"The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt." — Bertrand Russell
The quote above was written by Russell in 1933, in an essay in which he bemoaned the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. "What has happened is quite simple," he continued. "Those elements of the population which are both brutal and stupid (and these two qualities usually go together) have combined against the rest."
Of course, one man's brutal and stupid is another man's "telling it like it is." The principal story in American politics these days is the rise of a buffoonish businessman and reality-show star to the leading Republican candidate for president. Donald Trump's strategy is simple: Say the kind of stuff your racist drunk uncle says after he's had a few pops, and never admit you're wrong, even when it's obvious you are.
The litany of Trump's lies and absurdities is almost too long to catalogue at this point. His most recent whopper is his claim that he saw on television "thousands and thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11. There is no record of such a thing appearing on any television screen; New Jersey officials say it didn't happen; the FBI says it didn't happen. Trump says he saw it and won't back off the claim. His supporters saw it too, says Trump. He knows because they are tweeting him and emailing him that they saw it. Apparently, Trump believes he and his supporters are entitled to their own "facts."
Trump wants to round up 11 million undocumented Hispanic immigrants and ship 'em back to Mexico. He wants to make American Muslims carry ID cards declaring their religion. He makes fun of a physically handicapped reporter, then denies it, even though the evidence is on film. He retweets a false and racist crime "statistic" chart generated by a neo-Nazi organization, then says it doesn't matter because it was "just a retweet."
Stupid and brutal and cocksure. All boxes checked.
Trump is tapping deep into the ugly vein of American xenophobia and racism that runs through the remnants of the Tea Party wing of the GOP. He's saying exactly what they think, feeding off their ignorance and anger. He's going to "make America great again." The way to do this, apparently, is by demonizing anybody who is Hispanic or Muslim and tweeting fake "evidence" showing how black people are killing whites at ludicrous rates. Then, for good measure, you make fun of a handicapped guy.
Because America needs to be great again.
For months, pundits have been predicting that Trump will stumble and slide into ignominy after each succeeding gaffe. It's not happening. And it won't, because his supporters don't care about facts or policy or common sense. The Trump campaign is faith-based. Not in a religious sense, but in the sense that his believers think their great leader is above having to deal with pesky annoyances like the truth.
Anybody else see a pattern here? I think Bertrand Russell would.
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...