The Nation, a Progressive publication, published an article in 1992 by Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich, a 25-year-old essay that reflects a situation today brought to a head by Donald Trump. We have finally reached an autocratic stalemate where truth is no longer valued, or practiced in the politics of the U.S. Government. It has been replaced by a series of lies spewed from the Oval Office all the way down to Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts.” Tesich describes it this way…
- We are rapidly becoming prototypes of a people that totalitarian monsters could only drool about in their dreams. All the dictators up to now have had to work hard at suppressing the truth. We, by our actions, are saying that this is no longer necessary, that we have acquired a spiritual mechanism that can denude truth of any significance. In a very fundamental way we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world.”
The Watergate era
When the essay was written, Tesich was dealing with “’the Watergate syndrome,’ whereby all the sordid facts revealed by the presidency of Richard Nixon rendered Americans disdainful of uncomfortable truths.” In 2016…
- “Oxford Dictionaries designated “post-truth” its 2016 Word of the Year. It defined the word as referring to ‘circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’ According to Oxford, it was first used in a January 1992 article in this magazine by Tesich.”
Nixon and his Cabinet were crooks…too
The essayist claims “The revelations that President Nixon and members of his Cabinet were a bunch of cheap crooks rightly sickened and disgusted the nation.” Truth prevailed and democracy triumphed, as he put it. Following this, “The Iran/Contra scandal under the Reagan administration only emphasized the point.” Ronald Reagan decided the American public didn’t want to hear the truth, so he lied to them. And then it was the Gulf War. Today we have but one force dissembling the facts until they are completely unrecognizable. Its name is Donald Trump and the conspiracy of this White House has been judged as exceeding Watergate significantly.
In Vanity Fair, Nick Bilton examines Trump’s Twitter activity in relation to how “…despotic politicians have manipulated the media throughout the past century when they needed a comfortable vessel for their lies.” He takes us back to Weimar Germany…
- “…where during his ascent to power in 1920, Adolf Hitler purchased outright a newspaper called The Volkischer Beobachter, which would grow its circulation to more than 1 million readers in the 40s as it became the organ of the National Socialist regime. The Beobachter, as it was often called, facilitated the Nazis’ revolting propaganda and culture of genocidal hatred. It allowed Hitler and Goebbels the opportunity to publish countless fake news stories about adversarial countries, about Jews, and, indeed, the press.”
If Trump’s kids start investigating the purchase of a television news network or large newspaper, even a smaller chain, we know we are in trouble. Until now it seems that we had a balanced situation, inaugurated by the Founding Fathers, with free speech that spawned a free press…until…we ended up with a psychopathic lunatic in the Oval Office. In six months we have witnessed Donald Trump spew a trail of lies that I suspect will compete with any despot in the last several years. He has literally made a travesty of America’s foreign relations, and he, along with more unbalanced individuals in the name of the U.S. GOP Congress, have shredded the domestic situation.
The Apprentice TV show staff deal with unintelligent Donald Trump
But Bilton really nailed it when he took us through a scenario he gleaned from the producers and editors of Trump’s former TV reality show, The Apprentice…
- Trump, “…rarely ever said anything intelligent. Sure, he said really crazy stuff,” one person who worked on the show told me, referring to Trump’s crude and obscene banter in front of the camera. ‘But our biggest challenge was editing the show to try not to make Trump sound like a total and complete idiot.’ Others who worked with Trump in the reality-TV world reiterated this point, saying that the more that he spoke during tapings, the less intelligent he sounded.”
And the more Donald Trump speaks now, the worst the United States looks to the rest of the world.