Saturday, November 19, 2016

Political Notebook 6: The USA’s ‘Ministry of Truth’?

Is the USA heading for its own version of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth? To be sure, the country’s rightwing media, the Republican Party, and Don’s recent campaign all engaged in blatant attempts to re-invent the past and spin the present, both to hide the truth. But now that they have total power in Washington, this has much bigger implications.

Toward the end of the recent presidential campaign, the USA’s mainstream newsmedia began—very belatedly—engaging in real-time fact-checking to not just point out when Don was lying, but also to show the video evidence that he was lying about things he’d actually said. This was, it turned out, a largely hopeless endeavour, since Don’s fervent fans refused to believe anything that contradicted what their Leader was saying then, even if he was denying something they’d heard him say.

As a result of all this, there was a wholesale re-writing of history: President Obama and Hillary Clinton became singlehandedly responsible for the rise of Isis, Obama was responsible for the Global Financial Crisis (and Don’s fans wondered why President Obama didn’t take more presidential action to deal with it—before he was actually president…), and so on.

After eight years of obstructing President Obama, the Republican Party found that all they had to do was blame him for the obstruction and for everything that George Bush 2 had done wrong. They had discovered the core of Orwell’s “MiniTrue”.

The Ministry of Truth wasn’t only about rewriting the past, but also framing the present. That is now at the centre of the incoming regime and its hardcore supporters. Last week, we saw several bizarre examples of this, from various fervent fans, leaders of the hard right, and even Don himself.

Rightwingers in the USA, from the alt-right creeps to run-of-the-mill hard-right types, backed a boycott of PepsiCo because of totally made-up claims about the company’s (conveniently non-white and female) CEO. They called for the boycott over wild accusations of things she’d never actually said, and they quoted her wildly out of context about other things to make it seem as if she’d condemned Don, which she never did.

Then, we saw the spokesbigot for a powerful anti-gay hate group claiming that Planned Parenthood paid “$1500 per week” for people to protest Don and what he’ll do to the USA. To be clear, as if common sense weren’t enough, there is absolutely ZERO evidence that there is even a tiny bit of truth, which means that the bigot must be both lying and fully aware that he’s lying. Not that this is anything new for him, of course.

Even “mainstream” Republicans got into the act. One US Senator that the media decided to anoint as a “voice of reason” when he criticised Don took to social media to say—now that Don is elected—that he wonders why the newsmedia isn’t “reporting on paid rioting”, mimicking Don’s earlier unhinged rant as Leader of the Republican Party. Maybe they don’t report it because it’s a total, absolute and complete lie? Just a guess, Ben.

And then Don himself got into the act of lying about reality. He tweeted an utter lie that he’d “convinced” Ford to not do something they were never—EVER—going to do, which Don knew and decided to lie about, anyway, probably to inflate his ego and make himself seem like a player of some sort. Even the restrained Associated Press called Don’s lie “misleading”.

This is nothing new, of course. A BuzzFeed analysis found that “Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook”. What this means is that Don’s most fervent fans are used to fake news, lies, and spin, and have neither the aptitude nor the inclination to seek out facts, and THAT means that we’ll see a LOT more of the this sort of lying, obfuscation, spin, and utter bullshit.

This social media trend carries on in so many ways. Rightwingers on Facebook were sharing their declaration that not only had Don actually won the popular vote and not Hillary Clinton, they said it had been a landslide. As The Washington Post reported, in this case, it wasn't a lie as much clever and selective use of data to change the narrative from the truth—that they lost the popular vote—to one they liked, that they’d actually won it in a landslide. And their bizarre changing of facts to suit their propaganda was popular among rightwingers.

Within the past week, Corey Lewandowski, Don’s campaign manager until he was fired when he allegedly roughed-up a female journalist and then became a paid pro-Trump shill on CNN, declared that Don had “won the election campaign by the largest majority since Ronald Reagan in 1984." That was a lie—a demonstrably false lie, as Mother Jones pointed out. And so did Talking Points Memo. But, hey, at least ol’ Corey was honest about how the Republican FBI Director helped Don win.

Don’s Ministry of Truth may be mostly informal and partly outside of government, but that doesn’t change its intention to hide the truth, to lie about facts, and to spin reality to suit Don’s political ends.

In Don’s America, it seems, Ignorance Is Strength.

November 20: This post has been updated to include information on the attempts by the righwing to pretend that Don won the popular vote and that his was "the largest majority since Ronald Reagan in 1984."

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