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Clear Markers and Dark Delusions

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

“If anyone but me takes over… there will be a Market Crash the likes of which has not been seen before!”

– Trump tweet

You could say that this tweet is President Trump’s prediction or prophecy with some rational basis to it but the refrain “which has not been seen before” is one that the President repeats often, always falsely, and so is a clear marker that it’s delusion at work here. The man imagines something and takes that to be real.

But he’s not a great poet of the imagination. He’s just delusional. It’s a disorder.

Because all of American culture is now swept with not so much a questioning of what is real, as if we were all competent ontologists, but an inability to distinguish what is real from what is fabricated, someone’s “narrative,” some trumped up version of what is real, all the clear markers of the President’s delusional disorder are missed. They are missed because an alarming percentage of the culture now shares them.

This kind of collapse into not simply our own delusions but those of someone else, in this case, the President of the United States should be a huge worry of ours. Not simply because we have given our own reality and truth making ways over to an individual who has few clear markers of a shared humanity but because we cannot hope to solve other huge worries such as global warming and the entrenched plutocracy we continue to call our Constitutional democracy.

We cannot proceed to rationally problem solve if we are caught in a web of dark delusions and led by the epitome of such.

The Republican Party has been displaying clear markers of this pathological state since Trump took office and they continue to be displayed as the election season comes to the boil. However, the representation of these clear markers is such that nothing is clear. What seems clear is befuddled and muddied, or turned on its head and represented as indicators of stable genius, or, as in the case of NPR, PBS and the legacy press, dark delusions must be shown as shared by those who manifest them as well as by those who expose them.

The commendable virtues of fair and neutral reportage are corrupted by the awesome lobbying power of plutocracy to bring all the clear markers of the indefensible into a defensible legitimacy, in the eyes certainly of far too many.

We are, after almost four years of such delusional rule, feeling the need to eradicate, like a clean excision of a tumor, rather than engage dialectically, assuming what we oppose deserves such. However, the clear markers all around us tell us that things have gone so Mad Hatter that we need to just cancel not dialogue. Certainly, there is no hope of dialectic with delusion; but what makes our situation especially fraught is the fact that the medium of engagement –words –seem no longer able to confer commonly shared meaning and understanding.

In short, our messenger, Hermes, has broken down, way beyond an unreliability of language we have theorized in the past. We’re at that sad stage where simply saying “Fake news!” or “Alternative facts!” or “Hoax!” is enough to discard any argument or critique. What is the case always seems now to be rejected as delusional and what is delusional accepted as the case.

We now look to social media and its capacity to storm any representation with armies of millions to crush and eradicate what offends.

The same offense has been very successfully employed by President Trump who has been able to diffuse his dark delusions via social media. His bond with FOX could be broken simply by reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine that Reagan eliminated, an action that paved the way for Roger Ailes to work passions that draw viewers rather than thoughtful views. It wasn’t in the public interest to eliminate the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine but solely in the interests of profitability.

It is cyberspace however that offers a screen to display our own identities, a dimension of online reality with no binding contract with offline reality, or what philosophers call “The Great Outdoors.” This is a dimension where every citizen authorizes his or her own presence, a true direct democracy of ideas that has no wall of privileged authority checking your worthiness.

But this is also the playground of social media in a time of collapsed interpretation toward meaning and thus common understanding, in a time when truths share the stage with untruths and the untruths are more popularly appealing. Rather then than being a dimension of individual enfranchisement what we have is analogous to accommodating mosquitoes with a pool of stagnant water. There is no Fairness Doctrine as remedy here.

Even though we’ve descended into a space in which thoughtful dialogue and dialectic are lost in a sandstorm of lies and bullshit, it does seem strange that this breeding ground of our dark delusions is now being used to eradicate them. It seems that the power of social media to destroy whatever is the target is like an army ready to march at the next click, this methodology of eradication being itself a clear marker of a kind of devolution to an earlier stage of human development. While eradication is what we’re after with Covid-19, it has had horrific results in our Anthropocene age.

Having the means to rouse and disseminate the convictions of the passions, from fear and hate and at once receive support from others is Trump’s game. But it’s also a marketing game in which a hyperreal is concocted for the benefit of profit, or, in Trump’s case, the benefit of his own ego.

Even though AOC has a plan for the planet beyond her own self advertising, she shares with Trump, who conflates world into self, a debt to the power of cyberspace to create a hyperreality where individuals transcend their offline identity. This goes beyond the classic Hollywood creation of a hyperreality movie goers imagine they are in because this online cyber hyperreality is interactive. Personal realities are confirmed by the Likes of others. Personal illusions and delusions expand exponentially and gain a power no offline majority ever created.

This is a formidable power and we are quickly using it to replace not only dialectic but the processes of empirical determination. It’s a power new to the world, one in which reasoning can be overwhelmed, crushed and silenced by the magnitude of numbers, moving like an army of red ants, propelled by a bonding of emotional response. This is an army destined to dissolve into its own dark delusions, ungrounded except in a hyperreal rush of alliance that rushes on to new and other alliances.

