The active ingredient
By enumerating the staggering number of law enforcement entities currently investigating Donald Trump as “evidence” of how liberals are “out to get him,” Sean Hannity plays a dangerous game. On the one hand, that’s an awful lot of criminal probes for one man. If our goal was to bring Trump down then surely just one or two such investigations would do.
On the other hand, it’s interesting that it’s Trump and only Trump being targeted. If that’s our strategy for ruining Republicans, why do we stop with Trump? Why don’t we do the same thing to, say, Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy or Marjorie Taylor Greene? What’s so special about Donald Trump that we only go after him with “phoney” criminal investigations? Why don’t we launch three or four investigations of, say, Louie Gohmert for document hoarding and election tampering and money laundering while we’re in the neighborhood?
If you’re wondering why I’m wondering all this it’s because I’ve been down this kind of road before. In supporting and advocating for the survivors of Bill Cosby I’ve encountered the same kind of paranoid “logic” that the slut-shaming morons who supported Cosby used. Sixty-four women publicly (and at least thirty more privately) alleged rape, attempted rape and unwanted digital penetration against the disgraced comedian. According to the Cosby-supporting cretins, all those women were “out to get him” and only Cosby was telling the truth.
Yeah, that’s right, of the hundreds of other first rank celebrities in the country, only Cosby gets lies like this made up about him. Because if we can destroy “America’s Dad,” why, we can say we’ve accomplished, well, I’m not sure what we’ve accomplished. But it’s something, right?
It’s this kind of unfalsifiable paranoid zealotry that can drive you crazy if you let it. But the bottom line means this: Donald Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and the knuckle-dragging, MAGAland bozos would somehow find a way to give him a pass. One or two prominent Republicans would speak out against him at first, of course, before later coming around to the narrative that Trump was provoked into justifiably shooting the guy. And the guy, whoever it is, would become a posthumous pariah no matter how upstanding or good he may have been in life.
That’s how the paranoia of conspiracy theories grows. Virtually every conspiracy theory has a bad guy to be paranoid about, a bete noir to unite against. With the UFO set it’s the Air Force, with the “Truthers” it’s the Bush administration, with the Moon Hoaxers it’s NASA, with fundamentalists it’s liberals and secular humanists, with the Kennedy assassination it’s the CIA, the FBI, Lyndon Johnson, the mob, the Cubans, the Russians, you name it and anybody BUT the guy who did it: Lee Harvey Oswald. It’s this essential paranoia that distracts and comforts people from having to face hard reality.
With Trump it’s the “Deep State” liberals and the mainstream media. Donald Trump’s crimes are so numerous, so blatant, so staggering and so obvious that a 24 hour a day distraction machine needs to be operating under full power with a constant barrage of whataboutisms and paranoid delusions just to keep people from realising the truth. The truth is Donald Trump is a career criminal who, by a bizarre set of circumstances and outmoded election machinery, became president of the United States.
As with Hitler there is always a reliable one third of any population that can be counted on to succumb to the paranoid madness requisite to give evil people power and excuse their crimes. Such people can vote, and Republicans who care nothing for the people and everything for power will continue to support their paranoid fantasies as long as it keeps them in their jobs, no matter how bizarre or embarrassing those fantasies are. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.