#FakeNews & @RealDonaldTrump

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

By Reed Galen

#FakeNews sprung from the ether of the Internet in 2016 and today is a constant reminder that half the country doesn’t believe anything, at any given moment. If CNN says something, President Donald Trump actually takes time to call them out from the Blue Goose. If Fox News reports on a story, the American left turns its back and closes its eyes. No matter what, half the things we read are worthy of disbelief, or better yet, unbelief.

The speed and velocity of #FakeNews may be more front and center today than ever, but conceptually its not new. For the past decade, since the advent of the smart phone, high speed internet and reality television, Americans as a people have been more than happy to trade the truth of everyday life for the escapism of following terrible rich people on basic cable and passing off perfectly cropped and framed photos of ourselves as the truth we present to the world.

Our ability to find anything and everything we want to read or see online vastly accelerated the now common-place segmentation of our politics. When you go online only to find what makes you happy or to enjoy someone else’s schadenfreude, we collapse the synapses that once allowed for open-mindedness, civil debate and simple difference of opinion. We shouldn’t be surprised by fake news when the only thing too many of us look for are stories we only 100% agree or 100% disagree with.

Early 2017 in Washington is a shining example of our willingness to suspend reality and trade our beliefs for political expediency (also something not new but go with me.) In 2016, Team Red believed X and Team Blue believed Y. But now that Donald Trump is president and Republicans control Congress, completely unexpectedly, Team Red is outraged at X while Team Blue flops around defending Y. Our elected leaders aren’t even pretending to hold ideological beliefs dear anymore.

While many of President Donald Trump’s opponents may see him as illegitimate, he is all too real. He is the physical manifestation of our reality-television-based world transcending the barriers of the quasi-fiction to something with which we (and the rest of the world) must actually contend. Trump, whether you like him or not, is as real as it gets. He is a walking, talking mid-brain. It’s all emotion and fight-or-flight response all the time.

Trump is bound by neither the rites nor rituals that governed America’s first 44 presidents. There hasn’t been an American president who doesn’t believe that they’re constantly and unfairly attacked by political opponents and hen-pecked by their friends. The difference? Trump takes to his (un-secured) Android phone to share his grievances with literally the entire world. Like a child who has not yet learned, or been taught, that irrational emotional outbursts are socially unacceptable, Trump has been only more and more successful on the back of his toddler-like behavior. The only thing he hasn’t done is stomp his foot and storm away.

The New York Times’ story about how President Trump spends his evenings in the White House was hyper-reality. Here is a lonely guy, left to his own devices in a big empty house after dark. His wife and youngest son in New York, his closest daughter and son-in-law are down the street, but already settling into their version of the DC set. So who do we have as president? A septuagenarian empty-nester who, like so many others, sits in his bathrobe and slippers at night and screams at cable news.

Normally a president’s senior staff would have some ability to leaven or moderate their boss. This West Wing is both unwilling and unable to do so. The likes of Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller constantly press the adrenaline injector on the president, ensuring Trump will never have a measured response to anything, no matter how small the issue or the slight. The balance of the staff have neither the White House experience nor the innate competence to compensate for an irrepressible personality. The rest, or some mix of all of them, leak juicing details of the inner-workings of the West Wing for their own purposes and at the expense of someone they’re trying to destroy in the eyes of a completely visual and media-drive chief executive.

President Trump and his White House are an expansion of Virtual Reality America. It is the merely the latest and loudest extension of the America we’ve become in the second decade of the 21st century. Too many of us are now collectively driven by a constant stream of hyperbolic information that is both unhealthy, unnecessary and prevents us from digesting events, good and bad, and allowing some modicum of perspective to blossom. This won’t change in the next four years, maybe it never will. This is our #NewReality.

Copyright 2017. Jedburghs, LLC.

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