For his closing trick of the 2020 election, President Donald Trump is leading his followers into a new Dark Age.
Trump spoke to his fans at a Carson City, Nevada rally on Sunday, warning them that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden would “listen to the scientists.” The next day, he used similar illogic with a crowd in Prescott, Arizona, telling his followers, “You know, Biden wants to lock it down. He wants to listen to Dr. Fauci. He wants to listen to Dr. Fauci.”
In Trumpworld, listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci and likeminded scientists whose goal is to save as many lives as possible from coronavirus is a modern horror. In the final two weeks of his presidential campaign, Trump is actively thwarting the knowledge accumulated by epidemiologists since the 1854 London cholera outbreak, essentially saying, “Go ahead, use that water pump on Broad Street. It might not kill you.”
by George Lang, opinion writer for Free Press
Trump is enabling brute idiocy to get him across the finish line, a strategy that became apparent in the earliest days of his presidency. On January 21, 2017, the day after Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, then-press secretary Sean Spicer berated the White House Press Corps for its reporting of the low turnout, angrily insisting that Trump had the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe.” This was his first press briefing.
The next day, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway told Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd that Spicer was providing “alternative facts.” This set the tone for the entirety of the Trump presidency. We have been told that our eyes are lying to us, that facts do not matter, that intelligence is untrustworthy.
Because Fauci has argued for lockdowns and criticized Trump’s calls to open businesses and send children back to physical schools, he must now be accompanied by a security detail.
On Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes, 79-year-old Fauci and his wife Christine were shown power walking near their home while flanked by bodyguards. If ever there were a symbol of this dark age, it would be an esteemed scientist living with constant threats to his life from people who hate facts.
The original Dark Ages, as defined by Francesco Petrarca in the 14th century to describe the time in which he was living, came from the lack of widespread information or knowledge, which was closely controlled by religious and political leaders. In contrast, Trump’s Dark Age is a byproduct of the democratization of bad ideas.
The internet does not assign weight to facts. As a result, the top stories on Facebook almost always come from questionable outlets like Daily Wire and the Bongino Report. It is in this fetid petri dish that conspiracy theories like Qanon grow.
Trump weaponized stupidity. He took societal toxicity — white supremacists, anti-government activists, Qanon believers, billionaire monopolists, anti-science fundamentalists — and built a coalition. He set off a civil war in this country between angry fantasists and the fact-based community, and even if Trump is not reelected on Nov. 3, Trumpism and its core of lies will take years to defeat.
One of Petrarca’s most famous lines of poetry was used to describe his own Dark Ages. “My fate is to live among varied and confusing storms,” he wrote in “Africa.” “But for you perhaps, if as I hope and wish you will live long after me, there will follow a better age. This sleep of forgetfulness will not last forever. When the darkness has been dispersed, our descendants can come again in the former pure radiance.”
This passage perfectly describes our current state. If we hope to overcome COVID-19 and Trump’s “varied and confusing storms,” we must realign ourselves with truth and facts. We must recreate a society where scientists do not need bodyguards. We must stop believing in toxic fairy tales. We must repudiate Donald Trump.
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Feature photo by Gage Skidmore. Caption: Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.