How America Got Divorced from Reality: Christian Utopias, Anti-Elitism, Media Circus | Kurt Andersen

Americans have always been magical thinkers and passionate believers in the untrue. We were started by the Puritans in New England who wanted to create and did create a Christian utopia and theocracy as they waited for the eminent second coming of Christ and the end of days. And in the south by a bunch of people who were convinced, absolutely convinced that this place they’d never been was full of gold just to be plucked from the dirt in Virginia and they stayed there looking and hoping for gold for 20 years before they finally faced the facts and the evidence and decided that they weren’t going to get rich overnight there. So that was the beginning. And then we’ve had centuries of buyer-beware charlatanism to an extreme degree and medical quackery to an extreme degree and increasingly exotic extravagant implausible religions over and over again from Mormonism to Christian Science to Scientology in the last century. And we’ve had this antiestablishment “I’m not going to trust the experts, I’m not going to trust the elite” from our character from the beginning. Now all those things came together and were super-charged in the 1960s when you were entitled to your own truth and your own reality. Then a generation later when the Internet came along, giving each of those realities, no matter how false or magical or nutty they are, their own kind of media infrastructure. We had entertainment, again for the last couple hundred years, but especially in the last 50 years permeating all the rest of life, including Presidential politics from John F. Kennedy through Ronald Ragan to Bill Clinton. So the thing was set up for Donald Trump to exploit all these various American threads and astonishingly become president, but then you look at this history and it’s like no we should have seen this coming. The idea of America from the beginning was that you could come here, reinvent yourself, be anybody you want, live any way you wanted, believe any thing you wanted. For the first few hundred years, like everywhere else in the world, celebrity and fame were a result of some kind of accomplishment or achievement, sometimes not a great accomplishment or achievement, but you did something in the world to earn renown. America really was the key place that invented the modern celebrity culture, which was, beginning a century ago, more and more not necessarily about having won a war or led a people or written a great book or painted a great painting, but about being famous, fame for its own sake. We created that, we created Hollywood, we created the whole culture industry and that then became what I call the fantasy industrial complex where, certainly in the last few decades more than ever more than anybody thought possible before, fame itself, however you’ve got it, was a primary goal for people. And again, as so many of the things I talk about in Fantasyland, not uniquely to America but more here than anywhere. And then you get reality television, which was this unholy hybrid of the fictional and the real for the last now generation where that blur between what’s real and what’s not is pumped into our media stream willy-nilly. There are now more reality shows on television than there were shows on television 20 years ago. And that’s another way for nobodies to become famous overnight. YouTube, another way for nobodies to become a famous overnight for doing almost nothing or nothing.

Let Me Explain Why Trump’s Core White Supporters Won’t EVER Turn Against Him

Better arguments will not win the day because they believe that Trump is part of an Apocalyptic narrative.

