Part 2—Narrative all the way down: Yesterday, we thought we saw something troubling at the new Salon, a relentlessly dumbed-down site.
What we saw speaks to the general spread of the political culture sometimes described as Trumpism. The troubling manifestation appeared in one of the new Salon's patented gong-show headlines:
TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2016 03:30 PM EDTAs usual, the new Salon's headline was misleading. In a break with current practice, it was only slightly so.
TV ad blasts “Debt Trap Debbie” Wasserman Schultz for supporting predatory payday lenders
Allied Progress campaign condemns the DNC chair for "sabotaging" federal regulation of payday lenders, who fund her
The new TV ad in question doesn't specifically refer to Wasserman Schultz as "Debt Trap Debbie," at least not in its spoken content. That said, the low-information ad does direct viewers to a site, DebtTrapDebbie.com, through its use of a chyron.
The ad and the site come from a "progressive" group supporting Wasserman Schultz's opponent. To our mind, this suggests that the low-IQ culture called Trumpism is growing and spreading quite fast.
At present, Candidate Trump is running against an opponent he persistently describes as "Crooked Hillary." This follows his use of similar simple-minded references against his primary opponents.
Is Hillary Clinton actually "crooked?" In the end, inevitably, that's a matter of judgment.
But as a matter of political argument and reasoning, no major party nominee has ever adopted such simple-minded rhetoric as the rhetoric Trump employs when he throws darts in this manner.
The technique comes straight from the cartoon culture of Superman comic books, where Metropolis was constantly under threat from cartoonized comic book villains. Its logic comes from the low-IQ world of professional wrestling, a world with which Candidate Trump has a long association.
Candidate Obama was the first black major-party nominee. Candidate Trump will be the first major-party nominee who is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately, he speaks and "reasons" exactly like such a candidate.
As the general election approaches, Candidate Trump rails against the person called "Crooked Hillary." In Florida, a progressive group now rails against "Debt Trap Debbie." As we see this rhetoric spread, we see a quantum leap in the dumbing of our nation's political discourse.
According to the creator of Dilbert, this dumbing of the public discourse explains why Trump will win in November.
Will Donald J. Trump get elected this fall? We have no way of knowing. But we do think it's a possibility, and we think Dilbert's line of reasoning is very much worth a review.
Dilbert's creator is Scott Adams; he has a background in hypnosis, which can be a handy tool. According to the Washington Post's Michael Cavna, Adams thinks Trump will win for the following reasons:
According to Dilbert, six reasons why Trump will winIn his profile of Adams' thinking, Cavna briefly explains, or attempts to explain, each of those points. Cavna's explanations aren't great, but those basic points deserve full consideration.
1. Trump knows people are basically irrational.
2. Knowing that people are irrational, Trump aims to appeal on an emotional level.
3. By running on emotion, facts don’t matter.
4. If facts don’t matter, you can’t really be “wrong.”
5. With fewer facts in play, it’s easier to bend reality.
6. To bend reality, Trump is a master of identity politics—and identity is the strongest persuader.
Might we note one more basic point? Cavna is describing a process we've long discussed at this site.
This process didn't start with Candidate Trump. We've discussed the decades-long growth of this process—of this intellectual culture—within the work of the professional guild and social club still described as "the mainstream press corps."
We've endlessly described this culture in the following way:
Increasingly, facts and logic have come to play almost no role in the work of the mainstream press. Facts are no longer a part of the game. It's narrative all the way down.
Essentially, that's the culture Adams describes as he analyzes the work of Candidate Trump.
When Trump reduces the discourse to fact-free, wildly embellished accounts of the depredations of "Crooked Hillary," he is dumbing the discourse all the way down. But he's following a model which has long been established within the mainstream press corps.
"Al Gore is willing to say and do anything" isn't much different from "Crooked Hillary." But these silly, cartoonized portraits have been the basic stuff of "the mainstream press" at least from 1992 on.
Tomorrow, we'll revisit The Manchurian Candidate. For today, let's stress a few more key points:
The dumbness of this cartoon culture represents the death of the Enlightenment ideal of the democratic process. When the public discourse gets this dumb, that process has ceased to exist.
That said, it's important to understand these points:
The spread of that culture through the mainstream press has been tolerated by the liberal world every step of the way. Beyond that, the silly cartooning which Trump employs is increasingly an artifact of our own "liberal" culture.
Rachel Maddow now sells us cartoons every night of the week. She has been getting rich and famous as part of this low-IQ process.
We liberals seem to be too dumb to spot this process when it occurs within our own tents. Now we rush to play the same game, inveighing against Debt Trap Debbie.
The use of such lingo is pure Trumpism; it's Trumpism all the way down. So is the cartooning and clowning in which Maddow routinely engages.
We liberals! We can't seem to spot the Trumpism being performed within our own tribe. Have we been hypnotized in some way? Are we hypnotized all the way down?
Tomorrow: Maddow and Trump in Manchuria