America Gone Mad
The Crime of Defeating Truth
Amusing ourselves to death
by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2022 – Thomas Adcock
NEW YORK CITY, near America
Here in New York—and in Moscow, among KGB and GRU operatives collecting gossip about foreign visitors that could be useful in the cause of kompromat—everyone knew what he was, years before the rest of the world caught on to the con man:
Fake tycoon, unapologetic deadbeat, credibly accused rapist, tabloid buffoon, eleven-time supplicant in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, pathological liar, adjudicated fraudster, white supremacist, badly tailored glutton, golf cheat, owner of a well-thumbed copy of “Mein Kampf,” xenophobe, huckster of shabby merchandise, malignant narcissist, Islamophobe, smirking ignoramus, TV funambulist, leering misogynistic maestro of a teenage beauty pageant, carnival barking snake oil salesman, three-time husband, sire of five semi-intelligent children…
…and recipient of bare-bottom spankings in Las Vegas administered by Stormy Daniels, leading lady of nearly three hundred triple-X pornographic movies whose 2018 memoir recollected a certain presidential penis as “smaller than average but not freakishly small,” and shaped “like a toadstool.”
Yet in November of 2016, this vile man with sweaty orange skin, a blaze blond hairdo, and a circle of prison-bound friends and flunkies was elected president of the United States. Which brought a regrettable historical clarity to our modern era: Officially and undeniably, America had descended into madness.
Four Novembers later, in 2020, hope bloomed for sanity’s rescue. With healthy disgust, we Americans bashed a corrupt attempt to reëlect the sociological disease named Donald J. Trump—he of golfer’s belly and buttocks unseen in Washington since the early 1900s administration of William Howard Taft.
Even so, the vote was uncomfortably close. Trump-branded snake oil was as potent a seller in ‘20 as it had been in ’16. Seventy-four million American adults swallowed the stuff, thereby convincing themselves that a repugnant, twice-impeached führer of a Republican Party devolved to a protofascist movement was worthy of the White House. Of an aggregate 159 million ballots cast, Trump tallied 46.9 percent, versus 51.3 percent for his victorious Democratic Party opponent, Joseph R. Biden.
And we know what happened next:
• The Big Loser invented a Big Lie as balm for his wounded vanity: The election was “rigged” for Joe Biden. Donald Trump’s legions of lackeys, acolytes, and mindless minions powered the Big Lie with a smorgasbord of crackpot conspiracies: voting machines were hacked by communists in Venezuela, Cuba, and China; disgruntled bureaucrats of the so-called “deep state” rearranged the count; Jewish-funded laser beams from outer space, the latest bugbear of QAnon cuckoos, scorched computer tabulations.
• Mr. Trump incited a mob of his true-believing Sturmtruppen to launch a deadly putsch in Washington aimed at halting a pro forma statement to Congress that Mr. Biden was the new president—per the exhaustively vetted, court-reviewed election results of 2020.
But like nails driven into our skulls, the Big Lie hammers on and on and on. Meanwhile, we do not know quite what to do about the principal purveyor of mendacity, a one-man psychodrama housed in tacky splendor at his very own Florida golf resort—the Palm Beach compound known as Mar-a-Lago.
Each day brings breathless news of potential legal comeuppance for Mr. Trump; each day, nothing much occurs beyond legal delay.
Were the United States a just society, Mar-a-Lago would be encircled in yellow crime scene tape. Instead, it is sanctuary for il capo di tutti capi of the Republican establishment and Holy Mecca for fawning fat-cats received by Himself in the velvet-draped main floor bar.
The bar décor is dominated by Donald Trump’s favorite portrait: a fiction of himself as a youthfully slim, golden-haired fellow in sporty pose, clad in tennis whites. Here, beneath oil paint fakery, the moneyed Trumpists first kiss the publican’s ring. Amidst the sounds of ice tinkling in cocktail glasses the fat-cats voice soothing assurances to the porcine ex-president that dirty rotten socialist blasphemers stole his second act.
Few voices are more soothing than that of rightwing radio host Dan Bongino—former New York cop, former Secret Service agent, and three-time failed Republican candidate for Congress who recently bought a home near Mar-a-Lago. (And who was recently banned for life from YouTube for repeated lies that facemasks and Covid-19 vaccines are useless.)
Mr. Bongino’s daily broadcasts from Florida attract more than eight million suckers hungry for hosannas to Dear Leader. By Mr. Bongino’s lights, those who spurn Dear Leader are “crazy Satanic demon people.”