00:00
hi my name is Frank Schaefer I am a
writer and a painter sitting in my
studio in my bathrobe having just
finished painting this morning I tend to
work in the morning and getting ready to
take a walk with three of my my five
grandchildren but before I get up and
shower and shave and go out I just
wanted to share something with you and
that is that I’ve been talking to people
in the media and other folks who are in
politics and they all asked me the same
question and it goes something like this
Frank your background was in the
religious right your father was a
religious right leader can you explain
to us why
Trump’s most unwavering support comes
from evangelical Christians who say they
follow Jesus who’s teaching seems to go
across everything Trump is from his
arrogance to his lies to his
divisiveness and all the rest of it and
question mark close quotes and I think
it’s instructive to point out a couple
of things first of all it’s pretty much
beyond debate that Trump is mentally
unstable and unfit to be President as
such it’s also beyond debate that his
own lifestyle of philandering groping
women sexual assault bragging about it
three marriages immense amounts of
womanizing that he bragged about on
shows like Howard Stern’s radio show
would all be dismissed as filthy living
and satanic by evangelicals when it
would involve anybody else say their own
pastor who they would fire instantly if
he was caught doing a tenth of these
things and then you come to the racial
divisiveness and the outright support
for the KKK neo-nazis white supremacist
and others that’s easier to explain
because a lot of white evangelicals are
racists they come from a movement that
was in the forefront of segregation was
in the forefront of starting white
schools to get around integration of
public schools and so forth but that
said there are millions of white
evangelicals who are not racists and who
welcome people of other
is to our midst for instance their
brothers and sisters in Christ who are
Hispanic in the Pentecostal movement so
that begs the question why out of that
eighty-one percent vote from white
evangelicals are the core of the core
still hanging in with him and I think
what a lot of secular people who
question me don’t understand is that if
Trump is delusional it’s no accident
that his core support are the most
delusional and mentally unfit people in
America and that is religious fanatics
of all stripes fundamentalists of all
kinds this kind of fundamentalism isn’t
limited to America and India for
instance there are fundamentalist
nationalist Hindus murdering Muslims
because they say that some Muslim ate
some beef or killed a cow and in Israel
the the fundamentalist Orthodox Jews
there are circling the wagon and
essentially trying to turn that state
into a kind of an apartheid state where
Palestinians are treated to second-class
citizens and as someone who lived in
South Africa for a year while I was
making a movie there back in the mid
1980s I can say that when I visit the
State of Israel looks more and more like
apartheid South Africa so the phenomena
of the rise of delusional xenophobic
conspiracy theory Laden movements with
religious spin to them is universal it’s
what Iran is about it’s what Saudi
Arabia and the Islamists that it backed
all over the world through its Wahhabism
exporting radical violent Islam which
continues to do to this day is all about
so we’re part of a global phenomena but
that said the evangelical white group of
voters who supported Trump are his core
of his core support people talk about
hillbilly elegy and this sort of theory
of working-class America and blue-collar
America being left behind and yeah
that’s a contributing factor as is
racism and the rest of it but the core
of his support is delusional white
evangelical Christianity so what I have
to explain to my
questioners in the secular media and
often political operatives as well who
want to have my opinion because I’ve
been around the block I knew people like
President Reagan and Jack Kemp and the
Bush family and all the rest when I was
a religious right activists myself is
why as their support someone shakable so
let me explain very briefly here it’s
simple it’s not political support it is
support for a religious worldview they
have made Trump into a theological issue
about the return of Christ
there is a
group of evangelicals in the Pentecostal
movement and elsewhere who believe that
Trump somehow fulfills prophecy of being
perhaps an unjust King perhaps a wicked
man but very much like some of the kings
in the Old Testament stories has been
raised up nevertheless by God to do a
job and that is to purify America from
whether it’s transgenders or gay people
or purify America by appointing Supreme
Court justices that will overturn roe v
wade this prepares the way for the
return of Christ so showing them better
facts or that he’s told a thousand
verifiable lies at this point literally
or showing them that a $15 an hour
minimum wage is something that’s good or
that universal health care is what
Americans want or that college debt is
crushing the millennial generation and
that relief of college debt would be so
wonderful or that we really need a
genuine infrastructure program none of
this matters because the certainty
addiction brain of all fundamentalists
is delusional it changes in the same way
that drug addicts on opioid abuse change
it isn’t a question of choice it’s the
actual neural pathways in our brain
our
reshaped by belief sometime to the point
where you have this kind of epigenetic
inheritance among evangelical groups
where with their mother’s milk
evangelical children are taught to
reject the world’s wisdom ie science and
facts as fake news the real news is in
the Bible whether it’s about creation or
Genesis or the fact Noah’s Ark really
existed or whatever
be male female sexual relationships and
so forth so having set up a totally
alternative universe you have to
understand that evangelical Christianity
itself is like birtherism it is a
conspiracy theory that believes the
whole world it’s science its facts its
scholarship it’s academic elites the
media common-sense all of this is
somehow a conspiracy of Satan
to
distract real believers on track to get
to heaven when they die to receive Jesus
when he comes back to a more perfect
world where women’s rights have been
stripped away where gays are back in the
closet are dead where for a lot of them
it’s a white Protestant middle class
culture so get it through your heads
everybody better arguments are not going
to win the day
what is going to win is if we can
convince people that these religiously
fanatical certainty addicts are
dangerous and Trump is unleashing them
if you want to know where they’d like to
take America watch Handmaid’s Tale there
may be details in that that are wrong
but that’s their idea of a theocratic
heaven on earth logic has nothing to do
with it what we need to do is talk to
independent voters people who think both
parties are the same which is utter
nonsense and get there a pathetic
distance from the political process
cured by showing them who these
evangelical voters really are they’re
delusional fanatics there is delusional
and fanatical and demented as Donald
Trump they like him because he is an
image a secular image
albeit a
philandering image or beard but an image
of delusional delusional worldview and
so they look to him as a fellow
delusional conspiracy theorist
who
marches to the same drummer they do
which is alternative fact delusion lies
accepted as truth evangelicals think
from God Donald Trump thinks from his
own ego which is all
cares about he worships himself
but the
delusion cuts across both Trump and his
core followers they are deluded they are
in fact crazy thank you my name is Frank
Schaeffer

A Republic, If You Can Keep It: Masha Gessen Talks Autocracy with Timothy Snyder

51:57
from home here I mean I don’t know that
is is to say is do the people do your
authorities tell you to ignore facts or
not so before you know before we get
into I have one set of facts and you
have another
my authorities don’t tell me to ignore
facts do your authorities tell you to
ignore facts and of course miss Conway
does and mr. Trump does and mr. panic
Bannon does and that’s a difference they
are working towards this world of total
cynicism whereas whereas the people in
this other you know bubble which is
really a bubble because you can
penetrate it or not and that strikes me
as a qualitative difference and I also

Postmodernism didn’t cause Trump. It explains him.

