The Fundamentalism of the Trump Ecosystem

I’ve described to friends how the Trump ecosystem reminds me of the religious fundamentalism that I grew up in, the religious dogma that took me almost 45 years of my life to escape.

Farhad Manjoo’s commentary in the New York Times, “The Capitol Was Just the Start,” so vibrantly describes the reality-bending insanity of the cult mindset. They’ve exalted Trump to the status of demigod. They worship him. Their identity is wrapped up in him. And they rest soundly in the lies of his apologists, who give them all the rationalization they need to calm their charred hearts of the cognitive dissonance that reality invokes. It’s horrifying, heartbreaking, and enraging, all at the same time.

These people are Americans. These are our fellow citizens, our fellow voters. And we are in deep shit.

These were not just the Trump loyalists of lore, that economically marginalized, over-elegized white working class of the heartland. No, the crowd that stormed the Capitol was a big tent of whiteness, a cross-section of American society bridging divisions of class, geography and demography. They were doctors and lawyers, florists and real estate agents, business executives, police officers, military veterans, at least one elected official and an Olympic gold medalist. They’d all come to coup for America…

One way to think about the attack on the Capitol is as a clash between long-festering, partisan digital fantasy and stark physical reality. What scares me is that even with reality flash-banging all around them, the rioters still clung like stubborn barnacles to their online fantasy. Their mental model of America could not be undone even by the events playing out before their pepper-sprayed eyes — a depth of indoctrination that really does not bode well for our future…

Now that the conspiracy mob has effected such carnage on the real world, we’d be foolish to suppose that its appetite has been sated, rather than only whetted. Monstrous online lies are not done with us. The Capitol is just the beginning.

And if you still don’t understand how Trump supporters can still support him, even with all that’s happened, this classic video by Theramintrees, “bending truth: how adults get indoctrinated,” will explain. It’s about religious indoctrination, but that has such a close parallel to the political indoctrination you see among the most brainwashed of Trump’s followers. This is how ordinary, intelligent people get sucked into alternate realities—group delusions.