Dr. Dawg

L'affaire Acosta and the limits of dialogue

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“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” ~1984

A few days ago, I lost a Facebook friend who (as it turns out) is rather partial to Donald Trump, and thinks the “leftist” media are in cahoots to make this rain-averse President look bad. She was convinced that the now-infamous exchanges between #45 and CNN’s peppery Jim Acosta had included “violence against women” when a Trump staffer tried to snatch away Acosta’s microphone. I put up the clip and asked her what she saw.

She was adamant. Acosta attacked the young female intern. She believed not only the White House version (Sarah Huckabee-Sanders hadn’t distributed the doctored version of the clip at that point), but her own lying eyes.

Fascinated, I reviewed the clip half a dozen times. Could I have missed something?

Well, no, I don’t think so. In my corner, by the way, is a former Breitbart journo, so I shall plead innocent of any stubborn ideological blindness of my own here.

The Orwell quotation at the beginning of this article can be found all over the Internet addressing just this matter. It’s important to underline that the Party’s command would not always require months of torture to prevail—at some point in the future, the Party would control the present, and we would see, hear and remember what we were told to at any moment. We are even now meeting the avatars of that model citizenry.

There is no “Party” today, of course, but there is the crazed ideology of Trumpism in which the President, not the media (“Fake News”), and not even the senses (fallible and sometimes disturbingly off-narrative), defines the reality of his adherents.

I’m not talking common-or-garden self-delusion here—God knows we’re all guilty of that from time to time, and in the political sphere it appears to operate almost in plain sight as both a virtue and a vice. This Trump thing goes exponentially further—pretty nearly at the “How many fingers am I holding up, Winston” level. If he says “three,” it is utterly irrelevant to his cult following how many are actually in the air. And, frankly, to him as well.

The question is left, then: how is political discourse possible with the 40% or so of Americans prepared to follow their Leader through fire and ice if he asks? And the answer is: it is not. We might just as well attempt to converse with the gentleman who won his election to the Nevada legislature without, at least in the three weeks preceding his victory, being able to engage in any dialogue at all.

(“I’m fine with him being dead and winning,” said a woman of her Nevadan representative. She had been violently raped by him. “I know a lot of people who were going to vote Democrat if he were alive, but will now vote Republican because he’s dead.” There is a logic there, of course, but this does sum up, in one splendid metaphorical thunderclap, everything that is maddening about current American politics.)

The great political divide, in any case, has now progressed well beyond mere questions of civility: we are talking about nothing less than two incommensurable ontologies. And in such a case, where each side’s words are but empty sounds signifying nothing to the other, all that is left to us is an increasingly brutal struggle for dominance. Get ready, folks, because here they come. And they’re in no mood to talk.

UPDATE: (November 12) A similar if less apocalyptic take:

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on November 8, 2018 8:47 AM.

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