The Universal Notebook: Trump, a paranoid president for post-truth America

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Donald Trump claims to have seen Muslims celebrating on New Jersey rooftops as the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11. Did he really?

Of course not. It never happened. But then the Donald didn’t get where he is today by telling the truth. And you can make frightened people believe just about anything.

Trump, in fact, is the perfect paranoid president for post-truth America. As our once great country slips ever backwards into ignorance and prejudice, fear and fanaticism, Trump appeals to all the worst aspects of the national psyche: racism, nationalism and xenophobia. So blinded by his wealth and celebrity are they that his supporters apparently can’t see him for what he really is. He’s not a conservative, he’s a con man.

The concept of a post-truth society was articulated in 2004 by author Ralph Keyes in his book “The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life.” Keyes was inspired by the post-truth pronouncements, respectively, of Bill Clinton and George Bush about Monica Lewinsky and weapons of mass destruction. Trump’s untruths now trump these whoppers, in that Bill was just equivocating and W dissembling, while Trump is trafficking in trumpery, i.e. worthless nonsense. (If I didn’t know better I’d think Trump was the etymological root of that word.)

It used to be that we all formed different opinions about the same facts. Then we entered the echo-chamber era, in which everyone had their own facts. In the post-truth society, facts simply don’t matter. Repeat something long enough and someone will believe it. People will now believe whatever they want to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The most obvious example of post-truth is the denial that humans are responsible for climate change. Then there is the racist canard that Barack Obama is not really an American citizen. Donald Trump, of course, was the birther-in-chief in 2011. With his 2015 campaign, he has bigger and better bigotry with which to bamboozle his benighted base.

Trump became the Republican front-runner by branding all Mexican immigrants criminals and promising, if elected, to deport 11 million of them. When he saw what an easy sell racism was, he just started spewing. Not only did he see Muslims dancing on rooftops, he maintained that 81 percent of white people who are murdered are killed by black people. In fact, only 15 percent of white murder victims are killed by black people. Black Lives Matter, but the facts don’t in post-truth America.

So Trump rode Mexicans to the front of the pack and he’s now switched horses to deriding Muslims to stay there. Inspired by visions of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating terrorism, Trump has since proposed registering all Muslims in the United States, banning all Muslims from entering the United States and murdering the families of ISIS terrorists even if they have done nothing wrong.

“You have to take out their families,” Trump insists.

Next, I suppose, Trump will propose Muslim internment camps. There’s certainly precedent in American history for that wholesale violation of civil rights. We managed to send 120,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps during World War II. Containing 2.5 million Muslims might be a taller order, but Trump is all about building fences. It’ll be huge!

Seriously, folks, Trump is possibly the most amoral man ever to run for the presidential nomination. But in an America where plutocrats rule and rednecks drool, he’s the panderer-in-chief.

If Trump ever got anywhere near the truth, his hair would burst into flames. Oh, not fair making fun of Trump’s funny hair? Hey, this is the lout who made fun of Carly Fiorina’s face and mocked a reporter’s disability. So, yes, his hirsute honeycomb is definitely in play.

Of course, Trump is not the only post-truth candidate in the Republican primary. Dr. Ben Carson had the born-again base all whipped up with his tall tale of redemption from youthful violence. Tough going when your greatest recommendation to voters is that you claim to have stabbed a friend. That may be a useful qualification for a surgeon, but not for a president. But then maybe those Mannatech glyconutritional supplements Carson claims not to have promoted (despite the fact that the commercial is available online) will help him recover his memory and get the facts straight before he loses the GOP nomination, which he will do.

My favorite political post-truth of the moment is the conspiracy theory that Trump is actually a Manchurian candidate. Some desperate and deluded conservatives apparently believe that Trump is running a false flag campaign, that he is a Democratic plant designed to divide the Republican Party and guarantee the election of Hillary Clinton.

Now that’s a trumped-up charge I’d love to believe is true.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • Queenie42

    Well, let’s try this again…..
    (My first comment was blown out of the water after “holding on” for 25 minutes.)
    This column is a classic, Mr. Beem. One of your best. My theory about Mr. Trump is this: He will never be President but he is doing a wonderful job of keeping the heat of the spotlight off Jeb Bush. It is Jeb we should be wary of because of his plan to dismantle public schools.
    Trump is going full tilt crazy so that when Jeb steps in to save the Republican Party from imploding, he will sound almost sane. Mission accomplished?

    • EABeem

      Sounds plausible to me.

