Post-Truth, Post-Trump

The brand of immorality Trump demonstrated while POTUS proudly & defiantly rejected truth. Will it survive?

Post-Truth, Post-Trump

Times are weird, and still getting weirder. Donald Trump has been dragging his bloated body and a lagging Make America Great Again spirit around on national TV, ranting about voter fraud, national disgrace, and how suspicious it is that people would vote against him. Meanwhile his chances of re-election steadily approach a mathematically perfect zero (at my last check it was 1 in 20,000 for him to win PA and stretch out the delusion). Trying his best to kick up a civil war on his way out the door.

But forget politics. Trump living under such a big spotlight for four years, where he has been one of the most highly visible behavioural examples in the public sphere, anywhere on Earth, has likely, in itself, pushed civilisation a good half century forwards on a dark trajectory it might not have pursued past its first baby steps—even if it had taken those first steps before Trump came on the scene. The path to a world like what Mike Judge envisioned in Idiocracy (2006) has been dramatically shortened by his term, and at its core lies a radical contempt for truth.

We are staring into the abyss of a post-truth world, in all its technicoloured dim-wittedness and bold scumbaggery, defiant bubbleheaded immorality and idiotic certainty of mind. Visions of various dark reaches of the human soul—of unbound greed and self-interest, sly and wilful idiocy, and lazy indifference set like stubborn stains into the souls of millions—haunt more powerfully than ever.

Trump as POTUS demonstrated to hundreds of millions, in detail over years, how to be an immoral slime-ball and get away with it. In fact, to profit. His abilities here are beyond question, having slithered his way into the highest office of the most powerful country on Earth (what this says about human nature, that this is possible, I'll best leave for another time). And his possession of what appears to be an invincibility shield that prevents shit sticking to him, despite the hateful, violent, idiotic, racist, and sexist claptrap that regularly emits from his person, is something that will naturally command people’s interest. It’s a kind of scumbag superpower. He’s been under that spotlight for more than four years now, and he’s still dancing away.

More than anything, the brand of immorality Trump has put on display in the US these last years is defined by a proud rejection of honesty and a cultivated disrespect for what is true. Worshipping on the altar of self-interest, and severing your personal relationship with truth to better manoeuvre through the world unimpeded by moral concerns. So that lies no longer hinder, and truth no longer buoys. The distinction of “true” and “false” is completely, and proudly, replaced by “in my self-interest” and “not in my self-interest.” What emerges from this way of thinking is a kind of alternative way of engaging with reality as a human; really, engaging with reality as something less than a human. As a predator, preying on the basic assumption in others that truth holds sway on you as it does on them.

This kind of immorality, cultivating dishonesty and presenting false realities as a matter of course, is nothing new, but Trump has really taken it mainstream. It has become dangerously close to an accepted way of being. A normalised behaviour. And it’s likely to continue on the course set, at least for a while, after Trump leaves the White House.

A truly post-truth world would take things a bit further, and make it an expected and valued way of being. A default behaviour, in a world in which veracity is impotent and effective lying is equated with power, strength, and positive qualities. One where it no longer matters if what someone says is true or not because that, by itself, has no inherent value. Truth may even be considered a weakness, not backed up by bluster. What would matter is how forcefully and convincingly self-interested statements of fact can be imposed on others. The ability to stare someone in the eyes and lie without blinking would become an openly admired skill.

Replacing truth as a guidance system, human affairs become one big bullshit throwing contest, and the winner is simply the person who doesn't back down. Whoever has the biggest stick, to hit anyone who dares to challenge them the hardest. The world becomes a playground for psychopaths, and others become mindless, admiring an immorality confused with strength.

It sounds dramatic and fantastical, but actually, we’re not that far away from it now. In the US 70 million Trump voters are lined up for more.

And earlier this week, the US President stood in front of the nation and, without a shred of evidence, or feeling the need to mention the existence of evidence, declared the results coming in fraudulent after some counts shifted towards his opponent.

This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election. So our goal now is to ensure the integrity for the good of this nation. This is a very big moment. This is a major fraud in our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. Okay? It’s a very sad moment. To me this is a very sad moment and we will win this. And as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.

Hundreds of millions have watched Trump give a detailed demonstration of post-truth scumbaggery for more than four years, and sadly, many people adopt whatever behaviours they see that appear to be advantageous. Behaviour is like a virus, when it is shown to have utility. Trump, holding campaign rallies right up to the election, has been estimated to have caused 20,000 infections from those events alone. Then there are the countless unnecessary infections and deaths in the US caused by his shambolic response to the pandemic.

Who knows how many people Trump has infected with post-truth values. Hopefully, his defeat to Biden in the 2020 election (which was officially called moments ago, at the time of writing) is enough to tarnish the association of his behaviours with "success."

James Lanternman writes movie reviews, short fiction, essays, and moonlit thoughts. Reach him at [email protected], or follow on Twitter.