Opinion

Denying Reality Is How Trumpists Pray

It's not about intelligence; it's about faith.
It's not about intelligence; it's about faith. Photo by Doug Beckers via Flickr
The last several weeks have been a wave of easily disproven nonsense that outclasses everything we have endured even in the last four years. As Donald Trump’s electoral loss becomes more and more officially certain, the conspiracy theories get louder. It’s even reached up to our own Attorney General Ken Paxton. Does he actually believe that Texas can sue other states to not have their votes counted, or is our indicted top cop merely trying to get Trump’s attention for a pardon before the fruits of the federal investigation into him come ripe? Who knows?

What is certain is that nothing seems to penetrate this wall of bullshit. No matter how silly things get, and we have people claiming that voting machines in Georgia were hacked by the ghost of Hugo Chavez at this point, it doesn’t seem to make a dent in Trump’s support. That’s been a trademark since he rose to power.

I’ve watched medical professionals follow his lead in not adhering to COVID protocols, and nurses in NICUs swear that the Democrats are aborting heathy third-term fetuses despite their own lived experience in the field to the contrary. There are people dying in COVID wards right now who swear they don’t have the disease because it’s a hoax. Odds are, you have someone in your life that should know better mindlessly parroting some bit of empty drivel that originated in the Trump lie machine.

It’s not a matter of intelligence. It’s not even that they’re being misled by kooks and grifters, although they are. The reason things are like this is because Trumpism is a religion and these expressions of madness are an inherent aspect of faith.

Trump’s brand of politics is an almost textbook definition of fascism, and fascism more than most political ideologies has always acted as a religion. The concepts of a fall from greatness and a need for an apocalyptic reckoning to bring back the “proper” order are inherent in most fascist movements as well as many cults. It’s present in Trumpism, and it’s gotten numerous boosts from QAnon and the spreading of misinformation on social media.

That said, the misinformation is not the cause of people’s reticence to the truth. It’s the expression of it.

To understand the religion of bullshit, you have to wrap your head around the worldview Trumpism offers. Basically that is: the country is under attack from “outsiders.” These outsiders are a loose and often contradictory group of ethnic minorities, socialists and communists, wealthy Hollywood personalities, LGBT people, Jews, and the Democratic Party. The goal of this cabal is to destroy America’s identity, which is manifested mostly in an unregulated capitalist cishet white hegemony.

These forces are assumed to be lying to promote their agenda. That means that any “truth” they may espouse is only a propaganda tool and an opinion no matter how demonstrably true it actually is. Rejection of whatever they say is not about who is right, but about who is remaining pure to their given moral ideals. It is “get thee behind me, Satan.”

When Trumpists deny climate change or the fact that socialized medicine reduces abortions more than outlawing them, it’s not a debate over facts. It’s not even a debate over feelings. What is happening is, in their mind, a battle for their very soul. They are being offered something unholy, and they are showing their piety by refusing to listen.

Acceptance of bullshit, no matter how much it conflicts with the facts in front of them, is very much akin to a person with a sick child manically insisting that God will heal them. Taken far enough, parents sometimes begin to see doctors as interfering in the divine magic and reject the evidence that science presents. It’s not because they have better evidence; its because the battle is now between what they perceive as two separate faiths. That is the headspace we're dealing with. Things like addressing our income inequality or making voting fairer aren't just political; it’s interfering with God’s plan.

Unfortunately, social media has made this mindset performative. Now, it’s not just personal. It becomes a contest to see who can deny reality the hardest because whoever does so is the most holy. The more a person is able to twist his or her logic around a necessary conclusion for the glory of Trump and the conservative cause, the more it proves their specialness. They aspire to be untainted by the left’s lies, and fully give themselves to the One True Way.

At that point, it’s not even lying anymore. It’s speaking in tongues and handling snakes. It’s mania, or if you prefer, ecstasy. Every meme about secret Democrat pedophiles, every comment on a news story talking about massive voter fraud, is not actually a statement about facts. It letting everyone know that the person saying it is one is a believer.

When facts become tools of the devil, all that is left for God is lies. That’s why the people trapped in Trumpism can’t be reached. Denying objective reality is how they pray.
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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner