I Tried to Make Claims About Election Fraud So Preposterous Trump Fans Wouldn’t Believe Me. It Was Impossible.
I was acting as Trump and his minions do: free to say anything, no matter how ridiculous, with no basis in observable fact.
I don’t have words to describe the happiness and psychological relief this brought me. Only around tweet No. 50 did I comprehend how mentally oppressive I’ve come to find it to live in a country in which about a quarter of the other people are, for all intents and purposes, members of a cult.
What made the whole thing especially rewarding was using their own modus operandi against them. As a journalist, I’m constantly anxious about making sure every sentence, every word, is accurate. Now I was acting as Trump and his minions do — free to say anything, no matter how asinine or ridiculous, with no basis in observable fact and with no sense of responsibility toward others. The only thing that mattered was my own needs from second to second, and it felt fantastic.
But I simultaneously began to experience a growing sense of psychological gloom. Partly it was the sorrow and loneliness emanating from the Trumpist tweets. The throughline through all of them was a sincere fury from people about their lives, directed at imaginary causes. Clearly most of them had no one trustworthy with whom they could talk through their problems and possible solutions. Instead, they only had the inhuman online community of their fellow rage-heads.
What was worse, though, was the overwhelming sense that this was just a more intense version of the human condition — that our brains simply aren’t designed to comprehend the world around us. Instead, their main priority is keeping us part of the tribe. Absolutely anything can be ignored if awareness of it might exile us from our little group, and all actions up to and including violence are justified to prevent us from becoming aware of facts that contradict our belief system.
That’s why I’ve decided to delete all of these tweets in the next few days. I’m not worried about the threats toward me. But as with other old Twitter jokes that I deleted when David Duke and his fan club became aware of them, I’m concerned that there’s a small but real chance some of these tweets will someday show up in a mass shooter’s manifesto. It’s true that they’ve now escaped the lab, and I can’t recall them all, but at least removing the original source may reduce their spread.
So if you’d like to learn about how James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers that “The True citizen must deftroy all Trump ballots” (No. 52) or the retired anesthesiologist who held the lives of thousands of patients in his hands over decades and now is enraged that the Justice Department hasn’t thrown me in jail (No. 63), the clock is ticking. Start here and read down, and down, and down.
For my part, I’ll be contemplating whether the problems that humanity faces are simply beyond our capacity to handle. We only have one tool to deal with them, basic rationality about reality, and there’s nothing our minds hate more than that.