More important than partisan rants, the Bongino show and others like it—television and radio outlets constituting an unholy media network of protofascist propaganda—have convinced suckers to kick in weekly or monthly to Dear Leader’s casually organized 2024 presidential campaign treasury. To date, the suckers have anted up more than $200 million (€175 million), according to a New York Times report. Thus, a whole new pot of gold for possible plunder.
Can Donald Trump risk pocketing fresh loot?
The last time he helped himself to the cookie jar involved a charity known as the Trump Foundation. New York State’s chief prosecutor dissolved it in 2018, in settlement of fraud litigation. Additionally, Mr. Trump was assessed fines and restitution payments totaling $3.8 million (€3.33 million). He was also made to confess his sins and accept a lifetime ban on his participation in state charitable activities, a ban that includes three of his semi-intelligent adult offspring—daughter Ivanka and sons Eric and Donald Jr.
The Lübeck-born novelist, social critic, and exiled Nobel laureate Thomas Mann (1875-1955) fled Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, never to return. He died in the Swiss capital of Zürich at age 80.
In the immediate years following the end of World War 2, Herr Mann was, to put it mildly, a divisive figure in his native country due to his insistence that Nazism was rooted in the national psyche. Over time—and through cultural and political analyses, a process known as Vergangenheitsbewältigung—Germany acknowledged much of Herr Mann’s analysis and expressed active remorse, thereby attaining reconciliation with the world and with herself.
Here in America, where many of us fear the snarling dogs of authoritarianism let out by Donald Trump and his Republican cult, we may only hope for a Vergangenheitsbewältigung of our own. Until such time, we live within a lie much bigger than the likes of Trump could invent.
It is a crime, this bigger lie: the crime of attempting to defeat the truth. The historian and essayist Rebecca Solnit explained the crime in a January 5 essay for the New York Times—
“Authoritarians don’t just want to control the government, the economy, and the military, they want to control the truth. Truth has its own authority, an authority strongmen must defeat at least in the minds of his followers, convincing them to abandon fact, standards of verification, critical thinking and all the rest. Such people become a standing army awaiting their next command.”
Ten days after Ms. Solnit’s essay was published, Donald Trump gave proof to its premise. As the main attraction at an Arizona political rally sponsored by Turning Point USA, a rightwing student organization known for harassing professors deemed “unpatriotic,” Mr. Trump might well have been wearing hobnail boots as he stomped all over verifiable truth.
The rally was held on January 15, which would have been the ninety-third birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., the African American civil rights leader assassinated in 1968 by the late James Earl Ray, a small-time felon and Hitler enthusiast. According to a transcript of his speech, widely published in news media, Mr. Trump expressed his racism—and his customary distortion of facts—in the context of covid medicinal distribution:
“The left is now rationing lifesaving therapeutics based on race, discriminating against and denigrating—just, denigrating—white people to determine who lives and who dies. If you’re white, you don’t get the vaccine, or if you’re white you don’t get therapeutics. …In New York state, if you’re white you have to go to the back of the line to get medical health. Think of it!…This race-based medicine is not only anti-American, it’s government tyranny in the truest sense of the word.”
Of the otherwise utterly untruthful scenario he presented in Arizona, Donald Trump nevertheless honestly declared at mid-speech, “This is unbelievable!” Such is the measure of the man’s cynicism: So long as Himself says so, Mr. Trump knows the unbelievable will be believed by his standing army.
The French philosopher known as Voltaire (1694-1778) defined the despicable nature of Trump and his ilk when he famously wrote, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Speaking of the absurd-cum-atrocious, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni amplified Ms. Solnit’s essay a few weeks after its publication with a downbeat premise of his own, that of “intense tribalism” that encapsulates the American zeitgeist. He wrote—
“The [Covid-19] pandemic, which could and should have brought us together, has instead driven us further apart, exacerbating our tribalism, which is an enemy of real progress but a friend to all sorts of dysfunction, all manner of meanness.
“We humans are inherently tribal creatures…But the work of civilization—the advancement of it—involves containing that tribalism, controlling it, moderating it with grander and more unifying ideals.
“That work in America is currently in a state of crisis. You saw that at the Capitol on January 6, 2021…You see it almost hourly on Fox News, which casts Joe Biden not as a flawed president but as a doddering autocrat or socialist puppet turning the United States into a crime-besieged hellscape. You see it every minute—no, every second—on social media.
