Trump’s performance at the second vice-presidential debate indicated to numerous people that all he knows about the world are conspiracy-mongering talking points from Fox News and other right wing sites. In some cases all you have to do is read the headline.
Slate, Aaron Mak and Molly Olmstead: A Guide to All the Nutty Things Trump Said That You’d Need Fox News Brain to Understand
And Washington Post: What was Trump talking about? How the language of Fox News invaded the final debate.
“You need an encyclopedia to understand what is going on because it’s a series of buzzwords that have meaning perhaps if you’ve been studying the Daily Caller,” said CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip. “But if you’re a regular person going about your life, you’re not going to understand what rabbit holes the president is going down.”
And Jennifer Rubin at WaPo: Trump’s three fatal flaws
Second, Trump has always been a conspiracy monger, a know-nothing and a non-reader. He grabs on to whatever garbage floats his way on the stream of right-wing blather. He now is entirely unintelligible to those who do not immerse themselves in the make-believe world of talk radio, Fox News fiction and Russian propaganda. (Disclaimer: I am an MSNBC contributor.) He has become the nutty neighbor in the tin-foil hat, the dotty relative who cannot see others scoffing at him. Only someone trapped in an alternate universe would think that babbling on about Hunter Biden would get him anywhere. It is fitting that the right-wing media that has done such a grave disservice to the country in spreading racism, undermining objective reality and assaulting democratic values is now an instrument of Trump’s downfall.
More generally: NY Times, Jamelle Bouie: This Is Why Republicans Fear Change, subtitled “The party’s survival depends on frozen politics.”
The Republican Party as currently constituted is a minority party representing a demographically narrow segment of the American electorate. It needs stasis — institutional and constitutional — to survive. Democrats do not. Just the opposite, they need a political system that can grow with and respond to change within our society. Progressive government is necessarily active government. And if we can speak of original intent, it was not the intent of the founders of this country to have a static government, a static constitutional order, or — for that matter — a static society.
I think I was fortunate to grow up in a household where the evening network news was on every night (on NBC), where a daily newspaper (the LA Times) arrived every day, and how when in Advanced Placement English in the 12th grade, we students were obliged to read Time (or was it Newsweek?) every week and take a short quiz on the issue’s contents every Friday. So paying attention to the world became second-nature. These days I read several papers, in print or online, several news and opinion journals (The Week, Time, The New Yorker, The Atlantic), and listen to NPR most of the day unless I’m reading. (I’m not obsessed with politics or most political issues (most of which are trivial in the big scheme of things), so much as interested in spotting developments in the big issues that interest me: progressive social issues and resistance to them, issues of science vs. religion, long-term trends and society’s responses to them, etc etc.)
More and more I am coming to realize that most people’s encounters with news is far less systematic than mine have been, that in fact, most people don’t pay much attention to anything outside their daily concerns at all. (For parents raising small children, I completely understand.) If they pay attention it’s to sources that reinforce their preconceived notions, i.e. only sources within their Bubble. Newspapers are a dying breed; I’m fairly sure neither of my stepsons or their partners reads a daily paper. OTOH they seem reasonably well-informed on various national issues, and on who the politicians are, so they’re getting informed somehow.
On the perennial topic of conspiracy theories, in The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum: You’re Not Supposed to Understand the Rumors About Biden, subtitled “To raise doubts about the Democratic nominee, right-wing-media smears don’t even need to make sense.”
The deception failed, according to The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, because James O’Keefe, the notoriously unprincipled leader of a group called Project Veritas, forgot to hang up the phone after calling the Open Society office. In a long voicemail, he inadvertently recorded himself plotting to embarrass Soros. These are people who think that smear campaigns are politics, harassment is journalism, and online stalking is something you do for fun.
More and more I am coming to understand that conspiracy theorists don’t have reasons to put forth their ideas, rather they just make stuff up at random, for purposes of thrilling some and trolling others, alluding only to the vaguest possibility that something *could* be true, with plausibility or evidence being completely beside the point. It’s analogous to a comment someone made about Trump: it’s not that he consciously lies all the time, exactly (though he certainly does lie a great deal), it’s that he’s a consummate B.S. artist. As Jennifer Rubin says above, grabbing on “to whatever garbage floats his way on the stream of right-wing blather.”