Trump is doing it on purpose
Answer: I think both.
1/ Yale professor and author of How Fascism Works, @jasonintrator, thinks Trump acts purposefully: “Trump is cynically using a set of fascist tactics to gain and maintain power,” he said.
2/ One fascist tactic is to clear away facts and create myth.
Timothy Snyder, another Yale professor, says Trump “naturally and gracefully inhabits a world of fiction.” For Trump, there IS no truth. It’s all a lie.
3/ As Trump sees it, we’re all in this story together, so Trump’s task is to make the story a good one.
Trump is encouraged to lie by his fans, who cheers his lies even though they know they’re lies. See my Slate article.
4/ The whole “successful businessman” thing was a myth. Trump was a failed businessman who played a successful businessman on TV: He acted the part so well people believed it. The shiny gold buildings came from money laundering and cheating.
5/ One reason his base cheers is because he tells perfect fascist lies, like this one: “You are being victimized by your enemies (Democrats, immigrants, minorities etc)! I am a strongman who will fight them for you!” His base is thrilled and cheers the fight.
5/ Fascist in the 1930s spread the wealth. Today’s fascists want to be billionaires AND powerful, so they enrich themselves at the expense of the people.
This also comes naturally to Trump. Just look at the AG NY suit against the Trump Foundation, accusing the Trumps of “persistently illegal conduct” & “repeated and willful self-dealing transactions.”
6/ A person who sets up a charity as a personal slush fund has no moral compass, which is also a fascist requirement since cruelty is necessary.
7/ Gaining power by enriching themselves at the people’s expense is self-fulfilling.
As the leader gets richer at the expense of the people, the people get poorer and feel more pain, which makes them angrier at the “enemies,” making it easier for the leader to keep them riled.
8/ Fascist leaders also govern by creating crisis and spectacle. Leaders of representative republics, on the other hand, govern by trying to improve the lives of the citizens. For more on that, click here.
9/ Governing by crisis and spectacle also comes naturally to Trump.
Fascist leaders learn from each other. They all take cues from Putin. I’m pretty sure Bolsonaro learns from Trump and not the other way around. They use these tactics deliberately.
10/ Much of TwitterLand (the left leaning regions) are persuaded that Trump is stupid. I’m afraid they’re wrong, and underestimating Trump.
11/ James Comey, who worked directly with Trump, says Trump has above average intelligence.
One reason people underestimate Trump, I think, is because they compare his behavior to normal presidents. But he isn’t trying to be a normal president.
12/ It’s easy to assume Trump lurches from crisis to crisis because he’s incompetent and stupid. It takes a mental adjustment to realize we have a president who is trying to create crises.
13/ To take another example, people make fun of how much TV Trump watches.
In fact, much of Trump’s success comes from his ability to control the national conversation. He has to watch, to figure out his game.
He’s really good at manipulating everyone.
14/ Trump can send everyone into lengthy spins with a single tweet.
People underestimate how powerful these tactics are. Russian propagandists, for example, allow the truth to be told. But they flood the truth with so many lies that nobody can focus on the truth.
15/ Spreading a lie is easier than talking about a complicated, nuanced truth.
16/ Flooding the zone with lies is a brilliantly simple way to torpedo truth. Without truth you can’t have rule of law. Without rule of law, Trump escapes accountability.
As @jasonintrator says, without truth, you can’t speak truth to power. So there’s only power.
17/ Another reason people think Trump is stupid is because he didn’t manage the campaign that put him into the White House. The Russians did. Trump went along for the ride. So people assume Putin is orchestrating the presidency.
18/ But Trump is perfectly capable of lying and manufacturing spectacle.
Liberal democracy is like ping pong.
Trump is bowling.
Every time he throws a heavy ball to the ground, people think he’s screwing up.
Meanwhile, his fellow-fascists laughs at those wimpy ping pong balls.
December 27, 2018