Tuesday, August 9, 2016

256. What ‘resetting reality’ has wrought

While watching a presentation of CSPAN Book television, the author quoted George Washington as saying, “People don’t act until they feel.”

I have always agreed with this. Right or wrong, it’s about self-interest. People care when things affect their communities — such as “not in my backyard.” They care about a disease or illness when they or a family member become afflicted. And financially people who have suffered misfortune are more in tune with, and more vocal about, economic disparity than those who are getting by comfortably.

For example, the nation felt Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorist attack did exactly what it was supposed to do — create fear. Fear is one of our strongest emotions and in the moment there is a release of adrenaline to guide our fight or flight instinct. The country reacted with fear and anger and in a sense has never been the same. Terrorism was real, on American soil, and it led to war, government attacks on individual privacy, and discrimination.

I had to juxtapose this, which I have always believed, with something Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of Donald Trump’s “Art of the Deal,” said in an interview with Bill Maher. Schwartz said the impact on politics made by Fox News was based on “resetting reality.”

The winning formula is to take the things that scare and anger Americans, those things that they feel, and convince them that it is real. Fox News, which is notorious for its inaccuracies, works to fuel its viewers with fear and anger. Ranging from simple misinterpretations to mild exaggerations to complete falsehoods, Fox News has created a country that doesn’t really exist. It has successfully reset reality with its viewers, and that reality has stimulated racial and religious discrimination, attacked the poor and the government programs that aid them, falsely portrayed immigrants in terms of number and impact, convinced people that the government is going to take their guns away, vilified the “liberal” media, and even prompted lies such as death panels and President Obama’s travel costing taxpayers $200 million per day.

No wonder people want to take their country back. No wonder they want to make America great again. In a disturbing way, this resetting of reality created Donald Trump. He is just “telling it like it is,” or at least how people feel it is.

Trump has seized this fear and anger to create a presidential bid that, though flabbergasting to many, actually has a chance to be successful. Trump has lit a fire among the fearful and angry. He has combined popular discontent with his apparent charisma and the idea that he represents American capitalism. To some, he is both a savior and an idol. For them, America is about being successful, showing off your wealth, and acting brashly.

It’s the perfect storm.

Poignantly, there are real issues to be angry about in this country. It is not quite as rosy as the Democrats portrayed in their convention. Things like wealth inequality, money in politics, global warming, and health care are just a few important issues dramatically affecting this county. Bernie Sanders touched voters on these issues and created a revolution that many have vowed to continue.

But, of course, Fox News has its own perspective of reality on these issues, too. In their alternate universe, corporate money is free speech, global warming is a hoax, taxes should be lowered even more on the wealthy, and Obamacare should be overturned (and not in favor of universal health care).

Recently Trump, taking the arrogance around his nomination too far, has gotten himself in trouble with a slew of comments that have been challenged. He claims that his remarks are misunderstood, or that he was being sarcastic, or he got his information from a “source.” His lying and crude attacks have him spending a lot of time backtracking and playing damage control. Resetting reality only works when people are naive. With the race for the White House now a two-person race, in which half the country disagrees with Trump’s view of reality, it’s getting more difficult to the pull the wool over people’s eyes.

For Trump, the blame falls on the media for having the nerve to point out his minefield of inconsistencies, contradictions, and untruthfulness. Trump likes to alternate between being a bully and playing the victim, between being a tough guy and a whiny child.

Since the convention, Trump seems to have become confused and bewildered. Perhaps it’s because, as it turns out, he realized that Fox News is not the only channel people watch.

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