Narrative Drives, Reality, and Nothingburgers

  • More conservative reactions to Hunter Biden’s conviction, and how they are examples of humanity’s drive to fit any new evidence into pre-existing narrative;
  • Heather Cox Richardson on how reality defies Trump’s narrative;
  • How the extreme conservative worldview includes stoning gays to death;
  • The current state of the world, including Robert Reich’s identification of the crises Republicans focus on as “nothingburgers”.

To de-personalize and de-politicize these items, consider them as examples of humanity’s narrative drive, the need to interpret new information in the context of a story, usually a pre-defined story. That people so often twist new information to fit pre-conceived narratives is where conspiracy theories come in. All of these are from the past day or two.


In many ways, reality defies Trump’s narrative.

Heather Cox Richardson: June 11, 2024

“We’re producing more energy than ever before in this nation. We have the strongest economy in the world, and we are beating China for the first time in decades. More people went to work this morning in America than at any other time in our nation’s history. So I’ve got a message to Donald Trump and all his negativity and his whining: Stop sh*t talking America. This is the greatest country on earth, and it’s time that we all start acting like it.”

Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro’s words to Jen Psaki on MSNBC yesterday illustrated that Democrats are flipping the script on the MAGA Republicans.

Since he decided to run for president in 2015, almost exactly nine years ago, Trump’s narrative has been that the United States is in terrible decline and that only he can “make America great again.” In his speech announcing his candidacy on that June day in 2015, he claimed that “our country is in serious trouble” and complained that China, Japan, and Mexico were all “beating” the U.S. and “laughing at us, at our stupidity…. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems,” he said before launching into the idea that Mexico was sending criminals and rapists across the border. “Our enemies are getting stronger and stronger…, and we as a country are getting weaker,” he said. “Even our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work.”

And therein lies a key reason for Trump’s story of an apocalyptic America: describing the nation as a hellhole that only he can fix also maps over a common pattern of American grifters. So long as supporters send him money, he claims, they will be able to defend the country against dark forces: communists, Marxists, atheists, immigrants, pedophiles, feminists—just what the dark forces are matters far less than that they are a foil for the grifter.

Because Trump’s narrative is one that frightened, disadvantage, paranoid people need to believe — somehow it explains their station in life. So they do.

Not only Josh Shapiro is saying this.

On June 1, top sports talk host Colin Cowherd anticipated Shapiro’s pro-American stance when he pushed back on the Republican idea that the country is a dystopian nightmare. “[Trump’s] trying to sell me an America that doesn’t exist,” he said. “Stop trying to sell me on ‘everything’s rigged, the country’s falling into the sea, the economy’s terrible,’” he continued. “The America that I live in is imperfect. But compared to the rest of the world, I think we’re doing okay.”

I’ve always been curious about how MAGA conservatives claim American is the greatest nation since forever ago, and still claim that it’s corrupt in every imaginable way.


Items about the Republican worldview. The extremist ones, at least.

Breaking to examine this last item, which is all nonsense. The five points are:

1, Gay men and women have been sexually abused, and so are living in “spiritual darkness”;
2, They had horrible things happen to them and need to understand that every single life can be redeemed;
3, Live lives as evidence of God’s plan;
4, Christians need to get out and take the gospel to the streets;
5, The gay movement is at “war with God.”

Nonsense, all of it. (No, gay people *have not* been sexually abused!) Well, the third item is OK — sure, live lives that others should emulate! set an example! — except that so many Christians live hypocritical lives that seem to violate their Ten Commandments. And it’s yet another example of Christians presuming that they know better how everyone else’s lives should be lived.


The current state of the world.

It seems to me that Republicans — again, this is not a partisan matter so much as an identification of a pattern in human nature — ignore real problems in favor of made-up ones, that are derived by tribal mentality.

Robert Reich, 4 Jun 2024: The Party of Huge Nothingburgers: “At a time when America faces existential crises, Trump Republicans are busily manufacturing non-crises”

Reich identifies these “nothingburger” crises as these:

1, Voting by “illegals”
2, The border
3, Crime
4, Trans people, wokeness, critical race theory
5, Government spending

Reich concludes,

Trump and his Republican sycophants want America to focus on these nothingburgers in the months leading up to the 2024 election. They are based on lies, innuendo, and scapegoating.

The real tragedy is America faces huge and growing existential threats that should be the focus of the nation’s attention in the 2024 election. It’s up to Biden and the Democrats to keep them front and center.

I would suggest that this is all about short-term vs long-term focus. Yet it’s part of human nature, which is why I pay attention to these items, in the context of the possibilities for humanity’s future (which has been speculated about in science fiction).

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