Republic Of Lies
Look at these polling results, via HuffPo:
Only 18 percent of Trump voters think the allegations against Bill O’Reilly are credible, even though it was widely reported that Fox paid out $32 million to settle one woman’s claim against him, and ultimately fired him, even though he was a cash cow for the network.
And only six percent — six percent! — of Trump voters find allegations of sexual harassment against Trump credible, despite audio in which he bragged to Billy Bush about grabbing women’s genitals as a prelude to sexual congress. From the transcript:
Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Bush: Whatever you want.
Trump: Grab ’em by the pu**y. You can do anything.
It’s one thing to say, “Yeah, he probably did it, but I support him anyway.” It’s quite another to deny that it happened, in spite of clear evidence.
(As a conservative, it pains me to observe that Hillary Clinton supporters are more clear-eyed about Bill Clinton and Harvey Weinstein. But there it is.)
A short while ago, on the recommendation of Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada, who called it the year’s best book, I bought and downloaded Timothy Snyder’s short volume On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century. Snyder, a historian who specializes in Germany between the wars, writes about things people today should do to resist the kinds of tyrannies that came to be in the previous century.
No. 10 is “Believe in truth.” Snyder writes:
To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then on one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
He goes on:
You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case. This renunciation of reality can feel natural and pleasant, but the result is your demise as an individual — and thus the collapse of any political system that depends upon individualism. … The first mode is the open hostility to verifiable reality, which takes the form of presenting inventions and lies as if they were facts.
Why are so many conservatives so eager to be lied to, to participate in lies, and to disbelieve the truth? Michael Gerson writes today about this administration’s avalanche of lies. Excerpts:
In all of this [the Russia investigation], there is a spectacular accumulation of lies. Lies on disclosure forms. Lies at confirmation hearings. Lies on Twitter. Lies in the White House briefing room. Lies to the FBI. Self-protective lies by the attorney general. Blocking and tackling lies by Vice President Pence. This is, with a few exceptions, a group of people for whom truth, political honor, ethics and integrity mean nothing.
What does public life look like without the constraining internal force of character — without the firm ethical commitments often (though not exclusively) rooted in faith? It looks like a presidential campaign unable to determine right from wrong and loyalty from disloyalty. It looks like an administration engaged in a daily assault on truth and convinced that might makes right. It looks like the residual scum left from retreating political principle — the worship of money, power and self-promoted fame. The Trumpian trinity.
But also: Power without character looks like the environment for women at Fox News during the reigns of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly — what former network host Andrea Tantaros called “a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.” It looks like Breitbart News’s racial transgressiveness, providing permission and legitimacy to the alt-right. It looks like the cruelty and dehumanization practiced by Dinesh D’Souza, dismissing the tears and trauma of one Roy Moore accuser as a “performance.” And it looks like the Christian defense of Moore, which has ceased to be recognizably Christian.
This may be the greatest shame of a shameful time. What institution, of all institutions, should be providing the leaven of principle to political life? What institution is specifically called on to oppose the oppression of children, women and minorities, to engage the world with civility and kindness, to prepare its members for honorable service to the common good?
Read the whole thing. My conservatism is meaningfully different from Gerson’s — more Buchananite than Bushian — and so is my Christianity. But he’s right about this. The corruption of conservative religious believers by this Administration and by Conservatism, Inc. more generally is a catastrophe. I mean it: a catastrophe. The Millennial generation is already leaving the church in historically unprecedented numbers The reasons for doing that are complex, and some of them aren’t very good. But this kind of behavior by their elders is putting the boot in their butts as they’re already headed out the door. Besides, how can older conservative Christians speak credibly about the importance of maintaining Biblical sexual morality in the face of challenges from a more sexually permissive culture in general, and LGBT activists in particular, when we refuse to hold politicians and media figures we identify with accountable?
We can’t. Once that credibility is lost, we’ll never get it back, not with most of that generation.
Don’t come at me with “liberals do it too.” Of course many of them do. But that tu quoque excuse would get my children nowhere if they tried it. Anyway, Christians are supposed to believe in strong moral standards. Christians are supposed to believe that the truth will set us free. Apparently, that is not true for the American church.
I’m sure Gerson, who worked in the Bush White House, would disagree with me on this, but the church’s whorish relationship to Conservatism, Inc., didn’t start with Trump. Trump just expanded the bounds of the possible. He grabbed the church by the pu**y, thereby convincing it to melt in his arms.
There is going to be a terrible reckoning for us conservative Christians when all this is over. We will have brought the judgment onto ourselves.
Beyond the fate of the church, a democratic nation where people only believe the truth that suits their ideological preferences will not long remain a democratic nation. We know this from history.
We are an emotivist nation. Prepare for the worst.