself as an alternate truth to his conspiracy minded hordes.
It is no coincidence this method is remarkably similar to that perpetuated by President Putin in Russia and within states in which he presses influence. A continuous showreel of conspiracy theories are pushed by the Russian English language RT Network and Russia spent hundreds of millions of dollars in pushing conspiracy theories on Social Media to Americans during the election. It has proven so successful that they have shown absolutely no signs of restraining the brazen nature of their attempts to influence public discourse in the USA and around the world.
Countless studies have shown that after almost every mass shooting in America, false flag hashtags have begun trending on Twitter thanks to known Russian Twitter Bots whilst other hashtags related to alleged media bias against Alabama Republican candidate Roy Moore were also observed to have begun in Russia. By having Americans continually doubt official narratives from Government bodies and respected journalists, it conditions them to then accept alternate truths offered by a sitting US President no matter what the mainstream media, and accepted logic, has to say.
After a public has grown accustomed to continually considering the possibility the FBI staged a mass shooting of its own citizens with the complicit support of mainstream media, is it really that big a leap to believe any investigation and media coverage into the Trump campaign is politically motivated?
Trump’s entire defence against the running investigation into Russian collusion requires a belief in political conspiracy and deflection into a grander Clinton and Obama based conspiracy, all of which has never been voiced by a legitimate political figure in the west before and one that in ordinary circumstances would cost a significant intellectual price.
The phenomena plays into the uniquely American propensity to believe in a dystopian reality. American’s inalienable maintenance of their second amendment is testimony to a population perpetually fearing authority and the prospect of a tyrannical government. By humouring the outlandish notions of conspiracy theories Trump has presented himself as the ‘outsider’ unafraid to “reveal the truth”.
However whilst it is intrinsically beneficial for a society to not accept anything as truth without evidence, the overwhelming majority of conspiracy theories require belief in an alternate truth despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This has provided green pastures for the Trump machine who continue to baldly state “facts” despite every ounce of evidence suggesting their fact is wrong. Evidence no longer matters the way it used to.
For the concerned citizen that wishes to halt our descent into a world of selective ambiguous reality, the largest role we can play is steadfastly refusing to partake in the propagation of untruth. Any time we find a story, a meme, or a quote that causes us outrage, spend just five minutes investigating if it’s true. Use Google and use terms like “fact check” or “debunked”. Go to snopes.com and see if someone had already analysed whatever it is you’re about to share (there’s a good chance it has).
Just because something fits your point of view does not make its truth unimportant. If you publish (share) something that is factually incorrect you are directly contributing to a political landscape where the value of truth is diminished. People will read what you have shared and take it as truth. You have a responsibility that was once only reserved for publishers and news agencies and it is imperative you appreciate the implications of this power imparted on to all of us.
Ultimately the advent of Social Media has provided us all a platform once reserved for media moguls, but with great power comes great responsibility. CNN is forced to answer and face public ridicule for any major inaccuracies in the news they produce, yet when millions of us share the same fraudulent image or meme online we declare ourselves absolved of all responsibility. By spending five minutes verifying whatever it is you were about to share you could stop the propagation of needless doubt, the dumbing down of a voting public, and assisting in restraining the ability of lies to spread faster than truth.
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