Fact or Propaganda in the Age of Trump

Trump lying vox

Deciding whether a statement is a fact or propaganda used to seem easier. However, being bombarded by fake news is beginning to have a disturbing side effect, not unforeseen, but unsettling even so. We never felt that politicians were completely honest with us and sometimes we didn’t trust any words that came out of certain mouths (Nixon for me). But now when I hear almost anyone who is supposedly offering me facts to support a point, I, always a skeptic, find myself thinking that things I used to accept as facts are sounding like propaganda. In fact, everything is starting to sound like propaganda.

I hear what General Mattis is saying about what will happen if we leave Syria and Afghanistan abruptly and I want to accept his advice on this matter, but this is a man who stayed on Trump’s staff for 2 years for mostly unfathomable reasons. In fact I don’t know who I trust to tell me about what we should think or do about Syria or Afghanistan, or Yemen, or the Taliban or ISIS. Even Richard Engle, often immersed in these conflict areas, does not always present a consistent viewpoint. If we leave Syria and Afghanistan will the Taliban flourish? If we leave Syria will threats from ISIS grow unchecked and bring their particular form of terror back into our living rooms once again? The Washington Post tells us that looting in Iraq and Syria has made ISIS wealthy and that they have that money stowed away somewhere.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/retreating-isis-army-smuggled-a-fortune-in-cash-and-gold-out-of-iraq-and-syria/2018/12/21/95087ffc-054b-11e9-9122-82e98f91ee6f_story.html

This implies that ISIS is good to go and will be back to terrorize the world once again. Or will they? My only strategy is to wait and see what happens because I’m not sure why people are predicting the various possible outcomes to removing troops that they are offering us. Do they stand to gain something from the stance they are taking? Are they offering us sincere assessments based on opinions? Are these educated opinions backed up by actual facts? I do think that abandoning the Kurds to Syrian genocidal tendencies is a good reason to think about staying. I also think that withdrawing into a position of isolation from pressure points in the Middle East and elsewhere leaves Putin’s Russia and Assad in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and even China to fill the vacuum this creates. But this week our President dropped the sanctions on a Russian oligarch whose name is way too familiar to us, Oleg Deripaska, friend of Paul Manafort. Not to mention his behavior to what is clearly a Saudi assassination of a journalist. We don’t even know if our own President is an ally of America or any of our allies.

Ted Lieu (D-CA) just said we should leave because only Congress can deploy American troops and Congress did not deploy these troops. That would not top my list of reasons to leave now that we are there, and yet I am very worried that our Constitutional guardrails are disappearing. Of course we never could believe everything we hear from Washington or in the media, but now I find myself trying to see the political motivations for the “facts” that are being delivered daily. Is someone taking a stand because they stand to gain personally or politically? Are they spouting propaganda? Let’s just say my skepticism is at Def Con 5.

Listen to Mitch McConnell, looking like he got a good night’s sleep and dripping sugar trying to convince Democrats to join Republicans and find a way to end this shutdown on TV this Saturday morning before Christmas. Turning down the volume makes it stop but then you can’t hear what he’s saying. He is trying to hook into Democrat’s humanism about government employees who won’t be paid in order to bribe them to accept language that will please Trump.

Some pundits still think that we should make a deal for DACCA. Have they been paying attention? A deal made with a liar is not deal at all. Our president has no compunctions about making a deal and then backing down on it once he gets what he wants. We cannot trust this man.

Democrats do not want a wall, do not want to fund a wall, no bargaining, no deals. Democrats have offered money for border security which is pretty generous considering the kinds of border security that we see on offer. What Trump considers border security looks to me like a humanitarian nightmare.

We do feel bad for government employees but we cannot allow the Republicans and Trump to take human hostages every time they want some unpopular thing. I know I don’t trust Mitch McConnell one little tiny bit. He is always a political animal. But I find myself having real trouble separating facts from propaganda. What is fake and what is real? I expect this effect of Trump’s mind games to worsen with time and I am shocked that it is starting to affect me. I see these effects even in the way foreign nations are acting and reacting to the media and to leaders with authoritarian tendencies.

Our President seems bent on revenge against the whole wide world, and the American people who did not cheer him at his rallies; but we cannot cheer a man who acts as if he hates democracy and every democratic value. We are in a standoff with our own President and he is trying to make us doubt all that we have ever believed in. And it seems to be working.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Vox

 

Mind Games

mind games Odyssey

What I really hate about lies is what they assume about our minds. Republicans are playing mind games. Republicans are trying to tell us they did the opposite of what they actually have done. They insist that we all have some kind of collective amnesia and we don’t recall how they voted or how they have treated many of their constituents. Trump insists that Democrats are responsible for things Republicans did or would like to do. We are the ones inciting violence, we are the ones paying immigrants to walk, 7,000 strong, to the border between Mexico and the US. Democrats are the ones who want to get rid of insurance that covers preexisting conditions and Medicare. Democrats are responsible for the deficit. Democrats are to blame for violent riots in California because of sanctuary cities. Wow, we are really terrible people. Except none of this is true. It is just people using Trumpian double speak to make us crazy.

Which anti-fact do we combat first? Which misdirection will hurt us the worst in the midterms? Will any of this psychobabble change any outcomes in the midterms? How many Americans believe this mumbo-jumbo? Why do I constantly feel like gnats are buzzing around my head? Isn’t it already too late to change anyone’s mind about their vote in the midterms, unless you have a bully pulpit as big as the one Trump has?

