In recent posts, I have tried to point out the virulently fertile nexus of neoliberal market culture and the media to which we are connected. This headline from The Guardian says it all: “UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein calls for world to reject populist bigots – in full”. A short excerpt:
Populists use half-truths and oversimplification – the two scalpels of the arch propagandist, and here the internet and social media are a perfect rail for them, by reducing thought into the smallest packages: sound-bites; tweets. Paint half a picture in the mind of an anxious individual, exposed as they may be to economic hardship and through the media to the horrors of terrorism. Prop this picture up by some half-truth here and there and allow the natural prejudice of people to fill in the rest. Add drama, emphasizing it’s all the fault of a clear-cut group, so the speakers lobbing this verbal artillery, and their followers, can feel somehow blameless. The formula is therefore simple: make people, already nervous, feel terrible, and then emphasize it’s all because of a group, lying within, foreign and menacing. Then make your target audience feel good by offering up what is a fantasy to them, but a horrendous injustice to others. Inflame and quench, repeat many times over, until anxiety has been hardened into hatred.
In the NYT 9/10/16, Lee Siegel adds the following:
No wonder, according to reports, that Mr. Trump possesses such a fondness for McDonald’s, whose motto is “I’m lovin’ it.” The pitch requires no argument, no evidence, no complex rhetoric. You’re gonna love our burgers because the fact that billions of them have been sold proves the validity of the claim. You’re gonna love Mr. Trump because millions of Americans already do… There was nothing unusual about Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech in Cleveland, either. People were astonished that he did not tell a touching personal story, as all politicians do, and as Ronald Reagan did to consummate effect. Products, though, have no personal past or any kind of human dimension. A winning product is a result of the seller’s rigid, inflexible, even fanatical belief in the consistent quality of his merchandise.
The same goes for Mr. Trump’s bald lies at this week’s national security forum. He denied, despite hard evidence, that he ever supported the Iraq war. Pundits were dismayed. But his supporters love him all the more for his brazen adherence to the integrity of his “brand” over minor details like the truth.
Hence, the belligerent insularity of Trump & his supporters. How to combat this deformation of social and political discourse? By doing what these two commentators have done, engage in public reasoning: an activity completely alien to Trump and his spokespeople.