Receiving and responding to the comments of thoughtful and well-informed people is one of the reasons I maintain this blog. Yesterday I put up a post entitled, How Stupid Are Trump Supporters? It featured a Hulu show in which a convener pretends to be conducting a focus group study into the effectiveness of ads Trump is considering for his campaign. In light of comments from The Mound of Sound and Pamela MacNeil, I realize that mine was a superficial effort at best. I am therefore taking the liberty of reposting their insights, and my responses to them, here.
First, The Mound of Sound:
I think, Lorne, that a large segment of any people fed a constant diet of half-truths and outright falsehoods will eventually succumb.My response:
I regularly write how the corporate media cartel has gone from watchdog of government to government's lap dog, especially when the government is right wing. Here's an example. When Dion and Layton were toying with the idea of a coalition majority government to displace a Harper minority, Canada's corporate media cartel spread the idea that this would be a constitutional coup d'etat, fiendish, the end of democracy. It was an outright lie. In fact that was how Harper's then BFF, John Howard, formed his government. As this utter lie circulated I was surprised at how many people I spoke with believed it.
Years ago 60 Minutes ran a segment about the Republican misinformation machine. Two key Repugs behind it openly described the system used to gain public acceptance of complete falsehood. It progressed through three stages.
The first stage was the open mouth radio shows - Limbaugh and others. They would float a rumour such as the stories about John Kerry's service in VietNam. From there it would be picked up by cable news - FOX in particular, first on their opinion shows (Hannity/O'Reilly) before migrating to the news department. Eventually it worked its way through the cable news milieu.
What began with the Limbaugh-bottom dwellers achieved a critical mass as it became established in cable news. From there it reached a point where the mainstream media - NYT,WaPo - could no longer ignore it and had to run the story or appear out of it. This was the formula used for the effective SwiftBoating of John Kerry.
The public, meanwhile, kept hearing the same lie over and over through progressively credible news services until they were getting it from the gold standard news outlets at the very top. Naturally many of them were conditioned to believe it.
The whole process is an insult to democracy, one that can quickly fester into something far worse.
Lies and half-truths are powerful weapons the unscrupulous wield invariably against their own. They use it to set the hook with those somewhat disposed to support them. Invariably they bait their hooks with generous amounts of fear and appeals to their prey's basest instincts. Harper did it. It works. We had a decade to see that in action.
Thanks for your in-depth analysis here, Mound. The failure of the media is manifest. In Dan Rather's memoir, he recounts something very similar happening around the time that he incurred right-wing wrath over calling out George Bush's military record. There was irrefutable proof that Bush was AWOL for a year, but the fledgling Internet quoted an early blogger (who was, in fact, a Republican operative) focusing on a particular document that must have been false because, he alleged, proportional spacing did not exist on the typewriters of that time. Proportional spacing did, in fact, exist, but once this blogger's words were in the air, it became a 'fact' that the document was false. The proof? The blogger's allegation and nothing more. It took off from there, ultimately resulting in Rather's dismissal from CBS.Now, Pamela MacNeil:
No presidential candidate in any past campaign has ever intentionally focused on these people. Whether it was democrats or Republicans these people were not even a thought in the minds of either candidates.Trump has given them life and continues to manipulate them under the disguise of fighting for them.My response:
Trump has made them believe, many for the first time in their lives ,that what they think and what they have to say matters.
They are not aware that now that they are visible, we are witnessing how pathetic they really are.Stupid yes, but pathetically so.
I almost feel sorry for them when I see them responding to the attention they get from Trump and his team. Something they have lived their whole lives without.
These guys have been ignored and dismissed politically, socially and culturally their whole lives. Now their being asked what they think. Living at the bottom of the intellectual ladder, this a moment where they think they can shine in an all too dreary life.
Listening and watching them is cringe worthy. Now they have been able collectively as Trump supporters to come together as a force. They are also an example of Mounds posting the other day on authoritarianism existing with the people not just their politicians, even when they are the mindless and the powerless.
I wonder what their numbers are.
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Pamela. I think you have identified a very important reason for Trump's support. While I have reacted largely with contempt to his acolytes, seeing them simply as responding to the racism he regularly appeals to, you have looked for a deeper underlying motivation.