“There is always some reason in madness,” Nietzsche told us from a madhouse, but it does seem hard to find any in our president’s dark delusions.

There is sad tragedy in now being forced to crush by the sheer weight of numbers what we oppose, something upsetting to our whole Western tradition of truth, reality, objectivity and rationality to believe we stand so firmly on the grounds of truth that we can obliterate by flash mob whatever does not comply. This is an exceedingly low form of discourse, or more precisely, to alter Orwell a bit, being right is not statistical.

That Trump has been declared by Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, to be “the bodyguard of Western civilization” tells us that the tradition cited in the previous paragraph has been reformed, to say the least, and secondly, that the fact that someone could make that assertion indicates a blindness to so much damage this president has done thus far and is set to do even more if he wins another four years. The impeached bodyguard of Western civilization.

II.

Clear markers of how deep we already are in dark delusions have filled the summer skies.

“The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,” President Trump said on an August 17th news conference. Two days later, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany when asked whether Trump would accept the results of the election said we’ll “see what happens” in November.

Barring an alternative logic emerging from alternative facts, I would say that what happens in November will most decidedly be a Trump declaration of a rigged election.

What happens from the moment on, say, November 20th when all the ballots are counted, Biden is declared winner and Trump declares a rigged election to January 20th when the winner, Biden, is to be inaugurated?

What happens when agencies that could obstruct the obstructions Trump engineers are run by Trump operatives? What happens when departments are gutted, the lobbyists put in charge of key positions, the intelligence community maligned, court verdicts overruled by Trump, the Justice Department run by a Trump operative, and the Supreme Court’s total Trump ownership resting on the integrity of a conservative, Republican chief justice — what happens when all this is already in place? What happens when the order of things is stacked to represent the order of one delusional mind?

Everyone but Trump will worry and fear what might happen in this gap of undecidability, this period when Trump will go on being president while the charges of a rigged election will be pursued.

Homeland Security is chartered to safeguard election security. But it’s the Justice Department that has the biggest role in enforcing voter fraud laws. Congress has constitutional authority under the Fifteenth, Nineteenth and Twenty-sixth Amendments as well as under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment regarding presidential elections, but we’ve seen how far that authority has been respected during the impeachment and conviction trials. We can expect any House action to be announced dead on arrival by Mitch McConnell. Yes, during this gap time, Mitch will still be there.

As Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf on July, 2020 sent federal agents in camouflage and tactical gear to  Portland, Oregon to quell what President Trump called anarchists and agitators who hate our country. Congress pursued an illegal appointment of Wolf to this position but, once again, they got to the same place with that as they did with impeachment.

Barring an alternative logic emerging from alternative facts, you could conclude that any charges President Trump makes regarding a rigged election will be treated as gospel. The President’s record on making all sorts of charges, from preposterous and insane to ignorant and ludicrous to dangerous and criminal, which are accepted as gospel is remarkably good, so good that one wonders exactly when the world turned upside down.

As Attorney General, William Barr has been called Trump’s sword and shield and there’s amble evidence that is exactly what he is.

Related to the possibility of a rigged election, Barr under Congressional questioning admitted he had no evidence that foreign countries could successfully sway elections with counterfeit ballots, Barr stated that it was common sense to believe that they could. He has also refused to quell Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting fraud, convinced one can suppose that it’s common sense to believe that a way of voting that has gone on before very reliably is now suddenly fraud prone because a delusional president says it is so.

Although Trump is hostile to admitting any foreign interference in elections, Barr lays the groundwork for Trump’s campaign to fix the vulnerability of our elections as inevitable. The groundwork: the crazed leftists of the Democratic Party and the Deep State are the operatives of a rigged election, the anarchists and agitators who hate our country. This is a clear marker of dark delusions, its clarity caught in the web of those dark delusions and so, not clear at all. This is a dilemma in which we seek an outside Archimedean point that we can’t have.

A campaign moving at warp speed is set on exposing as many electoral vulnerabilities as Trump can concoct, his own fear of facing loss pushing him into an attack mode that, as Biden advances, will increase in frenzy.

Trump’s shifting the substance of his attacks from the fever swamps of social media to the national stage is as clearly observable as the elephant he identified in his cognitive test.

Democrats know what he is up to and they worry knowing doesn’t lead to stopping. You could say they’re haunted by the impeachment failure to convict. Worried and fearful that what has seemed so obviously clear regarding Trump’s presidency, namely that he lacks an essential requirement for the job — having humanity and sharing it with us — remains unobserved by a some 40% of the population, unnoticed regardless of what he says and does.

And if it is observed, some aspect so attracting cancels everything else. Liberals tend not to calculate the attraction Trump’s stand against abortion makes, or his fight to build a wall to keep out those who he proclaims are bringing crime, or his iconoclasm and attack mode in regard to Washington protocols, foreigners, political correctness, and a diversity that is honored as if we were Constitutionally bound to it like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Democratic Convention put all its eggs in the diversity is the highest good basket, although judging by the steadfastness of Trump’s supporters, diversity is not a good for more Americans than the Democrats calculate. And Trump stands like a wall for their identity and not for its usurpation.

