A lie gets halfway around the world
before truth puts on its boots.
In the present circumstances, “going viral” is a bitterly ironic description of the spread of false, negative and dangerous ideas, claims and themes on the internet.
The right wing is less a political movement in any ordinary sense than a sect or a tribe, and its impulse is rejection of order and commonality. Its reaction to the coronavirus crisis consists of conspiracy theories, denial of basic facts, and obstruction wrapped in faux patriotism. Once such idiocy would have had a limited influence, but now, thanks to the internet, it races to a vast audience conditioned to accept, repeat and, in some cases, act on it. Better communication breeds greater ignorance.
Lest any among that audience question the claims, the Babbler-in-Chief offers reassurance and reenforcement, as with his inane encouragement of rallies demanding reopening: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and most irresponsible of all, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
Some of the protesters showed poor judgment in joining the rallies, both as to association and the need for continued distancing, but carried signs reflecting genuine concerns, such as “Earning a living is essential. Reopen” and “I want my job back. Reopen.” Other signs demonstrated the effects of viral lies: “Fake crisis,” “COVID-19 is a scam,” “COVID-19 is a lie,” and “It is just a cold virus.” Those and the chant “Fire Fauci” captured the anti-science, down-with-facts mentality. The tendency of the right toward separatism was revealed by the presence of Confederate flags and guns. Some signs provided comic relief and revealed the phoniness of the protests: “Freedom Trumps the commie virus” and “I need a haircut.”
Trump’s daily performance aids the protests but, by any rational standard, is pathetic. The Washington Post has tallied his lies, which is a useful metric, but branding Trump as a liar would miss the point. A rational, powerful man could be a liar. In that case, his lying would be noteworthy in itself, and we would ask: why does he lie? With Trump, the lies are merely one of the manifestations of his utter inability to cope with the demands of an office he should not hold. He is ignorant, egocentric and insecure, and reacts to every challenge in the predictable manner of such a person: lying, boasting, threatening, shifting blame.
The country is divided. In a time of crisis, a leader would unite it, but not the Present Occupant. He is disinclined to unite because he sees division as his ticket to re-election. The tribal messages serve that end.