We get the term “postmodern,” at least in its current, philosophical sense, from the title of Jean-François Lyotard’s 1979 book, “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.” It described the state of our era by building out Lyotard’s observations that society was becoming a “consumer society,” a “media society” and a “postindustrial society,” as postmodern theorist Fredric Jameson points out in his foreword to Lyotard’s book. Lyotard saw these large-scale shifts as game-changers for art, science and the broader question of how we know what we know. This was a diagnosis, not a political outcome that he and other postmodernist theorists agitated to bring about.

.. Jacques Derrida’s concept of “deconstruction” sought to understand language as a system capable of constantly hiding and deferring meaning, rather than a simple conduit for conveying it.
Another thinker, Jean Baudrillard, developed the concept of the “simulacrum,” a copy without an original, that leads to the “hyperreal,” a collection of signs or images purporting to represent something that actually exists (such as photos of wartime combat) but ultimately portraying a wild distortion not drawn from reality.
.. By the 1980s, conservative scholars like Allan Bloom — author of the influential “The Closing of the American Mind” — challenged postmodern theorists, not necessarily for their diagnosis of the postmodern condition but for accepting that condition as inevitable.
.. Unlike so many of today’s critics, Bloom understood that postmodernism didn’t emerge simply from the pet theories of wayward English professors. Instead, he saw it as a cultural moment brought on by forces greater than the university.
.. Bloom was particularly worried about students — as reflections of society at large — pursuing commercial interests above truth or wisdom. Describing what he saw as the insidious influence of pop music, Bloom lamented “parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it.” He called the rock music industry “perfect capitalism, supplying to demand and helping create it,” with “all the moral dignity of drug trafficking.”
.. Kimball called “Tenured Radicals,” in his 1990 polemic against the academic left. At the heart of this accusation is the tendency to treat postmodernism as a form of left-wing politics — with its own set of tenets — rather than as a broader cultural moment that left-wing academics diagnosed.
.. it treats Lyotard and his fellows as proponents of a world where objective truth loses all value, rather than analysts who wanted to explain why this had already happened.
.. If you’re going to claim that Trumpism and alt-right relativism are consequences of the academic left’s supposition about what was happening, you must demonstrate a causal link. But commentators looking to trace these roots play so fast and loose with causality that they could easily be called postmodernist themselves.
.. It is certainly correct that today’s populist right employs relativistic arguments: For example, “identity politics” is bad when embraced by people of color, but “identitarianism” — white-nationalist identity politics — is good and necessary for white “survival.” But simply because this happens after postmodernism doesn’t mean it happens because of postmodernism
.. figures such as “intelligent design” theorist Phillip Johnson and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich cite the influence of postmodernist theory on their projects. Yet, as McIntyre acknowledges — and documents extensively in his book — right-wing think tanks and corporate-backed fronts — like tobacco industry “research” — had already established an “alternative facts” program for the right, long before creative misinformation entrepreneurs came around.
.. because reading postmodern theory is so notoriously difficult — partly because of how philosophical jargon gets translated, and partly because so much of the writing is abstruse and occasionally unclarifiable — an undergraduate (as in Cernovich’s case) or a layperson will almost inevitably come away with misreadings.
.. Hannah Arendt’s 1951 “The Origins of Totalitarianism”: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction . . . and the distinction between true and false . . . no longer exist.” 
.. “The deliberate falsehood and the outright lie used as legitimate means to achieve political ends,” writes Arendt in her 1971 essay “Lying in Politics ,” “have been with us since the beginning of recorded history.”
.. Fredric Jameson’s reflections on conspiracy theory (“the poor person’s cognitive mapping in the postmodern age”) aren’t what’s convincing people to believe that climate change is a hoax or that the Democratic Party has been running a pedophilia ring out of a Washington pizza parlor.

.. Likewise, the claim that the Trump-Russia investigation is — as Trump said on national television — a “made-up story,” an “excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election,” is not a postmodernist critique of the evidence the Mueller investigation has gathered. So it’s a massive category error to call Trump’s post-truth politics “postmodernist.” It’s just the say-anything chicanery of the old-fashioned sales pitch.

