TUESDAY, JANUARY 5, 2021
But does he believe what he says?: Saturday morning, a C-Span caller from North Dakota taught an important anthropology lesson to that channel's viewers.
Aristotle is said to have said that man [sic] is the rational animal. In a modern adaptation, establishment pundits routinely say that we, the American people, are pretty sharp.
Within our culture, we humans tend to flatter ourselves in such ways. But then, along came the caller from Bismarck, explaining why he doesn't plan to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
To review the caller's full statement, see yesterday's report. Here's the (highly instructive) closing passage:
JOHN FROM BISMARCK (1/2/20): Plus, I know this might sound kinda weird, but I'm a, I'm a movie buff, and I've watched World War Z and I Am Legend. And those movies, all that trouble came after people got the vaccinations. It wasn't disease that caused all the issues, it was the vaccination. So that's my thoughts.
In two Hollywood films, vaccination led to zombification. While he knew that his reasoning might sound weird, the caller cited this as part of his reason for eschewing vaccination.
Similar calls are fielded by C-Span every day of the week. They help us see the actual way many good, decent people perform their cogitations about events of this type.
Why did that Wisconsin pharmacist deliberately spoil 500 doses of Covid vaccine last week? Here too, we receive an anthropology lesson concerning the way we people sometimes reason:
DEWAN AND NOLAN (1/5/20): A pharmacist who was arrested on charges that he intentionally sabotaged more than 500 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine at a Wisconsin hospital was “an admitted conspiracy theorist” who believed the vaccine could harm people and “change their DNA,” according to the police in Grafton, Wis., where the man was employed.
The police said Steven Brandenburg, 46, who worked the night shift at the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis., had twice removed a box of vials of the Moderna vaccine from the refrigerator for periods of 12 hours, rendering them “useless.”
“Brandenburg admitted to doing this intentionally, knowing that it would diminish the effects of the vaccine,” the police said.
The attempt to destroy precious doses of the vaccine came over the holidays as the state worked to administer vaccines quickly to frontline health care workers. As of Saturday, the state had received 159,800 doses of vaccines and had administered 64,657, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the Moderna product is sometimes described as a “genetic” vaccine, it does not alter a person’s genes in any way.
As President Reagan might have said, "There we went again!" Meanwhile, who knows? It's always possible that this fellow had been influenced by World War Z too!
How much of this type of cogitation is out there? It's hard to quantify a matter like that, but ideation associated with Trumpism has moved through a well-known chain of false-to-crazy beliefs.
It started with the belief that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. It moved to the belief that Hillary Clinton was holding children in sexual slavery in a Washington, D.C. pizza joint.
From there, the ideation moved on to the QAnon theory, according to which the world is run by a cabal of cannibalistic child abusers. Also, there's all those things the president said during his recent phone call.
Does Trump believe the various things he said during that midday call to Georgia, which lasted just over an hour? We'll admit that the crazy, pitiful call increased our sense that he quite possibly does believe the various things he's been saying of late.
Quite a few others have said the same thing about Trump in the past 48 hours. We'll post John Heilemann's assessment below, but first we'll offer this thought:
We were struck by the dumbness of President Trump—by his remarkable lack of intellectual sophistication—when we encountered one of the statements he made on the phone that day. Pitifully but typically, the commander-in-chief actually said this at one point:
TRUMP (1/2/20): Do you think it’s possible that they shredded ballots in Fulton County? Because that’s what the rumor is. And also that Dominion took out machines. That Dominion is really moving fast to get rid of their, uh, machinery. Do you know anything about that? Because that’s illegal...
Were ballots shredded in Fulton County? According to Trump, his inquiring mind wanted to know "because that’s what the rumor is!"
The commander in chief had heard a rumor; now he was checking it out. It was a wondrously unguarded remark, one which leads us back to our question:
Does he believe all this stuff?
It is possible that Donald J. Trump believes that he won the election? We'll admit that Saturday's telephone call makes us think, once again, that he quite possibly does—that he actually is that disordered in the cognitive realm.
It seems to us that Donald J. Trump may really believe this stuff! But you don't have to take it from us. Below, you see what John Heilemann has now said.
Heilemann, a trusted guardian of upper-end script, was reciting for Nicole Wallace on yesterday's Deadline White House. When he got his chance to speak, he joined Nicole's two other guests in reciting the scripted claim that Trump sounded like a mafia don, mafioso or capo during the telephone call.
By now, that's mandated script. But as Heilemann continued, he tried to explain why Wallace had found the tape of the phone call so hard to listen too. You can watch the video here, but this is what Heilemann said:
HEILEMANN (1/4/20): Part of my thinking gets to what made it hard for you to listen to. There are a bunch of D-words that come to mind, right?
There's the desperation in his voice. There's the derangement and the delusion. He clearly has come to believe more than he did months ago, back in like middle of November, he's clearly come to believe more, and reporting suggests that this is true, that he really actually believes these conspiracy theories now.
This is not just a political ploy. He believes the craziest of the conspiracy theories now.
According to Heilemann, Trump really believes his various claims at this point in time. Trump believes even the craziest claims, Heilemann said.
According to Heilemann, Trump really believed, when he spoke on the phone, that he actually won the Georgia election. He believed that hundreds of thousands of votes had been stolen or manufactured, and that the people to whom he was speaking were part of this large conspiracy.
According to Heilemann, the master commander believes these crazy claims. And as he extended his list of D-words, Heilemann noted a point of concern:
HEILEMANN (continuing directly): So the derangement, the delusion, the detachment from reality. The thing you said a second ago—he sounds damaged.
He sounds like a damaged person, and there's something deeply upsetting and unnerving about hearing a president of the United States in these final days when all of us are just like counting the minutes that we hope we can escape safely with the country intact by January 20.
The level of damage that's on display here, you think to yourself, "What wouldn't this guy do?" And I think that's part of why the whole thing is so unnerving.
Trump sounds damaged, Heilemann said. This led him to pose a very good question—what wouldn't this damaged guy do?
Heilemann went on to mention one more D-word. "Just how dumb could you be?" he asked, referring to Trump's decision to plead his case to the Georgia officials.
In truth, we found ourselves asking that same question as Heilemann funneled his thoughts about the phone call into a string of D-words. But also, as he stated that point of concern:
You think to yourself, "What wouldn't this [damaged] guy do?"
For ourselves, we've long believed that that's an extremely good question. But Heilemann—dumb as a rock and twice as scripted—didn't consider the horrible possibility we ourselves have long had in mind.
We're focusing on one question today—does Trump believe his own twaddle? According to Heilemann, yes, he does—and also, Trump is damaged.
According to Heilemann, Trump's damaged state is "unnerving." But even at this very late date, Wallace didn't ask a psychologist or a medical specialist to comment on the commander's possible emotional and/or cognitive state. Nor did she explore the most important question as she chuckled along with her guests:
How dangerous might this disordered person actually turn out to be?
Tomorrow, we'll move ahead to that question, but also to the massive scripting which has dominated programs like Deadline White House in the past 48 hours. Over here, within Our Town, all the players know their lines, much as QAnon devotees know the outlines of their lunatic tales in this, our modern Babel.
In this, our modern Babel, the QAnon types recite their tales, as do the various political hacks who are enabling Trump in his endless claims and machinations.
Those political players—the Hawleys, the Cruzes—are sticking to their current scripts. So are the obedient players hauled out for Deadline White House.
Each group has its own language, assembled from first cousins to rumor. So goes this, our modern Babel, in these final days.
Tomorrow: "Lock him up!"