“…[M]any Americans, overwhelmed by the volume of competing information that comes at them and the furious pace of its delivery, outsource their judgment to a tribe and its leaders. Those leaders give them certainty in place of ambiguity, definitive answers in lieu of smarter questions. They’re liberated from genuine inquiry and freed from doubt. In the short term, that’s a simpler, easier way to live. And in the long term?
“I fear that we’re in the process of finding out.”
Other prominent journalists—three Americans and a Canadian—join Mr. Bruni in fearful visions of what portends to be a bitter future for the United States, where we have allowed the astute and the asinine an equality of influence. Consider the astute:
• Chauncey DeVega, Salon.com: “America is a society where…many of us have lost the capacity to distinguish [fantasy] from reality and its painful truth.”
• Brian Karem, Salon.com: “The American public has a soft spot for soft heads and rewards dotards with attention, repeated viewing and reading. …The whole country loves idiots.”
• David Brooks, New York Times: “Something dark and deep is happening…a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much from the top down.”
• Stephen Marche, Globe & Mail (Toronto): “The United States is, once again, headed for civil war…Nobody wants what’s coming, so nobody wants to see what’s coming. …The United States is coming to an end.”
As for the asinine, send in the clowns second only to Donald Trump so that we may amuse ourselves to death:
• Herschel Walker, the retired professional football star running in the state of Georgia as a Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, claims to use two miraculous prophylactics as protection against The Plague: 1) a dry mist that will “kill any covid on your body” on entrance to a room, as he recently told a rightwing radio host; and 2) a spray that will “kill the virus” on leaving. “They don’t want to talk about that,” he said, without benefit of identifying they. “They don’t want to hear about that. And I’m serious.”
• Tucker Carlson, the highest-rated cable news host in television history, is offended by the decision of a confectionary company (M&M) to alter its animated TV advertisements—apparently because his sexual lust is reduced. In its commercials, the M&M girls’ high-heel shoes are switched out for sneakers. Thus did Mr. Carlson complain in a recent show, “M&M will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous, until the moment you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them.”
• Robert F. Kennedy Jr., scion of American political nobility whose kin have distanced themselves from him and his relentless anti-science tirades, recently said mandated covid vaccines and facemasks were “even worse” than conditions endured by Anne Frank and her family in Holocaust-era Amsterdam. Mr. Kennedy’s wife, the actress Cheryl Hines, denounced her hubby’s sentiment as “reprehensible.”
• Dr. Taylor Marshall, the extreme rightwing Catholic podcaster and best-selling author of “Infiltration: a Plot to Destroy the Church from Within,” appeared recently on a popular Fox TV chat show to discuss the Devil. Specifically, Dr. Marshall said “Satanists” and “communist agitators” have commandeered libraries, sporting events, and “of course the public universities, the colleges, high schools, and now in elementary school.”
Meanwhile in the U.S. nowadays, 2,200 children died from gunfire in the year 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control, a federal health agency. The CDC report for 2021 is due for release shortly; it is anticipated to reveal an even higher tally of slaughtered children. Further, according to the CDC, somewhere in America a child is shot every hour of every day; many survive, many do not.
…Now comes a child-size semiautomatic rifle that “operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun,” according to the manufacturer. The scaled-down albeit military-grade weapon was introduced in late January at an annual firearms trade show in Newtown, Connecticut—the New York suburb where a young killer swiped his mother’s grown-up assault rifle back in 2012 and used it to murder twenty elementary school youngsters and six of their teachers. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, headquartered in Newtown, hosted the trade show.
According to a survey conducted by Military Times magazine, thirty-six percent of active-duty soldiers know of “white supremacist and racist ideologies” in their ranks.
According to Washington Post survey, Americans purchased more than two million firearms in the single month of January 2021—an eighty percent year-over-year spike.
Black people are gunned down and assaulted by police from coast to coast with unprecedented frequency. Jewish Americans and Asian-Americans are likewise targeted by racist thugs as never before. (In the last six weeks, two Chinese women were knocked to sidewalks and beaten just steps from where I live in Manhattan; another Chinese woman was killed when she was shoved from a subway platform I use most days.)
As I said at the outset, America has descended into madness.
If indeed we are headed for a second civil war here, I cannot be certain of reconciliation when the conflict ends. Contrary to the courageous optimism of “The White Cliffs of Dover,” the 1941 anthem of anti-fascist resistance sung by the British chanteuse Vera Lynn, there will likely be no bluebirds when our civil war is over, nor love and laughter, nor even peace ever after.
Cry, the beloved country.
– ThomasAdcock, U.S.correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org