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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.