This collapse in distinguishing who is working for the common good, who evokes the better angels of our nature and who does not, and who is fulfilling the inclinations of the passions and who is trying to bracket the same is existentially frightening.

This collapse was there to be seen in Trump’s first tweets, his first assaults on reality, truth and reason. Not only has he not been brought to a stop but his idiocies have infiltrated the American mass psyche so deeply that QAnon’s lunacies will enter the democracy, that apparatchiks spouting alternative facts are given equal time to make a case for lunacy, that a 26 year old can announce Trump as “the bodyguard of Western civilization” and have one million followers, that conspiracies boldly confront science, and socialists and anti-fascists and not Wall St. looters seem to be the Wizards beyond the curtain destroying America.

The fact that socialist solutions such as Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and Unemployment insurance, are already part of our government and are now during the pandemic functioning seems unobserved, even by the recipients of these programs.

“President Trump is obviously scared and is reacting in a way that … is indicative of how he treats everything else — looking for the most extreme, unlawful way to reflexively address a matter, in this instance being woefully behind in the polls.” (Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the Democratic Party in North Carolina.”

“I don’t have any doubt that’s where he’s headed. He wants to delay the election because if they had the election today, he’d lose. The further out he gets from today, the better off he is … So, he wants more time to jerry-rig the system to somehow spit him out as the winner.” (Pete Giangreco, a Democratic strategist)

“It’s my greatest concern, my single greatest concern: This president is going to steal this election.” (Joe Biden)

On one side then, worries and fears that Trump will declare himself a winner justified by proven fraud conducted by Biden and the socialists who own his brain, or that such declarations will provoke Black Lives Matter size protests almost immediately posed as radical threats to law and order that Trump will respond to by executive order of national emergency which if necessary can be enforced by martial law.

Within that new Trump order of things, Trump can pursue his own nature’s pathologies of revenge and retribution. Hillary may finally get locked up, most likely to great Trump bund rally applause, the House Squad of “nasty” women deported, Pelosi relieved of office, and the Fourth Estate shut down and replaced with Fox & Friends.

Even more macro and foundational fears have to do with the fall of a centuries old republic, a constitutional representative electoral democracy much self-congratulated, accomplished bit by bit by a con artist who recognizes no boundaries as real but as only stuff to knock over, dreamscapes of losers, impediments only to the weak, nothing at all, from democracy to its laws and traditions, equal to the power of his own ego.

Maybe the worry here is that everything thought to be universal and absolute was really, as if the expression in our post-truth world, just a “narrative.”

Are Liberals, Democrats, Progressive, Bernie type Socialists paranoiac, filled with dark delusions and displaying clear markers of such in all these Trump fears they have? Are they fantasizing in the hyperreal as is Trump?

The difference seems to lie in the fact that those who fear a Trump victory in 2020 are being led to that fear after observing Trump in office from January 20th, 2017 to now. There was enough evidence of how he would behave in office available before he got there. But those lay in reality, and he made his way to the White House via the hyperreal.

The hyperreal is where the Republic Party and Trump supporters hang out, clear markers of their dark delusions now on display at the Republic Convention:

 

“Their [Democrats’] vision for America is socialism. And we know socialism has failed everywhere.”

“Make no mistake: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want a cultural revolution. A fundamentally different America. If we let them, they will turn our country into a socialist utopia.”

“They put political correctness ahead of the safety and security of the American people. Anarchists have been flooding our streets, and Democrat mayors are ordering the police to stand down.”

“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country. America is a story that’s a work in progress. Now is the time to build on that progress and make America even freer, fairer and better for everyone. That’s why it’s tragic to see so much of the Democratic Party turn a blind eye toward riots and rage.”

“Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens.”

“Democrats won’t let you go to church, but they’ll let you protest,” “Democrats won’t let you go to work, but they’ll let you riot. Democrats won’t let you go to school, but they’ll let you loot. President Trump has fought against their crazy ideas.”

“They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the defunded police aren’t on their way.”

“They want to destroy this country, and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think, and believe, so they can control how you live,”

And that was just Monday night, the first night of the Convention. Enough clear markers of a delusionary state to fill up an asylum.

But, once again, what is clearly so and what is not is now ensnared within a web of dark delusions that has put our reasoning under interrogation, an interrogation conducted within its own web. This dilemma, a true impasse, seems destined to be paralleled by the dilemma and impasse the results of the coming election promise. And battles fought in cyberspace between tens of thousands on either side engaged in crushing and cancelling each other seem to be so much a part of the dark web we are in.

Perhaps the thousands of acres burning in northern California and this coronavirus pandemic will force us to recognize the problems we have caused The Great Outdoors, our physical world, should be our primary focus. The planet has been showing us its own clear markers for a very long time. Nothing here is delusional.

 

Joseph Natoli has published books and articles, on and off line, on literature and literary theory, philosophy, postmodernity, politics, education, psychology, cultural studies, popular culture, including film, TV, music, sports, and food and farming. His most recent book is Dark Affinities, Dark Imaginaries: A Mind’s Odyssey .

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