.. it’s clear that the real enemy of truth is not postmodernism but propaganda, the active distortion of truth for political purposes.
Trumpism practices this form of distortion on a daily basis. The postmodernist theorists we vilify did not cause this; they’ve actually given us a framework to understand precisely how falsehood can masquerade as truth.

Transcript of Trump’s remarks at fundraiser in Missouri on March 14

.. I mean seriously, when you see what’s happening you look — we’re renegotiating NAFTA right now. I don’t know that we can make it good.

I tell people openly, because the best deal is to terminate it and then make a new deal. But I don’t know that we can make a deal because Mexico is so spoiled with this horrible deal that they’ve lived with, from our standpoint horrible.

So think of it, Mexico makes more than a hundred billion dollars a year on the United States. Now, how stupid is this.

But sometimes something is so good that you can’t — how do you? The best way? Terminate, let’s start all over again. Let’s start all over again. But some of the politicians are afraid to terminate, oh, we don’t want to terminate NAFTA. Take a look at these empty mills all over the place, that they turn into nursing homes, you know. Nice solid walls on the outside. But, it’s — it just can’t be.

I really think we’re making the point a lot of people are digging it. I will tell you, the people that really count, which is you, the workers, everybody, they’re really understanding what’s going on. Nobody’s done what I’m doing. I mean it’s sort of really virgin territory.

It’s absolutely virgin territory. It’s territory that our country for 50 or 60 or 70 years has not wanted to go there. They just haven’t for whatever reason.

And our wealth has been taken, our jobs have been taken, our companies have moved, and now they’re starting to move back. So it’s, it’s a formula that is, it’s just absolute — there’s disruption, there’s anger. And just remember, our friends that everybody says — our allies, our allies are wonderful — I love our allies. Our allies care about themselves, they don’t care about us. You look at our trade deficit with these countries are our allies. It’s unbelievable. And they understand it. I don’t blame them.

I told Japan — so we lose 100 billion dollars a year with Japan — 100 billion. So why aren’t we taxing their cars when they come in. Then we’d lose nothing. We might even make something. And you know what they’re going to do, they’re going to say we don’t want to pay that tax, so let’s build plants in the United States. They already have some. But they’ll expand them and they’ll build new plants. Because they don’t want to pay the tax — I want them to build new plants in the United States. Let them make United States here — like China makes them do, we have a company, they want to build planes over there, hate to say it, Boeing is being forced to build plants. I don’t like that, I don’t like it, so I’m not saying China’s wrong. I was with President Xi, I was with a big group of people, and I was saying how China is ripping off the United States. And he’s like “woo, this is uncomfortable.” [Laughter.] 700 press. I’m saying China is ripping off our — but I don’t blame you. I say, it’s great that you were able to do it for yourselves. I blame the people that represented our country, because they were not doing their job — they were delinquent in allowing this to happen to us. So we owe 21 trillion dollars. We lose 800 billion a year.

Josh will say, I don’t think I’m going to ruin [unintelligible.] Think of it, Josh. We lose 800 billion a year on trade. Who made these deals? Who made these deals?

Then you have certain people that think it’s okay to lose 800. You know, these worldly people. You know why they’re worldly people, because they have stuff on the other side. [Laughter.] That’s what it is. Can’t be any other reason. But we lose 800 billion dollars a year on trade. We lose our jobs, we lose everything.
And it’s not happening anymore, because it’s starting to come back. But over the next few months, you’re going to find it even more interesting. Because things are really — you know, we have, statutorily you have to do this, this, this, wait 90 days, wait six months, you can’t do it, you’re not allowed to legally. We have agreements that are so bad.

We have one agreement with a trade. I said when does that agreement terminate, it’s terrible. Sir, there is no termination. I said, what do you mean? We don’t have the right to term — I said, well, okay, after 10 years, 20 years. No sir, there is no right of term — I said what the hell kind of — So you know what I did, I just terminated. [Applause.]

Which would mean that’s, we’ll call it unconstitutional. There’s no end date. There’s no nothing. I’ll give you another example, Mexico, so they have this great deal. The day it was signed, it was a bad deal, because they have a 16 percent VAT tax, and we don’t. So they were already up 16 percent before the deal. And nobody saw that. And by the time they realized it, the deal was gone. But instead of adjusting the deal — what was that, 30 years ago when it was first signed — instead of adjusting the deal, we lived with it. What the hell difference does it make?

