You seldom see a White House reporter say simply, “but that’s not true” or “that’s not what you said last week.” Yet the Washington Post reporters, who have been keeping a daily record of the President’s false or misleading claims and statements, inform us that as of January 20, just three years into his presidency, Trump’s lies and misstatements, by their count, numbered 16241. So yes, why haven’t we heard more from the reporters, more from the press, more of — “that’s not true,”” “that’s not even what you said last week,”” “that’s false.”
Why? Because Trump is entirely comfortable in his own alternative universe, a world of untruth. In general the reporters and the rest of us are so taken aback that we don’t know what to say or do. (The person who is not taken a back, and knows what to say or do in Trump’s world will beat Trump in the November election. And if he is taken aback by Trump and his lies he won’t.)
Trump when speaking in public, at the MAGA rallies, that have gone on almost without stopping since the 2016 election and before, and now almost daily at the Coronavirus press briefings, can pretty much say whatever he wants, and because he never listens to what others may be saying (usually they’re not saying much of anything because Trump will have immediately put them down if in their question they so much as question a word or statement of his). So Trump ends by taking the reporters and us the listeners right along with him, and during the rally or briefing he is never really challenged by a “that’s not true, that’s not what you said last week.”
Trump’s alternate universe is simply one where facts, what really happened, yes truth, are no longer the principal guides as to whatever the discussion or issue might be about. The reporters at these briefings and rallies must walk away dazzled and bewildered, wondering whether what Trump had said had anything at all to do with reality, with their reality, with their reporting on the news. It usually doesn’t.
And then, there’s this, from Last Call by Charles PIerce in Esquire Magazine of April 18, 2020. I think we are, Charles Pierce and I, writing about the same thing, allthough I’m not sure about that, for prior to this moment I wasn’t even acquainted with the word derealization. Is what Pierce calls a derealized world much like Trump’s world of untruth? A world where there are no facts, no absolutes (no law and order)?
I’m supposed to be having dreams, spectacularly vivid dreams about spectacularly vivid things, major Technicolor Industrial Light and Magic dreams in quadraphonic sound. At least, as I go into my second month of social distancing, that’s what the folks at National Geographic tell me should be going on in my head….
Of course, we’re all walking around in a state of waking unreality. Everything is at a remove. Everything is to some extent vicarious, including political involvement. There’s Andrew Cuomo in the morning and the president’s Five O’Clock Follies at dinnertime. There’s a presidential campaign going on in which nobody is going anywhere or doing anything. Congress is in recess, and it can’t seem to get its act together on how to meet when it finally does come back. And, of course, the president has done nothing but make things worse….
The president* will move through our new dreamworld like the rest of us move through air. Most people are not accustomed to living in unreality, in a walking dreamscape, anymore than they are used to having their food delivered, drive-through pharmacies, or empty streets in midtown Manhattan. It is unnerving. There are no landmarks anymore. Nothing is familiar, so nothing is reliable. Nothing can be trusted. In this situation, it is easy to gravitate toward the people who seem most comfortable with unreality, who seem to thrive in it. And though that, alas for all of us, the current president* of the United States moves like the rest of us move through the air….
Psychologists call this “derealization.”