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Do You Worry About Trump's Followers? You Should



Before the pandemic began, Trump hired one of his campaign advisors, conservative Republican Scott Gottlieb, to head the Food and Drug Administration. He was pushed out early in 2019 ("to spend more time with my family") because he got on the wrong side of Trump allies at Big Tobacco. He therefore wasn't part of Trump's catastrophic response to COVID-19. Yesterday, on Face the Nation, he predicted that "most" unvaccinated Americans would be infected by the delta variant. "This virus is so contagious, this variant is so contagious ... that most people will either get vaccinated or have been previously infected or they will get this delta variant. And for most people who get this delta variant, it’s going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital."


Believe me, the GOP isn't done politicizing the pandemic. Or believe Juan Wiliams. "They will exaggerate public anger and sound economic alarms. Their goal will be to amplify the backlash against any renewed safety measures as a campaign issue. Of course, that requires GOP leaders to conveniently ignore that Biden got one shot of vaccine into nearly 70 percent of adults-- and reopened an economy that was shut for over a year due to Trump’s mismanaged federal response. In a preview of these coming political games, many Republican politicians and conservative talk-show hosts are already trying to distract from the fact they’ve been discouraging Republicans from getting vaccinated. Instead of admitting guilt for the virus gaining strength in Republican strongholds, the Trump crowd is positioning themselves as the lifesavers-- betting that enough voters will forget they were the arsonists who started the blaze."


The on-going politicization of the pandemic has left millions of Republicans, mostly in red counties, in red states like Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, on the highway to hell. Williams wrote that 86% of Democrats have had a least one jab, but only 45% of Republicans have done so. In the CBS poll released over the weekend, 29% of Republicans (and 21% of independents) said they will never get vaccinated. The depth of courageousness required to handle the pandemic of misinformation from right-wing politicians like Ron Johnson (R-WI), Marjorie Traitor Greene (Q-GA), Mad Cawthorn (R-NC), Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and their media allies is not readily available in the Democratic Party,


Thanks to another deadly pandemic-- QAnon-- significant numbers of Americans believe that the government is inserting microchips into the bodies of people who get vaccinated. This morning, Eric Boehlert posted a piece, The Murdoch variant spreads about the pandemic's "merchant of death." He blames Fox News for what's being called the "pandemic of the unvaccinated." We're "the only country in the world," wrote Boehlert, "that’s simultaneously trying to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic while battling a homegrown, deep-pocketed political and media crusade determined to keep the pandemic going. Call it the Murdoch variant. And it’s proving to be deadly. While a staff of fully-vaccinated hosts rage against an extraordinarily safe and efficient vaccine, Fox News is doing what no other outlet has done in the history of cable news, or even broadcast television has done-- it’s deliberately getting people killed during a public health crisis by feeding eagerly gullible red state viewers a mountain of lies... The anti-vaccine campaign follows the network’s strident anti-mask, and anti-social distancing crusade. Last year, Fox pumped poisonous, anti-science rhetoric onto the airwaves and worked hard to divide the country, making it impossible to have a common sense national conversation in a time of crisis."


Today’s pro-Covid movement, which dresses itself up as being anti-vaccine, highlights the deliberate lunacy that has gripped the conservative movement. It’s shocking, but not surprising. It reflects the willing embrace of a dark, QAnon conspiracy view of the world where conservatives are the target of demonic Democratic scheming. And where a safe vaccine might kill you.
... Between June 28 and July 11, “Fox personalities and guests made a total of 216 claims undermining or downplaying vaccines in segments about coronavirus immunization,” Media Matters reported.
...For decades, Democrats have had to deal with a billion-dollar propaganda outlet and have wrestled with how to communicate with the country when the largest cable ‘news’ channel lies to its viewers every day, around the clock. And for years, Beltway journalists rolled their eyes and claimed Fox News didn’t pose any real danger, that the network was simply spinning on behalf of the GOP, and if Democrats wanted to govern the country they had to figure out a way to make better arguments.
Now with the pandemic, Fox News’ deliberate sins are coming into clearer focus. No longer taking place against a partisan backdrop, the network is still lying nonstop. But instead of falsifying claims about Democrats or candidates or legislation, Fox News is lying without pause about a health emergency, and getting people killed in the process.

