This Election Has Made Everyone Dumber, And May God Have Mercy On Our Souls

From Kubler-Ross's 'On Derp and Derping'

Today, brothers and sisters, we take as our text a reading from the Apostle Billy's epistle to the Madisonites:

What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

This election has had much the same effect upon us all, I say unto you, yea, even unto the point that sustaining pseudo-sermonish language is too great an effort to sustain, so let's just drop that. 2015-2016 has been bad for our brains. Let us count the ways.

Fact-Checking No Longer Matters

Let's not kid ourselves. Facts have always been somewhat overrated in politics. Democrats drove themselves nuts pointing out that Ronald Reagan thought trees cause pollution, nuclear missiles could be called back, and strapping young bucks were spending their food stamps on vodka, and it didn't do a bit of good. The man smiled and lied to America, and America begged for more smiling lies. But there's something breathtaking about Donald Trump's utter indifference to facts, and his insistence that lies are really really true. Politifact couldn't narrow 2015's "lie of the year" down to just one, so it just gave up gave the award to everything Donald Trump said. If, Crom forbid, he's elected, they may as well retire the award for four years.

And the lies were infectious -- Trump said he saw thousands of Muslims dancing in the streets of New Jersey when the twin Towers fell on 9/11, and not only did he never admit he was wrong, comment sections filled up with people who also "remembered" seeing the exact same thing. You could point out to them there was no video of such a thing, and all that meant was that the networks were hiding it -- yet nobody ever came forward with an old VHS cassette of the broadcast they'd saved since 2001, which you'd think would be the Win of the Year. But the thing never happened. And it makes no sense -- why would Muslims in New Jersey be celebrating an al Qaeda strike before anyone was sure who'd brought down the WTC? Oh. Sorry, there we go trying to treat a Trump statement as if it were even subject to rational thinking. Old habits die hard

Finally, the Trump campaign gave up trying to even explain their candidate's lies, and instead of admitting Trump had been mistaken and walking it back, simply went with George Costanza's axiom: "It's not a lie if you believe it."

Trump's lies have spawned meta-analyses: the Guardian recently tried to categorize a whole catalog of Trump lies, noting that he'll even "say 'wrong' when he hears his own quotes," but it has yet to hurt him. Even now that his handlers have locked his phone in a safe somewhere, Trump keeps lying, even about something as easily checked as how President Obama spoke about a pro-Trump protester at a Clinton rally. Electing Trump president could very well rip a hole in the very fabric of reality, or at least how we talk about reality.

The Past Is Another Country, And Donald Trump's Visa Expired

Donald Trump is his very own personal Ministry of Truth: he has always been at war with reality, and if in the past he said something different from what he's saying today, he just says "wrong. Never said it" and moves on. Donald Trump doesn't merely throw inconvenient facts down the Memory Hole; he IS the Memory Hole. One way he achieves this is by never being terribly specific in the first place, so when an inconvenient contradiction appears to arise, he or his staff can wish it into the cornfield. Muslim ban? He never said he'd ban _all_ Muslims (the statement is still on his website); what he meant all along was that immigrants from terrorism-prone areas would be subject to "extreme vetting." Global warming a Chinese-manufactured conspiracy to hold America back? Never said it, except for that time he did.

Donald Trump always opposed the Iraq war, even when he was for it. WaPo's Philip Bump posted this fascinating chart of the correlation between public opinion and Trump's evolving opinions on Iraq:

And so on. For old fogeys who maintain a pathetic belief in the outmoded concept of reality, it can be fun but ultimately fruitless to catch past-Trump seeming to contradict present-Trump. Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski had a good'un just yesterday, in which Trump appeared to be agreeing with the post-2012-election RNC "autopsy" which determined that passing comprehensive immigration reform was necessary:

Ah, but Trump only said the R's would never win another election "unless they do something" about immigration, not that he agreed with the then-current Republican sorta-consensus. Maybe "do something" meant Build The Wall. So there.

Journamalism Is Nice, But How About That 'Pussy' Tape?

News nerds been going nuts over Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold's deep dive into Donald Trump's virtually nonexistent charitable giving, mostly accomplished through the most basic, work-intensive investigative technique: Calling up charities that seemed likely to have received some of the "millions and millions" of dollars Trump says he's given to charities over the year, and keeping track of all the charities to which Trump had actually given money out of his own pocket. Fahrenthold's list, on a plain vanilla pad of paper, was an evolving record of nothing there; by the day before the election, he'd called just over 450 charities and only one had acknowledged a gift from Trump:

If Fahrenthold's reporting doesn't win this year's Pulitzer, the system is rigged. Someone on Twitter said Fahrenthold's notepad is destined to take up residence in the Newseum or the Smithsonian, and we agree. So how much impact did Fahrenthold's reporting on the bizarro world of the Donald J. Trump Foundation have on the election? Probably some -- it certainly reinforced the opinions of people who suspected Trump was a fraud. And out in the non-electoral world, his investigations led to an investigation of the Trump Foundation that's still ongoing. Happily, the Washington Post's editors handed David Fahrenthold another story that led to a measurable dip in Trump's polling:

So David Fahrenthold kind of lucked into winning reporter MVP for this election: People who really paid attention read his investigative work on Trump's hinky finances, and some of it -- the portraits his foundation bought, probably illegally -- even made it into the larger discourse around the election. But the story that really shook things up was the one about the Pussy Tape -- not that it's unimportant, because bragging about groping women would have ended anyone else's candidacy, especially after actual victims came forward. Then again, Trump's financial shenanigans should have brought him down, too, and seem more likely to predict how badly he might govern. (Very badly.) The grumpy sixth-grader inside us wants to say it's just not fair the financial fuckery matters less to voters than the Pussy Tape -- a body of such impressive investigative reporting should have had more of an impact, dammit. Same goes for Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald.

We'll close here, before we feel compelled to go off into the desert and commune with the tortoises. But damn, this election has done a job on our national sense of reality. By way of serendipity, we should mention that while we were writing this little thinky thing, NPR's Diane Rehm was doing an hour-long panel discussion of fact-checking, misinformation, and the election, and took a call from a very angry gent who had written an expose of the Global Warming fraud, and excoriated Rehm and all her guests for covering up the Real Truth.

Maybe David Byrne was right all along: Facts are pretty damn tricky:

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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