The first variant of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) was virulent. When Trump renegotiated NAFTA into the far superior USMCA, many Democrats succumbed to its hypnotical power, and were reborn as free trade champions. It was so potent that its taint metamorphosed the most prolific doves into warmongering hawks when Trump refused to perpetuate to their fullest potential the forever wars traditionally executed by the US empire. Left wing dissidents who had previously railed against the military industrial complex, rushed to decry its very existence as conspiracy, the moment the President called them out. But the recent discovery of a new, and even more dangerous strain, is cause for concern. TDS-21 is now endemic amongst supporters of the President, and its power to lead the afflicted down ways that madness lie constitutes a threat to democracy. Many Trump supporters, perhaps as many as half if polls are an indication, are dogged by TDS-21, and as a consequence believe that the election was stolen by Chinese and Venezuelan Communists, in league with Satanists. They are convinced Trump has an Ace up his sleeve which will prevent Biden from assuming the presidency. Some are steadfastly convinced that the President’s concession message was a deep fake, some insist it’s a hologram, others still point to the fact that in the now banned Twitter video the President did not specify that the ‘peaceful transition’ would be to a Biden administration – it could be a new Trump administration with a new VP they insist. Buoyed by the tailwind of propaganda, lies and echo chambers, the TDS has returned as a boomerang might, and there is no one capable of catching it.
In their wisdom big tech has spent the past four years exiling Trump supporters and those of a right-wing disposition to more and more obscure platforms. The hyperpartisan nature of CNN and MSNBC has led to many choosing to get their ‘news’ from OANN or Newsmax, both of which are propaganda channels for the Trump regime. As a consequence, the ‘Q’ anon conspiracy, which for years lived rent free in the heads of a hysterical media class, has expanded its purchase on people’s minds a hundred-fold. Having been banned from social media, and alienated by traditional media, a mass of Trump supporters are resigned to communicate on social media platforms, which became definitional echo chambers. When the main constituency on a social media website is that its members have in common with one another that they have been banned from elsewhere for being right wing, it’s unlikely good will come of their reunion in this new safe space. Q is now free to run amok in fertile ground and to peddle conspiracies about corporate overreach and a censorious state to people who were by themselves only exposed to Q because they had been on the receiving end of the censorship. It makes sense from that perspective. The rot set in, and spread. In my own writings on Trump, I have been confronted with and exposed to the extent of the lunacy that has come to be commonplace. Commenters have assured me in recent weeks that Biden will never become President, that Trump will use the Space Force to attack the inauguration, and that the entire Congress will be arrested en masse. They actually believe it, too.
This has all been exacerbated by lockdown. Although increasing competition between the networks, the growing rural/urban value divides across the West and social media echo chambers had been aiding and abetting the ratcheting up of tension for some time, lockdown has served as an accelerating agent for polarisation. I can’t speak to American culture, but I imagine it analogous to Britain in the following sense. In your commute to work you’ll probably be exposed to a variety of newspapers, in the UK the neutral Metro and the centre right Evening Standard spring to mind as the most prominent examples. You’ll see the newsstands in the shops, overhear chatter in the coffee houses and in parks, and even if you’re in a pub they might be showing the BBC or some other mainstream news channel. In other words, the ordinary activity we undertake in ordinary times keeps us in touch with ordinary views. We see the society and the diversity of opinion therein, and absorb it, perhaps subconsciously. All this not to mention the drudgery of a 9-5 leaves little room for pondering abstract conspiracies, and that the pressure to conform means that even if one were so inclined to such thinking that they would not express it so freely in the public realm as they might on Gab.
The net effect of all this is to have remade a significant chunk of the Republican party support base in the image of Alex Jones. Actually, forget that – Alex Jones recently went ballistic on his show denouncing Q anon as lunatics – such is the sorry state to which these new age Trumpian conspiracists have sank that they have alienated a man banned from every social media platform for his peddling of conspiracy theories. It’s the equivalent of attending the bi-annual convention for Elvis-isn’t-deaders, flat earthers and Big Foot enthusiasts only to be turfed out for being a little too crazy. The sooner lockdown ends the better, the sooner the media give every party a fair hearing the better, and the sooner these Viking shamans get a job, the better.