Saturday, February 17, 2018

Literal or Serious? (2)- True Believers

Yesterday I wrote about the statement that has been given as a way of "explaining Trump", at least from his supporters side. (See below for the whole post.) I said then:

Trump's critics take him literally while his supporters take him seriously.
The obvious inference is that when Trump speaks, don't take him literally- but take him seriously?
I talked then about how I might not often take him "literally" but I do take him very seriously. In fact, personally, I find the distinction quite difficult to understand. I believe many of his supporters do take him literally. For one, I have talked to enough of them who do believe what he says about, for example, his famous campaign line, "Lock her up!" or his recent agreeing with someone yelling out at a rally that not standing for him at the State of the Union was "treason." When he said it they believed it. Literally and very, very seriously.

But the other reason I think this is a false understanding and even a "straw man argument" is simple. Many of his staunchest supporters, his unshakeable 30% are Evangelical Fundamentalist "Christians". If there is one thing that Evangelical Fundamentalists believe beyond anything else is....

the literal, word for word interpretation of the Bible. They are well schooled in knowing when to literally believe something literally. And that is when it fits their beliefs.
  • They believed that Obama was literally going to come for their guns. They took it so literally they were serious about it. 
  • They believed that Obama was born in Kenya. Literally! It was not just some crazy right-wing extremist idea. When Trump said it, they believed it.
  • They believed some crazy-ass conspiracy theory that Hillary was supporting some pedophile ring out of a pizzeria. Or worse, that there was some uranium-selling deal she fostered through her emails. Fox News said it, they believed it.
That is just the tip of the iceberg I am afraid. There is a very strong undercurrent like this running around the country. Trump feeds it. He himself may not believe all this shit literally, of course. But he has enough people convinced that the FBI is the "bad guys" and the our judicial system is out to get him that it is a literal understanding. Trump's critics don't take that literally. Many believe he is just throwing things out as a smoke-screen or diversion.

The real serious stuff is not what Trump says in his daily mega-tweets. It is what he wants to do to significantly change the social support structure of our country that we have been building little by little over the past 85 years and others that go back to the beginning of last century. He plays loose with facts, but who cares. He said it, it must be true.

Broadcast and cable news has had a very difficult time dealing with this. He is so good for sound bites, they all know it helps their ratings. Whether it's MSNBC yelling on the Left or Fox and others on the Right, they love the hype. The evening news shows, just as dependent on sound bites and good video, have the same issue.

Fortunately the print news has, overall, done a great job of trying to do the digging and publishing. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian have broken stories and dug into the depths they are taking this all very seriously and doing some difficult work. (Go see the movie The Post to see how the print media, esp. the Washington Post, stood up to a previous president who wanted to shut them down.)

It is time those of us on the Left do take Trump seriously and stop egging on his insane posting and statements. It is time for people like Stephen Colbert (who I enjoy at times) to stop making jokes that only serve to make him look like a buffoon we don't have to take seriously and instead focus on what he is doing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a contemporary of Henry David Thoreau once wrote
Your actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what you are saying.
 Trump, so far, has been able to hide some of his actions by the loudness of his words. Let's move from that and see that his actions get more of the light of day they deserve.

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