Wednesday, June 10, 2020


At the Never Trumper site The Bulwark, Charlie Sykes laments President Trump's approach to information gathering, after the appearance of that Trump tweet citing a conspiracy theory that a 75-year-old Buffalo-area anti-racism protester was a secret antifa agent.
... the problem is not the tweet. That’s a distraction.

The problem here is the mind of Donald Trump.

The fact that this insanity appears in a tweet seems to distract us from the rather more fundamental fact that it is insane.

But this is the way the president of the United States thinks; the way he processes information and makes judgments. He has access to the world’s most sophisticated intelligence network, and yet continues to get his information not just from television, but from the flakiest corners of the disinformation universe where lies and hoaxes are the currency of the realm....

There are two broad possibilities here: (1) he is so addled and gullible that he actually believes this (actually quite stupid) conspiracy theory, which raises questions about his ability to assess evidence of any sort or, (2) he’s just flinging feces from the bunker to trigger the libs, which Rush Limbaugh assures us is some form of brilliance.

In other words, he either believes it, in which case he’s nuts; or (like his accusations against Joe Scarborough), he doesn’t care if it is true, in which case he is a cynical and vicious sociopath.
I'd offer a third possibility: Trump has concluded that all conservatives -- or at least all true conservatives, whom he defines as supporters of himself -- are uniformly good, while everyone on the left is thoroughly and irredeemably evil. He therefore gravitates to any "news" source that confirms this worldview, however dubious.

This is a habit he shares with much of the GOP's voter base.

Now, I'm much more tolerant of Never Trumpers like Sykes than, say, Driftglass is. I'll take the NTers' help for now, knowing that most of them will revert to being sworn enemies of the good as soon as Trump has left the scene. Why not take their help for the time being, gratefully but warily?

But while Sykes is complaining that a president of his party is a full-time dweller in Wingnut Conspiracyville, what he ought to ask himself is: How did this particular blighted neighborhood get this way? Why are Republican voters so receptive to the craziness of Conservative Treehouse, One America News Network, and similar media outposts?

A major reason is that mainstream conservatives (including, until recently, Sykes) have tolerated this craziness for years -- not just Conservative Treehouse but Gateway Pundit and InfoWars and World Net Daily before them. This doesn't happen on our side. In the early 2000s, responsible liberals and leftists denounced "9/11 was an inside job" conspiratorialism; more recently, in the early months of the Trump presidency, sensible liberals and lefties warned that Louise Mensch was a nutjob and shouldn't be taken seriously.

The right has tolerated conspiracy-mongering because it builds loyalty to conservatism, and thus to the GOP. Republicans wouldn't even break with Fox News when it was peddling Seth Rich conspiracy theories and giving a weekly time slot to Trump, America's most famous birther -- or before that, when Glenn Beck and his lunatic whiteboard drew millions of viewers to Fox five days a week.

I understand the cynical calculus: Right-wing elitists tolerated the peddling of this insanity to the rubes on the assumption that it wouldn't be for sale in their neighborhood. But unfortunately for them, one of the rubes ran for president, and won.

So now they're upset. Sorry, Charlie, but your concern comes years too late.


(UPDATE: Headline fixed.)

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