by Mike Meyer
Have you noticed how difficult it is for Trump’s followers to write a complete sentence? This has been eating at me for the last two years. By nature I’m very reluctant to cast aspersions on a group of people by citing their literacy.
This is a result of studying literature and writing back in the days when those studies included an emphasis on Hemingway. Good, clear, simple, and declarative sentences were the ideal. You need to use the correct word but not obfuscate to show literacy. Add to that some fifty years of Buddhism filtered initially through Alan Watts and the Zen koan tradition. Profound statements can and should be made in the simplest language.
Growing up in the rural Midwest with a father who was admired as the strong silent type was also an influence. His advice was not to say anything if you didn’t have something to say. He also used to say ten dollars is a lot of money if you ain’t got ten dollars. But that is a another story.
While I’ve finally come to admit to myself the consistency of this troubling observation it was not so obvious back 2016. There were occasionally functional discussions, here in Medium and other places, with people who maintained they were Trump supporters or conservatives willing to see value in the destruction of the American system that Trump signaled. While I now think that several of those were actually Russian operatives who have since disappeared, who knows. There were some folks who worked at explaining the meaning behind their support.
In the last two years that has disappeared. While it can be said that Medium, as a long form writing site, tends to lean well away from the demographic who find value in people such as Trump, I haven’t seen any articulate Trumpists anywhere. The political professionals who inhabit that weird world have staff who write things for them but even those are, at best, functionally literate.
Trump is only intermittently understandable and boring in his stunning ignorance when we can understand what he is attempting to say. But that is to be expected. The fact that his remaining and worrisome ‘base’ appear seriously challenged by language has come to scare me.
This is, perhaps, another American problem reflected through the post industrial world, but I think it is not discussed out of a reluctance to appear condescending to people.But that may be causing us to ignore a serious symptom of social failure.
This is a primary reason that Trump and his followers exist almost exclusively on Twitter. They are enraged and become dysfunctional at the sight of three or more complete sentences. While I know of some of my relatives who re-post Trumpist things on Facebook they aren’t as virulent as the hardcore and live in areas that are very clearly part of Trumpistan. That, too, is another problem.
The level of discussion from these people, from my experience, is barely above shouted epithets. And these people think they have a vision of the future based on cursing and lies? Inarticulate diatribes barely long enough to notice are not constructive tools. They struggle at destroying anything except themselves.
It is hard to ignore once you have noticed this inability to communicate. Even on Twitter and Facebook the only complete sentences that appear are nearly identical. If they weren’t actually copied from RT or an American equivalent they seem to have been transcribed from a Fox News script. The endless repetition of simple lies become implanted in people’s minds.
Sadly the percentage of the population prone to fascist style manipulation are also prone to catechism like chanting of statements of faith. Rational thought is alien. Actually trying to say something risks offending the gods whose truths must be rigidly adhered to at all costs.
The extent of the evil that has been allowed to spread is difficult to grasp. As an educator we have before us the failure of all that we were commissioned to do for this portion of the population. That failure will cause millions of deaths and untold suffering as preventable climate disasters take an ever larger toll. It is already causing thousands to suffer and die at the hands of corrupt police and emboldened hate groups, some of them now official, of various types.
How do we correct for this? This seems to be very much a product of the failures in education of the boomer generation with specific regional influence on younger members of the Trump base. The most troublesome of these are white nationalists who have come up in the racist, virtual swamps, of fringe social media.
These are fringe groups and the boomer problem is self correcting as they commit suicide in various ways. It’s simply a matter of them triggering far greater deaths if we cannot control and counteract this disaster.
To do that we need to more actively manage language. In the new social and economic paradigm of information as value, allowing lies to be spread with impunity is equivalent to allowing counterfeit currency to spread in an economy. The value of that economy becomes quickly debased and recognized as worthless.
In the new paradigm words are the currency. We are watching the debasement and collapse of a new world caused by people dedicated to the destruction of meaningful language. We need to stop this destruction and that means stopping lies by shaming inarticulate and irrational speech.