  • yathink2011

    Less morals than the guy with the blue dress, William Jefferson Clinton? Fun to read, but not very accurate. But no one is the media is very accurate these days.

    • EABeem

      Monica Lewinsky? Marla Maples.

      • yathink2011

        I don’t remember Marla Maples ever being with Bill Clinton, IN the Whitehouse. Sorry. I think JFK may also have had a lower moral standard than Donald Trump, but a lot was covered up.

      • yathink2011

        Trump eventually married Marla Maples, and also admitted that he “had sexual relations with that woman…..”

  • yathink2011

    Oh wait, i almost forgot the Nascar Driver from Chappaquidick. What was his name? There is no possible way that Donald Trump is the “most amoral man to run for President” I’m hoping you include women who have run for President soon, as it adds to the list.

  • Jay Singh

    Trump did not brand all Mexican immigrants criminals. What he actually did say was bad, why not go with what he said, and not put the word “all” in there?

    Mr Beem writes an article about untruths, and states an untruth himself.

    Let me rewrite Mr. Beem’s first paragraph in this article, only to describe Mr. Beem:
    Edgar Allen Beem writes an article stating “Trump became the Republican front-runner by branding all Mexican immigrants criminals”. Did Trump REALLY brand ALL Mexican immigrants criminals?
    Of course not, it never happened.

    I have no plans to support Trump, he is not fit to be President. I think Trump should stick to real estate, and television shows in which he fires people, but Mr. Beem does not have to make things up, what Trump actually said should be debated, not some untruth Mr. Beem states.

    Maybe we should not expect high accuracy standards from an aging white male such as Mr. Beem.

    • EABeem

      “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

      • Jay Singh

        As you can see by the actual quote, and not your misleading paraphrase, Trump did not brand all Mexican immigrants as criminals. You decided, that he meant all, when the actual quote does not say all. You engaged in untruth. If you had used the actual quote, there would be no comment.

        “Many cases” is not all Mexican immigrants. It does not even specify a percentage.

        This is especially important because your column focused on untruths, so you have a clear obligation to not play fast and loose with what Trump said.

        Instead of honestly admitting you did not tell the truth, you have simply given us the accurate quote.

        Admit your misleading statement.

        • EABeem

          “Some, I assume, are good…” All Mexican immigrants were insulted by this most insulting and pointless of plutocrats. I may have exaggerated for emphasis, but I stand by what I wrote.

          • Jay Singh

            Agree that it was insulting to all Mexican immigrants, and also believe that it was inaccurate in its overall substance and its emphasis.

            A person with your long history of writing has no excuse for writing an article about untruths, while using untruths, and then making some half way statement “I may have exaggerated for emphasis” when you get nailed. That you stand by what you wrote, including your exaggeration, is indeed unfortunate.

            Here is some undeniable truth: Gang activity in cities like Houston and LA has numerous gang members who are here legally and illegally from Central America, mostly El Salvador and Guatemala. This has actually been covered by cable networks as well as NBC/ABC/CBS, and the Telemundo and Univision Spanish language networks. While the gang members represent a tiny fraction of Central American immigration, the damage they do is real, and the people killed by these gangs are just as dead when you tell their loved ones that the vast majority of Central American immigrants are here to work and live their version of the American dream.

            Care to dispute the previous paragraph?

          • EABeem

            No, but then I don’t see it as being on point.

          • Jay Singh

            The fact that I agree that Trump’s comments were insulting to all Mexican immigrants merely shows how irresponsible you were to exaggerate, no not exaggerate, to lie (that is L-I-E), in saying that Trump branded all Mexican immigrants criminals. You can rationalize it from here to the end of the world, but you lack the integrity to admit you did not tell the truth.

            What you refuse to accept is that writing a column on the untruths of candidates puts a burden on the writer to be truthful, not sort of truthful, not exaggerate for emphasis, and not to wiggle around with a bunch of rationalizations.

            You could have made the same point about playing on the emotions of frightened bigots without lying about what Trump said.

          • EABeem

            So explain to me how Trump insulted ALL Mexican immigrants if he did not imply that they were ALL criminals. I’m not sure what you’re problem is, but I am sorry I have bothered trying to explain myself to you, something no other columnist I know of would do. I would have thought I had answered your objections by posting the quote and explaining my reasoning.

          • Jay Singh

            When you were repeatedly asked to indicate that the statement you originally made was untrue/not accurate, you defended it, standing by it, etc. I believe that takes it to the lie level.