John Gartner, a highly acclaimed psychotherapist specializing in borderline personality disorders, is probably best known for his petition-- signed by over 25,000 mental health professionals-- "Mental Health Professionals Declare Trump is Mentally Ill And Must Be Removed." This morning, Salon published an ominous interview by Chauncey DeVega with Gartner in which he warned that dystopian science fiction is actually happening. I urge you to read the whole interview by clicking on the link above; these are just a few excerpts:


DeVega: "Why are Trump's followers and other neofascists still energized so right now? On the other hand, it appears the so-called resistance has had its will broken."


Gartner: "Some people's minds are organized in a more primitive way. Such people are more action-oriented, as opposed to being thought-oriented. The primitive-minded do not reflect, they don't consider, they don't create. They live in a world which is black and white. In such a mindset they are threatened by 'bad people' and therefore must respond aggressively to protect 'the homeland.' People whose minds are organized in a more primitive way are essentially on a permanent war footing. Compared to other people, that is actually a type of advantage in terms of raw aggression."

DeVega: "Trumpists and other neofascists are engaged in an existential battle. They are fighting a life-and-death struggle, and will not stop until they win. A person who is committed to "normal" politics and the old ways of "consensus" and "bipartisanship," and who believes that somehow things will always turn out fine because of "the institutions" is not able to understand the peril the country is facing."


Gartner: "For these people it is not situational: it is a type of fundamental orientation. People who are organized at this more primitive level are fundamentally angry people. They are also fundamentally paranoid people, and ethnocentric. People who are organized at this more primitive level, who are closer to their evolutionary roots, have a program that a demagogue can activate."

...DeVega: "How do you assess the events of Jan. 6, with the attack on the Capitol and Trump's attempted coup?"

Gartner: "The four traits of malignant narcissism that I've emphasized in my discussions and warnings about Trump and this era are narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality disorder and sadism. The one trait that is the most important, and the least recognized, is sadism. On Jan. 6, during that attack on the Capitol, there was a sense of carnival for Trump's mob. These people were having fun. There was a weird manic joy, a kind of euphoria, pleasure and excitement at harming other people."


"Trump is a sadist, but he's also arousing and tapping into the sadism in his right-wing authoritarian followers. He liberates a level of aggressive energy because one of the beliefs of the right-wing extremist is that aggression should be used for dominance and to enforce conformity and submission. And so aggression is sexualized and celebrated. Freud said there were two kinds of energy, sexual and aggressive. So when you liberate aggressive energy, it's euphoric, elating, you feel alive. So these people felt more alive on Jan. 6 than any other day of their lives."


DeVega: "How does Trump transmit this violence to his followers?"

Gartner: "They are already primed for it. Trump just encourages it. The interaction between Trump and the followers creates a whole new state of being. It is almost as if Trump's followers are sleeper cells waiting to be activated by him or some other similarly inclined leader."


DeVega: "How do you explain the connections between the Big Lie, Q-Anon and conspiracy theories more generally?"


Gartner: "Noted psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton developed the concept of 'malignant normality.' This explains how a malignantly narcissistic leader can change the reality of the society so that people actually believe the Big Lie or other propaganda. It becomes the new conventional wisdom.


"Right-wing authoritarians are fundamentally paranoid. Their paranoia functions such that everything that is 'bad' is projected outward. It is like a mirror reality for them. Using the Republican Party as an example, they use projection to gaslight: 'Whatever I am doing, I will accuse you of doing.' Joseph Goebbels said much the same thing: 'Accuse them of whatever you're doing.'


"For the psychopaths at the top who are perpetrating these things, it is not an unconscious psychological process. Instead, it is an intentional strategy. The people who are vulnerable to such a tactic exist in a social context where they live in a bubble of information. They also have personalities ready to believe any paranoid conspiracy theory. It's fundamental to their personality to believe that other bad people are doing crazy things that need to be defended against, and there's really no limit to what those bad people could be doing or what theories you could have about them-- especially if you and your group are doing some of those bad things."


...DeVega: "If Donald Trump somehow returns to office, either by election or through a successful coup, what will happen?"


Gartner: "I believe it will make The Handmaid's Tale look like a vacation."