I know that there are records about this stuff, news stories, videos, interviews, panel discussions, but it has been made clear that records can be changed, edited, photoshopped, like those photos of Trump’s election crowds. This president uses mind games against his own citizens. Two more years of this sounds endless, six sounds impossible. When we look back on this 4 years or this 8 years, if we survive this Trump administration as the intact American Republic, I think that these years will seem like a big old black hole in space.

So I will reiterate one more time the reasons that we need to vote for Democrats besides the ones where we save our sanity and save Democracy at the same time. I found this meme on Facebook. It is not mine but it sums up policy differences between Democrats and Republicans in a very concise way. I tried to trace it back to where it originated because I suspect it was captured and pasted to Facebook, but I could not find the correct attribution.

fb chart key issues dems v gop

Photo Credits: Odyssey from a Google Image Search, meme shared on FB

Walking a Line at the Edge of Disaster

“I could shoot someone in the middle of Park Avenue and I would not lose votes.” I just can’t let that statement go. It haunts me. I have never heard anyone say something like this in a political campaign in the first place. In the second place I thought that might be a bridge too far and that it would be the beginning of the end for the Trump campaign. But Trump was right. This bald statement of random violence, issued for its shock effect, made barely a ripple in the election and possibly improved his election results. He enjoys walking a line at the edge of disaster.

I keep asking myself, why? What kind of person would offer up such a test of his follower’s loyalty or their lack of critical faculties? Perhaps his people thought he was just being dramatic, but why didn’t they question that he went there, to that particular dark and very public place?

I had never fallen under the spell of this shyster. I am not sure why many of us seem to see right through him and are shocked that such a man could run for and win the highest office in our Democracy.

We knew that our government was hardly pure. We knew that it was being tweaked out of its proper philosophical state by a few Americans with big money who were buying laws that would coincide with their ideas and their plans for the future of our nation. We knew that, because these folks were so wealthy and self-righteous that they felt it was their duty to transform the American democracy to match their goals, even if it meant that this nation would no longer be a democracy/republic.

(Our nation is defined as a democracy, but it is also a republic because we have a constitution. It is interesting and a sign of our partisan divide that Democrats call our government a Democracy and that Republicans are always correcting them and insisting that our government is a Republic. They do this because Republic matches the name of their party. They will no longer even say the Democratic Party, even though that is the correct adjective form of the word, because it makes the party sound too much like the name of our ideal of governance. They insist on calling it the Democrat Party. Even linguistics has been made to serve partisanship.)

But I did not think that our government had sunk so low that it would elect this polecat and place him in our Oval Office with all his oddball  and potentially dangerous cronies.

I did not think that he would be placed there in the hopes that he would dismantle government and somehow be so bad at being President that it would escape everyone’s notice that the Republicans may have wanted him to provide cover or distraction so they would not be blamed.  (How is that working for you?)

It is not as if I knew all the particulars of how a Trump Presidency would play out and I still don’t. But I knew it would be bad, and it is. If murder wouldn’t be a problem for his followers, how can we expect them to care about a subtle matter like treason? Even the press cannot decide if our huckster has sold us out to our enemies or obstructed an investigation or two. People almost seem to enjoy having a madman in the White House because each day gives us new audacities to gape at and to analyze ad infinitum.

I think we may be learning that we have given Presidents too much discretion. There are rules and traditions but they have no force. Recent Presidents have given us their taxes to look over, but apparently they don’t have to. A President is not supposed to run his own businesses when he is in office because he is in a position to profit individually from insider information. A President is not supposed to accept payments (income) from foreign sources because it could give the impression of confused loyalties or could lead to actual blackmail and subsequent treason.

None of these rules or traditions seem to carry any force with them. The President may comply or not comply, although every past leader of our nation has, however reluctantly, complied. And our current shyster-in-chief offers a cheeky grin (not at all a pleasant one) and refuses to accept any policy that will not result in his arrest, conviction, and incarceration and implies that there is nothing he can do that will have such a result.

With the Republicans in charge of all three branches of government, with little in the way of checks and balances available to stop a runaway President, Trump is quite comfortable changing his story until he hits one that shuts people up. Does he make tapes of his visitors in the Oval Office? He thinks he is so funny. “You can’t make me say.” Did he ask Comey to swear an oath of loyalty to him? “It’s my word against his and he has been publicly embarrassed and has lost “face” – he’s been fired just like one of so many apprentices on TV. Did he ask Comey to lay off Flynn? No unofficial piece of paper will back up that statement so, as far as Trump is concerned, that never happened. We know it goes on and on. The jerk invites two Russians into his office with no American press people to substantiate what goes on while his people stand uncomfortably watching the locker room camaraderie with fixed smiles on their faces.

By the end of all this, just in the space of one week, we feel as if we might be the crazy ones. Whether Donald Trump is crazy or not, whether he is all of the psychological terms we think he is or not, he should not be the President of the United States. I hate the way he treats the office, the American people, the Constitution, and even the world. If he won’t leave of his own volition he should leave in a strait jacket.

I know the Republicans have their own agenda. I have described what I think it is just recently in my article “It’s About Democracy”.

https://www.tremr.com/nancy-l-brisson-new-website-thearmchairobserver-/its-about-democracy

But why are they supporting the ridicule this person is heaping on the United States of America with his mind games and taunting and his incomprehensible belief that because he thinks he is smarter than us he can toy with us, hold us over a cliff by the back of our shirts and dangle us for a while. “Will he drop us to our death or won’t he?” Oh I don’t like this one bit and I don’t understand why anyone else likes it either.

Donald if you go your own way right now there will be not harm, no foul; no charges, no punishment, and you can go back to the life you enjoyed so much and be as nutty as you like. If you don’t I think the way you like to walk the lines at the edges of disaster will eventually catch up with you (and, sadly, perhaps with America.)