So they had a 16 percent step up advantage on us, and they have for many years. And Mexico and Canada — and, by the way, Canada, they negotiate tougher than Mexico. Trudeau came to see me, he’s a good guy, Justin. He said, no, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please. Nice guy, good-looking, comes in — Donald, we have no trade deficit — he was very proud, because everybody else you know were getting killed with our, so he’s [unintelligible]. I said wrong, Justin, you do. I didn’t even know. Josh, I had no idea. I just said, you’re wrong. You know why? Because we’re so stupid. [Unintelligible, laughter] And I thought they were smart.

I said you’re wrong, Justin. He said, Nope, we have no trade deficit. I said, Well, in that case, I feel differently, I said, but I don’t believe it. I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, Check, because I can’t believe it.

.. Well sir you’re actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn’t include energy and timber. But when you do we lose 17 billion dollars a year. It’s incredible. So you’re in good hands. And I need Josh to help [unintelligible]. [Applause.]

Claire McCaskill is a guaranteed negative vote on every single thing that you people stand for, and frankly that a vast majority of the people of Missouri stand for. It is a negative vote for our country. And you have to defeat Claire McCaskill. Last time she get very lucky. She got lucky — she was going to lose. That was a done deal. And then, something happened. I was watching, I said, oh! What happened. That was big! The next day I said, oh yeah, I was right, I watched that.

So you got to get her out. Bad for Missouri, bad for the country. And this is going to be a great United States senator. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

Trump, Flush With Power

This was the week Donald Trump became president.

Or at least the week he became the president we were always expecting. He ceased bothering to pretend that he was ever going to do the job in any normal sense of the word. He decided to totally own the whole, entire joke that he is.

He started hiring people right off TV. He extended his tiny fingers into his giant flat screen, “Purple Rose of Cairo”-style, and dragged cable conservatives directly into the administration.

We’ve always known Trump makes stuff up. But now he has stopped bothering to pretend that he doesn’t. Truthful hyperbole is out. Outlandish fabrication is in. Trump began bragging to Republicans at a private fund-raiser in St. Louis Wednesday: Oh, get a load of this trade stuff I made up to outfox that fox, Justin Trudeau. I felt bad doing it to such a nice, good-looking guy. But it’s hilarious!

He is no longer bothering to pretend that governing involves a learning curve. Now he finds it’s clever to be a fabulist, concocting phony facts about the trade deficit when talking to the Canadian prime minister — one of our closest allies — or inventing a story for donors about how Japanese officials test American cars by dropping a bowling ball on their hoods from 20 feet up to see which ones dent.

.. Trump & Friends presented this dizzying White House purge as a twisted version of him growing into the job, even as everyone else felt he was going in the opposite direction

.. Trump got his next moment of gross exaltation when Jeff Sessions, frantically trying to save his own job, fired Andrew McCabe hours before he became eligible for his government pension and on his birthday weekend. John Brennan, the former director of the CIA, tweeted that Trump will take his “rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.” Then the president’s lawyer, John Dowd, issued a statement Saturday saying he will “pray” that Rod Rosenstein “will follow the brilliant and courageous example” of Sessions and end the Russia investigation entirely.

Trump is giddy about all the CHAOS — he capitalized it on Twitter — feeling that he’s ridding himself of any idiots who called him a moron or dumb as a rock and any economists who don’t understand what a great dealmaker he is.

.. It’s the final Foxification of politics. Trump spends all his time watching Fox News, basing his opinions and tweets on it, and now he’s simply becoming one with it. He is even willing to overlook his distaste for the yeti mustache of the warmongering John Bolton and consider the Fox News analyst as a replacement for McMaster.

Roger Ailes would be so proud, if he were still alive and harassing women.

.. Trump thinks he’s a fabulously devious manager creating “great energy,” with great ratings coming from his talent for theatrical twists and turns. But he’s really inhumane, playing people against one another and widely discussing successors for officials who haven’t even been officially informed that they’re walking the plank. And, far from the A-team he promised, he’s hired a bunch of pathetic, disgusting swamp schnorrers who can’t stop using taxpayer money to fund their office furniture or office redesign or luxury plane trips with their wives.

“I like conflict,” Trump said this month at a press conference with the Swedish prime minister, smacking his fists together and adding, “I like watching it, I like seeing it, and I think it’s the best way to go.”

Never mind that a lot of the country — and the world — craves stability.

.. “I think Trump is royally pissed about the Mueller subpoena of the Trump Organization records,” Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio says about the special counsel crossing the president’s red line. “He fears the nakedness of his true business activities being revealed far more than the shame of ‘Access Hollywood’ or Stormy Daniels. Unlike the show of blank paper in file folders conducted when he supposedly stepped away from his businesses, this will require real documents, and I doubt he can count on people lying for him.”