Trump and the Post-Truth Mentality
In Times of Universal Deceit, Telling the Truth Will Be a Revolutionary Act
Should I happen to fall into a conversation about Trump I now tell my conversational partner, who is supportive of Trump, that he should be “ashamed of themselves”. I can only ask the Trump supporter “What can you be thinking?” But the American people did the right thing in 2020; I presume they will do it again.
How do you describe the basic Trump supporter? What sort of cognitive shorthand could explain an attraction to Trump? Does he believe that Trump is a “tough guy” who will defend the country? Or, is he looking for economic changes that he believes are solvable by Trump?
Interestingly, Trump and the conflicts he arouses fit into our national story. Trump has something to tell us about the white working class and how race and identity have become the sore point for grievance and cultural anxieties. On the one hand, Trump talks like his constituency; that is, he can’t make the distinction between exposition and repetition and contradiction.
Researchers appear at small-town diners and barbershops looking to understand the white working-class mind that Trump nurtures. There are usually three issues: (a) racial prejudice, (b) status and economic loss, and (c) the populist tribalism that describes this group of angry white nationalists.
Trump is the personification of a post-truth consciousness. That is, making a statement is sufficient for that statement to warrant defense. And the statement takes on a truth value that must be defended. Before the election was over Trump noted that if he didn’t win it would be because the election was rigged. He established a self-sealing logic that had him winning the election regardless of what happened. It was a foregone conclusion, according to Trump, that he would win and if he didn’t it was because of cheating.
In a world (a post-truth world) where there are no facts, no need for evidentiary support, it becomes possible to say anything and expect that statement to be accepted and worthy of a place in discursive consideration. It’s a post-truth world when alternative facts replace actual facts, and feelings are more important than evidence.
There’s a quip that goes, “every lie has an audience,” the meaning of which is obvious enough. Even a blatant falsehood, or clearly substandard information, is believed by somebody. The trick is to understand why people think the way they do and how they can be moved from superficial to substantial judgments and conclusions. When they accept the tenets of a post-truth consciousness, they are already on a path littered with confusion, contradiction, and chaos.