“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” — Thomas Jefferson
The recent article “White threat in a browning American. How demographic change is fracturing our politics,” by Ezra Klein is a must read for those trying to understand the Trump movement.
A black president, the overpowering number of Mexicans and the Muslims religion, Klein argues, pose a threat to white American. Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” appeals to White voters who, according to Klein, feel they are losing a historic hold on power, so they react to that real threat. [i] This reactionary behavior, Klein says is the crucial context for Trump’s rise.
Klein points to Michael Teslers’ book “Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era to make a point. According to Tesler, the mere existence of Obama’s presidency further racialized American politics, splitting the two parties not just by racial composition but by racial attitudes.
It’s not just race. Hillary Clinton, the first women, nominated by a major political party, the rising influence of women voters, mixed race television, inflammatory ads. Kneeling at football games, minority rights, affirmative action, the Rainbow coalition, transgender, gay rights, the list goes on to test Americans tolerance for change.
Adding fuel to the fire are Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Chris Wallace, Corey Lewandowski, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin divides Americans by using internet trolls to stir up racial tensions, stage “flash mobs, organize activist campaigns with opposing groups in attendance and attacking out voting technology and processes.
One ex-troll told a Russian independent TV network that his job included writing incendiary comments and creating fake posts on political forums: “The way you chose to stir up the situation, whether it was commenting [on] the news section or on political forums, it didn’t really matter.”[ii]
In 2015, well before the 2016 election, the troll-factory network had more than 800 people doing this kind of work, producing propaganda videos, infographics, memes, reports, news, interviews and various analytical materials to persuade the public.[iii]
Politicians, their supporters, the Russians, and others use propaganda and especially lying to exploit public ignorance.
It is public ignorance that makes propaganda in general and lying in particular an effective political strategy. As most undergraduate college professors know, first year students show a striking ignorance of even the most elementary aspects of United States history, its growth and development. Equally, maybe more important they cannot read or write coherently.
Their reading and writing skills are so poor that they cannot recognize the main point of an argument, they cannot respond to this point in writing. Further, they lack the cognitive skills to recognize the areas where their prior knowledge and skills are insufficient – and thus which skills they need to work to improve.
It is this inability to discern fact from fiction, truth from lies and the failure to articulate even to themselves the difference between a threat and human diversity that empowers Trump and his supporters.
Authors note: Map your own racial diversity with the Stepinski mapping tool at: http://sil.uc.edu/webapps/socscape_usa/
[i] The government predicts that in 2030, immigration will overtake new births as the dominant driver of population growth. About 15 years after that, America will phase into majority-minority status — for the first time in the nation’s history, non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up most of the population. In Klein, White threat in a browning American. How demographic change is fracturing our politics, Jul 30, 2018.l
[ii] Summers, Timothy, “How the Russian government used disinformation and cyber warfare in 2016 election – an ethical hacker explains, July 30, 2018, The Conversation. https://phys.org/news/2018-07-russian-disinformation-cyber-warfare-election.html