            I think you rationalized the way someone who defends Fox News would rationalize. We clearly have a large difference of opinion.

            Yes, I do have to give you credit for answering my posts.

            It is also true that Trump was not referring to Mexican immigrants who had come into the country legally and who currently had legal status, either as immigrants or now nationalized citizens. That is part of the bigger context of his offensive statements. But, I don’t want to open that pandora’s box, since I did not mention at the start of this interchange.

            Suffice it to say that I think a columnist who writes about untruths has a burden to be meticulously accurate in his/her statements. It does not appear that you accept the same burden, that exaggeration for emphasis is ok if you do it. Why do it when the facts by themselves give you such a solid case?

          • EABeem

            “Agree that it was insulting to all Mexican immigrants…” That’s exactly what I was saying. Trump branded ALL Mexican immigrants as criminals when he said Mexico sends it worst. He did not say “illegal” immigrants.

          • Jay Singh

            Context, of course, full speech, corollary statements Trump allowed himself to be stuck in a soundbite, in speeches about illegal immigration. Why not have simply stated what he did say?

            This is getting funny, as you try to divert attention from your statement, which is how it works, when you, Mr Beem, have been nailed. Keep going back to what Trump said, it simply proves the original point about your disregard for accuracy in your own article. I can go on for days, as you flop around playing with Trump’s words.

            This is going to go down as a classic case of an activist simply not admitting an error, or whatever you want to call it.

          • EABeem

            Sorry, I plead not guilty. Not sure why it is so important to you to equivocate. You say Trump insulted all Mexican immigrants. He did. I say Trump branded all Mexican immigrants criminals. He did. Everything I wrote is true as far as I am concerned. I am sometimes mistaken, but I never lie. No need to.

          • Jay Singh

            You are mistaken, for sure, and I would bet that in your life you have lied, at some point, whether now or some time in the past. I think your contortions speak for themselves. I hope the other readers have gotten a good look at this dialog.

          • EABeem

            What contortions? You’re the guy who can’t explain how Trump “insulted” all Mexican immigrants, as you wrote, without “branding” then criminals, as I wrote. I’m pretty sure no other readers are following this dialogue, but if they are I’m sure they find it amusing that, while we both agree that Trump is unfit to be president, we are essentially arguing over one word — “branding” — in an 800-word opinion column. Off to the movies now. Gone tomorrow. Happy New Year!

  • Kafir911

    Wow! This was a column for the ages. I’ve said it many times over the years. How do you even have a column?

    You’d like us to believe that we’ll be better off going from the current destructive Marxist-in Chief to perhaps the most untrustworthy and corrupt Democrat in the country instead of voting for a successful non-politician who loves the country. If Trump is amoral and Hillary isn’t, then I don’t understand the language.

    Btw, what “race” is Islam? Again, you raise the nonsense that humans are responsible for climate change. You drag out the same old internment of 120,000 Japanese argument for Trump’s wanting to stop Muslims from coming here but leave out…until we can get a handle on what’s going on. Did you know that 37% of our POWs in the Pacific WWII Theater did not survive vs. 1% in the European Theater? Brutally beating and starving to death our soldiers does not remotely compare with the housing, clothing and feeding we provided.

    It was a war, after all, which we didn’t start, wasn’t it? But to a generation of “snowflakes” used to getting participation trophies, we will never defeat the existential threat we’re now facing with Islam because so few have any sense of the destructive supremacist ideology Mohammed created with his “religion of peace” 1400 years ago.

    Hillary, who was partially responsible for the Arab Spring mess as well as Benghazi, will get crushed in a debate by either Trump or Cruz. Neither will be soft (but honorable) like Romney. I really can’t wait for that.

    • EABeem

      I support Sanders.

      • Kafir911

        No surprise there since he’s an avowed socialist.

  • poppypapa

    Curious that Eddie, who frequently asserts that we live in the postmodern era, and that there is no such thing as ‘objective truth,’ suddenly longs for truth in our political discourse. At least from those he vehemently despises.

    Maybe postmodern = double standards, among other things.

    • EABeem

      Nah, it just means conservatives make things up and get suckers to believe them.

      • poppypapa

        Don’t forget to put a little rum in that Kool-Aid hot toddy of yours; it is the “holiday season,” you know.

        • EABeem

          I’m more of a bourbon guy myself.

        • poppypapa

          Bourbon doesn’t mix with Kool-Aid; besides, why waste good adult beverage helping you swallow what Bernie will give you?

          • EABeem

            I taught Bernie everything he knows.