Monday, March 09, 2020

Message to Republicans: You Can’t Gaslight a Virus

Donald Trump and his supporters live in a bizarre alternate universe where facts do not matter and lies are offered as truth.  In right wing politics this has worked to a large extent as Trump denies climate change and invents lies against hi political opponents,  This alternate universe appears poised to crash head on with objective reality as the coronavirus continues to spread in the USA (there are now cases in Virginia, but so far only in Northern Virginia) and the Trump/Pence regime increasingly demonstrates that it is not up to the task of dealing with the outbreak. Meanwhile, the world's stock markets continue to drop and trade and travel become increasingly disrupted. A column in the New York Times looks at the fact that gaslighting the public as Trump has done for so long may have met its match and that Trump himself is now a public health threat.  Here are column highlights:
In the Donald Trump era, Democrats and Republicans generally live with two completely different concepts of reality. Their views of Trump, his competence and character, could hardly be more different.
The Pew Research Center last week released the results of a poll that found that an overwhelming majority of Republicans and independents who lean Republican viewed Trump as intelligent.
But, they are largely alone on that island. Only 19 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents view Trump as intelligent.
Furthermore, 71 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners believe that Trump is honest, even though he has single-handedly provided a jolt of energy and a shield of job security to fact-checkers.
Trump has made more than 16,200 false or misleading claims — a milestone that would have been unthinkable when we first created the Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered.”
Trump is a lying machine. It is pathological. It is compulsive. It is unrepentant.
Sixty-two percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents see Trump as morally upstanding. This is a thrice married man whom multiple women have accused of sexual misconduct, and at least one has accused of rape. This is a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, who was outed for paying off women who claimed to have had extramarital affairs with him, and who has appeared (clothed, thankfully) in at least three soft-core pornographic films.
Again, precious few Democrats and their leaners agreed with this assessment of Trump’s morality.
But, there were a couple of areas of general agreement among Democrats and Republicans, one of which was that overwhelming majorities of both groups viewed Trump as self-centered.
That self-centered sensibility has been on full display since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Trump sees this budding pandemic through the lens of how it will affect him and his re-election prospects. The fact that the people infected and those fearful of becoming so are real people who desperately need the steady hand of a steady leader is lost on him.
Instead of being the president that the country needs in a time of crisis, he has chosen to employ his worn political strategy: lying. Rather than addressing the issue straightforwardly, he has told lie after lie, and in some cases contradicted the scientists trying to manage this issue.
This has real-world consequences for people’s health and the management of the virus’s spread. As a Reuters/Ipsos poll last week found, “Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to say the coronavirus poses an imminent threat to the United States,” and “More Democrats than Republicans say they are taking steps to be prepared, . . . . .
Furthermore, when asked last week if he would consider canceling some of his large political rallies to avoid the risk of spreading the virus, Trump responded, “It doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t bother them at all.”
Trump could be making his most ardent supporters a petri dish of disease.
But in his mind, it’s not really about them, and certainly not about the rest of us. This is about him, only, always.
Whereas his supporters can be lied to and gaslighted, a virus cannot. A virus is going to do what a virus does. Viruses are not thinking and aware. Technically, they’re not even living things. They are like an army of androids, multiplying as they attack and infect living things.
So none of the tricks that Trump has learned and deployed will work against this virus. Only science, honesty, prudence and genuine concern for public safety will work now.
And precisely for those reasons, this virus exposes Trump’s enormous weaknesses as the chief executive officer of this country.
The public needs to be assured that we have a real leader at the helm, but we are being shown that just the opposite is true. The fact that he wants to spin media coverage of the virus as politically motivated, the fact that he keeps lowballing the number of people infected, and the fact that he has said that the virus may miraculously disappear, all show that Trump is as much a public health threat as the virus itself.
One has to wonder how bad the virus' spread must become before some of Trump's mindless followers - and educated Republicans who ought to know better - belatedly realize that they have been played for fools - yet again?

1 comment:

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

This may be the con that Don cannot achieve. A virus is a virus.