Donald Trump goes on a Twitter rant about how he actually won the popular vote except for the three million votes illegally cast. Refutations rain in. Trump proceeds to go off on a rant against the refuters. His source -- apparently Alex Jones' site Infowars. This is a site that blames absolutely everything, from the latest school shooting to disease to natural disasters (and, of course, 9/11) on sinister conspiracies by the New World Order. In other words, it is not quite a fake news site, but close enough to dismiss out of hand.
This raises two alarming possibilities. Either Trump believes this crap, or else he doesn't. Which one is worse?
Well, if he is tweeting what he knows perfectly well is not true, then he is playing the rest of us for fools. He is playing his followers for fools by moving them further and further away from any sort of objective reality. They are already primed to distrust anything that appears in the dreaded Mainstream Media (MSM) and never speak the words New York Times without a sneer. Still, up till now the alternatives have been mere matters of emphasis, of cherry picking and spinning. When G.W. Bush wanted his war with Iraq but couldn't find good grounds for it, he had people in the White House look through raw intelligence for anything they could find to support it, without thought to quality or context. He spent a great deal of time investigating reports of a meeting between Al-Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence in Prague. But it never occurred to anyone simply to make things up, or to borrow from manifestly paranoid sources. Trump is creating an alternate reality for his followers where mere liberal reality cannot penetrate.
But it isn't just his followers he is playing for fools. Many of his opponents are beginning to suspect he is playing them for fools as well, that there is a method to his madness. Could it be that his tweets about Alex Jones' latest conspiracy theory are mere decoys, sent to distract us from an awkward article about his conflicts of interest? And that his provocations are meant, not just to distract us from important stuff, but to remind followers how persecuted he is by the liberal MSM and how they should circle the wagons in his defense? If that is the case we must stop feeding the troll and start focusing on the real issues he wants to distract us from. And, having been sucked into the voter fraud twitter storm all too easily, this warning applies to me no less than to anyone else.
But the other alternative is worse by far. Maybe Trump actually believes the mad conspiracy theories he is peddling. That is even more dangerous, because it means that some day he might act on those beliefs.