Trump’s word-piles fill public space with static.

This is like having the air we breathe replaced with carbon monoxide.

It is deadly. This space that he is polluting is the space of our shared reality.

The Autocrat’s Language

Masha Gessen's piece compares the way Russian autocracy and Trump eviscerate language, to destroy shared reality. I found it enlightening.

“Freedom,” on the other hand, was, as you know, slavery. That’s Orwell’s 1984. And it is also the USSR, a country that had “laws,” a “constitution,” and even “elections,” also known as the “free expression of citizen will.” The elections, which were mandatory, involved showing up at the so-called polling place, receiving a pre-filled ballot—each office had one name matched to it—and depositing it in the ballot box, out in the open. Again, this was called the “free expression of citizen will.” There was nothing free about it, it did not constitute expression, it had no relationship to citizenship or will because it granted the subject no agency. Calling this ritual either an “election” or the “free expression of citizen will” had a dual effect: it eviscerated the words “election,” “free,” “expression,” “citizen,” and “will,” and it also left the thing itself undescribed. When something cannot be described, it does not become a fact of shared reality. Hundreds of millions of Soviet citizens had an experience of the thing that could not be described, but I would argue that they did not share that experience, because they had no language for doing so. At the same time, an experience that could be accurately described as, say, an “election,” or “free,” had been preemptively discredited because those words had been used to denote something entirely different.

But then things in Russia got worse. A new government came in, and did new damage to the language. Vladimir Putin declared a “dictatorship of the law.” His main ideologue advanced the idea of “managed democracy.” Temporary president Dmitry Medvedev said, “Freedom is better than unfreedom.” Now words did not mean their opposite anymore. They just meant nothing. The phrase “dictatorship of the law” is so incoherent as to render both “dictatorship” and “law” meaningless.

Donald Trump has an instinct for doing both of these kinds of violence to language. He is particularly adept at taking words and phrases that deal with power relationships and turning them into their opposite. This was, for example, how he used the phrase “safe space” when talking about vice-president-elect Mike Pence’s visit to the musical Hamilton. Pence, if you recall, was booed and then passionately—and respectfully—addressed by the cast of the show. Trump was tweeting that this should not have happened. Now, the phrase “safe space” was coined to describe a place where people who usually feel unsafe and powerless would feel exceptionally safe. Claiming that the second most powerful man in the world should be granted a “safe space” in public turns the concept precisely on its head.

Trump performed the exact same trick on the phrase “witch hunt,” which he claimed was being carried out by Democrats to avenge their electoral loss. Witch hunts cannot actually be carried out by losers, big or small: the agent of a witch hunt must have power. And, of course, he has seized and flipped the term “fake news” in much the same way. [emphasis mine]

That USSR-style "election" is the endpoint of our political trajectory, if the Republicans don't find a conscience.


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Replies to This Discussion

It's not a conscience the Republicans will find; it's defeat in the 2018 elections or fear of defeat there. Widespread protests, such as the recent marches, can instill that fear earlier.

USSR-style elections in America will require a coup by the military. Improbable.

"Eviscerate! Late 16th century: from Latin eviscerat-  disemboweled, from the verb eviscerare, from e- (variant of ex-)out + viscera  internal organs.’"

An appropriate word choice for what we observe happening. The pumpkin head, with the brain content that never developed and instead, grew into a narcissistic and borderline personality disorder. The eviscerated mind lied, exploited pent up frustation of the 99% of the peope, and manipulated news to become POTUS. We bear witness to the end of a vision of the Age of Enlightenment and its goals of freedom from dispotic rulers, of the ability to partiipate in electing representative government, and valuing community. We never had the desired form of government, even as the forces of power for the people fought the forces of power of wealth. 

With other countries gaining power through development, trade, and weapons, USA faces challenges that only clear thinking and effective action can meet. This USA leader is not up to the job and in fact, exasperates  the complex world in which we live. 

Tom, step in and give us a rousing rant! 

The chaos he leaves behind as he jumps from one impulse to inother, makes it impossible to carry out national and international affairs. 

In 1975 a PhD candidate in psychology told a class that intellectualization is the toughest defense mechanism to remedy.

I was in that class and agreed. I had intellectualized for a few years and it quite effectively protected my personal status quo. It won because less gifted people simply gave up. Looking frustrated, they turned and walked off.

I'm seeing that kind of frustration in people who are trying to deal with the chaos Donald Trump stirs up with his constant lying. He lies because he long ago found that unpredictable behavior succeeds; he wins the 'debate'.

He is an almost immovable object.

The considerable amount and quality of prose we here are generating will assuage our frustration but won't deal with Trump. In our system of government the irresistable force that will defeat him is removal from office or defeat in the next election.

Maybe on his coming trip overseas, ....




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