Why Cognitive Dissonance Makes Trumpsters Flee To Their ‘Bizarro World’

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission Alternet

One of the most jarring aspects of watching Fox News or One America News Network is the mental gymnastics President Donald Trump's supporters must perform in his defense. Being a Trump supporter often means defending the indefensible. Journalist Anne Applebaum describes those extremes in an article published in The Atlantic, stressing that their defenses of the president require a total defiance of logic and reason.

Applebaum cites Trump loyalist William B. Crews as one of the wildest examples. Crews, Applebaum notes, was an employee of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is headed by expert immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci. Crews, the Daily Beast's Lachlan Markey recently reported, was angry because Fauci's messages on the coronavirus pandemic sometimes conflicted with what Trump had to say — and Crews responded by attacking Fauci on the Red State website using the pen name "Streiff."

As "Streiff," Applebaum notes, Crews also defended Trump on everything from the Ukraine scandal to the George Floyd protests.

"Nothing that (Crews) wrote was clever or surprising," Applebaum explains. "Day after day, he produced boringly predictable pablum — the sort of average-vile stuff pumped out on Fox or Breitbart News all the time. The only thing remarkable about this writing is that Crews was doing it while simultaneously being employed by a government body whose most important task is to fight exactly the kinds of conspiracy theories he was producing."

Another example of a Trump supporter who has gone to insane lengths to defend the indefensible, according to Applebaum, is Michael Caputo, former Trump-appointed spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services. Caputo, Applebaum observes, "was caught meddling with scientific reports on the pandemic put out by the CDC, which, like Fauci's agency, is part of HHS. He then posted a Facebook video claiming that scientists at the CDC were plotting 'sedition' and worse."

Applebaum quotes Caputo as saying, "You understand that they're going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that's where this is going. There are hit squads being trained all over this country. If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it's going to be hard to get."

The "cases" of Crews and Caputo, Applebaum writes, indicate "that people whose jobs require them to provide 'alternative facts' on a regular basis might eventually break under the strain. Maybe there is a price to be paid, in loss of mental clarity, for supporting the fantasy world needed to sustain this president."

Trumpworld, Applebaum warns, has become so unhinged that even supporters of the far-right QAnon cult are now welcome in the GOP.

"In order to make sense of the world they can see all around them, (QAnon) have created an elaborate and obviously false explanation — that an omniscient Trump is fighting a cabal of deep-state Satanists and pedophiles," Applebaum observes. "No wonder Republicans, instead of shunning QAnon believers, are working to elect some of them to Congress in November. They genuinely serve a function, helping Trump supporters navigate the gap between the reality they live in and the fiction they see on Fox and Facebook."

Applebaum wraps up her piece by warning that if Trump wins a second term in November, his administration could become even more divorced from reality.

"Voters can still choose to grapple with reality — to read real news, to seek accurate information, to use our daily experience as a guide before deciding what to believe —without fear," Applebaum stresses. "But for people like 'Streiff' — people who actually work in this administration, and people who would choose to work in a second Trump Administration — reality might no longer be an option."

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