Responding to a Post-Literate World

Responding to a Post-Literate World
Trumpspeak is Easy, What About Talking to Trump Supporters

Why do we in the factual world find the alt-factual so impervious to argument or to, you know, facts? We need a language to reach them because they are expert at creating their own memes. I don’t mean Trumpspeak. There are apps that can reproduce that word salad of believe me incoherence easily enough. Sad! Rather, I mean the Fox News and Breitbart followers whose steady diet makes us the enemy of the people and declares all we say “fake news.” How can we speak to them?

Our first recourse might also be our last conclusion. We discover that we can’t actually communicate with each other, our alt-universes don’t even collide. So our best choice is get out the vote and get them to the margins. This doesn’t solve the problem of that “friend” on Facebook from your past or the relative you thought you knew.

We may first have to admit that, despite what we thought we knew, we may not share the same values. What we mean when we say “patriotism,” “morality,” or “respect,” may not be what our opponents mean when they use the same words. The values within words require awareness. We are also working with an ideology that uses facile dismissal as a coping mechanism and the method of false equivalence. Trump is corrupted by the Russians? “All politicians do it, look at Pelosi and Schumer.” Call Trump a sexist abuser and the response is that when he calls out Rosie we can’t hear our own “political correctness.” As my pop used to say, they got an answer for everything. And then there is our language, memes that use “inclusion,” “equality,” and even “compassion,” promote more deafness, derision, or dismissal. We’re not operating from the same foundations of meaning, and our words don’t match and certainly don’t mend. So what to do?

The task is to appeal to their feelings and try to fathom their values. The “values voter” doesn’t like it when Trump’s values crash their claims. How about: “Trump’s values are not really yours. If that were your daughter how would you react?” True that the Values Voters have proven capable of looking away because they value controlling women more than respecting them, but the language must appeal to values that they claim to value.

Trump’s pathology of lying also seems not to penetrate. Why? His supporters have been fed a steady diet of distrust, conspiracy, and alt-facts on 20 years of Fox and AM-Radio. Rather than counter their views, we have to appeal to them. Nurture their distrust. So, point to a fact, like Building the Wall. “Do you trust him now that he says we will pay for the wall and Mexico will not?”

Trump’s bigotry provides so many examples we’re tempted to go down the list of things he’s actually said — about immigrants, Mexican people, Muslims, African Americans, the list. But that’s a non-starter too. How about “Hard working people doing hard jobs deserve our respect,” or “We need to protect religious liberty. What if your beliefs are next?”

We know that Trump is prodigiously unqualified for the job of the Presidency but somehow our binders full of data fall on deaf ears because he’s there to change things, not do “business as usual,” and is “a businessman, not a politician.” Of course he is a politician and the problem is that checks-and-balances politics is not business and cannot be. So how about this, “Now that Trump is President, he’s got to deal with those politicians. It looks like he’s been ineffective. How is that business expertise helping you?” Politician is a dirty word to Republicans. It’s time to make “businessman” a disqualification for running the country. No small task in a land where profit is king. “Do you think the stockmarket can withstand the uncertainty Trump is creating in the world? What about the last bubble? How’d that work out for your retirement funds?”

Last, “we need to act together, Trump’s calling for unity, right” “Does it help when the President* calls the press the enemy of the people? So there are individual ‘troublemakers’, but are all his enemies really your enemy? Remember Nixon?”

Okay, so all this seems inadequate or lame. I’ve reached once again my own first conclusion. It may be utterly futile and pointless to engage the Trump supporter. Instead we must rally the 92 million who did not vote, peal off the few, and most of all create as much fracture and friction among Republicans as possible to splinter their votes, gum up the works, and hope we defeat them next time bigly.

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