Donald Trump’s rise poses many threats to America — he’s an illiberal democrat hell-bent on coming to power through a mixture of scapegoating and denouncing those who dare oppose his moronic worldview. Both serve as dangerous precedents for American democracy; it is the latter, though, that can infect more than just a mischievous faction.
It takes but a short scroll through Trump’s outlandish Twitter feed to discover his contempt for opposition. Oftentimes, his ire and love of elementary school insults are directed towards the free press — generally reporters who dare question his knowledge, point out his inconsistencies, and who simply share his quotes. Luckily for Trump, he has a cult of dedicated followers who think that Trump, and Trump alone, speaks the truth. His followers refuse to accept all the evidence that clearly says Donald Trump is stupid and dangerous for democracy; by steadfastly ignoring all critical coverage of Trump, these voters become stupid as well.
They believe that media outlets try to bring Trump down (a view they believe only because Trump has repeated it at essentially every one of his rallies). The Cult of Trump operates in a bizarre and fallacious logical circle: Any Trump statement is true because Trump himself said it (begging the question). This means that Trump voters are misinformed — dangerously so — and that stupidity permeates and defines a sect of voters devoted to the election of a man antithetical to American values and our Founding ideals.
A well-functioning liberal democracy relies on the Fourth Estate (the free press) to inform the electorate. We need objective reporters to relay stories, vet information, and hold candidates accountable for previous actions and statements. By and large, that is what the American press does. Trump, however, has made it his mission to undermine a number of our country’s best news outlets — most notably, the New York Times and the Washington Post — because the two bother to do actual reporting.
Recently, the New York Times wrote a piece interviewing a number of women with whom Trump interacted in his pre-politician, playboy days. They relayed quotes and stories in an objective manner. The reader could come to any conclusion desired (and the natural conclusion is that Trump is a vile sex-hound with little regard for females). One of the women interviewed took issue with the piece, claiming that it misrepresented her story. But such accusations have little factual bearing: She could point out no incorrect or falsely attributed quotes and the New York Times shared her anecdote as she described it. They did not editorialize or share their own conclusions.
That did not stop Trump from repeatedly attacking the Times on Twitter (his bully pulpit). For days, he has hurled baseless accusations at the paper and the reporters involved with the story. His cronies often appear on Fox News and, unchallenged, repeat the same attacks. Fox, for its part, tweets quotes to its 9 million Twitter followers without bothering to accompany such tweets with facts or reality. Does Fox know that Donald Trump is stupid? Surely, but apparently for Fox, party allegiance comes before the well-being and intelligence of the nation. Fox is complacent in myth spreading.
Trump voters, who believe every word out of Trump’s mouth, see such attacks and insults and surmise that the New York Times is “out to get” Trump and that they can therefore ignore every piece written by the Times. In other words, operating with numerous logical fallacies (begging the question and a point of origin fallacy), Trump supporters dismiss, out of hand, the Times’ reporting. They simply ignore facts, quotes, and stories from the outlet because the outlet bothers to actually look into Trump and his disgusting behavior. These Trump voters become dangerously misinformed as they receive one-sided information that portrays Trump as a God among humans — we see that Donald Trump is stupid, they see that he is infallible, a man fit to be Emperor.
The New York Times is not alone. Recently, Trump has derided the Washington Post as a tax haven for its owner, Jeff Bezos. These accusations, of course, have no basis in reality, but that doesn’t stop Trump and it certainly does not stop his cult from ignoring all the Post has to offer.
In some ways, Trump’s dismissal of the Post as an honest news platform does more to perpetuate stupidity than do his attacks on the Times. The Washington Post has a number of blogs dedicated to bringing academic research to the public. Two of these blogs — The Monkey Cage and Wonkblog — offer incredible and incredibly important analyses of politics and policy. The Monkey Cage is run by political scientists; Wonkblog, though operated by journalists, always seeks to incorporate academic findings. Both blogs offer a wealth of information and plentiful analysis, the likes of which often find their way into collegiate syllabi.
But this fountain of knowledge is seen by only a few. Trump’s attacks on the Post mean that blogs premised on analysis and research by the best professors in certain fields does not make its way into policy discourse. Findings are neither vetted nor read by Trump supporters; rather, they are ignored, chastised, and laughed at. Donald Trump is stupid for ignoring all the evidence that points to the insanity of his policy ideas. His supporters are stupid for believing, as fact, everything Trump says and making it their mission to discredit all news sources that dare challenge that assumption.
It’s a shameful way to treat accessibility to knowledge.
Trump voters are misinformed precisely because they ignore analysis and anything that might challenge their preconceived notion of Trump as a mythical, higher being sent from the heavens to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain (I must have missed the point in time when we ceased to be a great nation). These individuals rely on sources such as Drudge and Breitbart (in which Trump might have a financial stake) for information.
Ironically, it is these two sites that have a clear and unmistakable ideological inclination. They are sources dedicated to ensuring Trump’s election. An echo chamber is created wherein Trump supporters see and accept only the information that brings Trump to new heights. All countervailing analysis — even that premised on Trump’s own words and actions — is rejected without thought or reason.
We know that Donald Trump is stupid. But his supporters don’t. And they never will. It leaves voters dangerously misinformed and completely unable to vet policies.
Worst of all, it represents a major party’s candidate undermining the free press and attacking knowledge in order to maintain a Cult of Stupidity that will follow him on the dark, illiberal road to proto-fascism.
Support the website by checking out this shirt on Amazon! (Click the image to go to the store.)