Cult of Personality

Donald Trump unmasked: Culture-war nihilism is his last line of defense

Pushing back against mask-wearing is nonsensical — but Trumpian politics have never been driven by logic

Heather Digby Parton | Salon

I don’t think there’s ever been a U.S. president with more influence with his political base that Donald Trump. All presidents are defended by those who support them, of course. Even the most unpopular failures have diehard fans who stick with them to the bitter end.

But Trump is unusual in that he has only ever attempted to govern on behalf of the people who support him and has no feeling of responsibility toward any other citizens. He has taken the already polarized Republican Party and turned it into a cult of personality. His influence over the 40 to 45% of the population who seem to idolize him is immense.

Perhaps it’s because Trump was a celebrity with a TV show long before he entered politics that makes his fans love him so unconditionally. Whatever it is, Trump and his supporters have an unusually personal and almost intimate bond. It’s clear after three and a half tumultuous years that they will follow his lead no matter what.

The political implications of this are profound. This weird relationship between president and base now completely dominates the Republican Party, apparently making it impossible for any prominent national figure in the party to allow even the smallest daylight between himself or herself and Trump. (Frankly, very few even seem to be trying.) 

The red MAGA hat serves as an official symbol of Trump loyalty, and there is a certain part of his following that uses it as a tool of intimidation. Even more disturbing, there has been a spate of mass shootings and other acts of violence by people who have named Trump or his ideas as motivation.

In order to maintain his supporters’ devotion, Trump has stoked the culture wars at every turn, ruthlessly dividing the country in order to keep his fans engaged. They receive such hypocritical gestures of solidarity as his newfound “pro-life” zealotry with enthusiastic gratitude — but what they really love are his brutal assaults on those they consider their political and cultural enemies. In that, Trump and his base are one.

So it should come as no surprise that when Trump faced the first crisis of his presidency that was not of his own making — and failed to meet the challenge — he would reflexively fall back on culture-war tactics to reinforce his base. His response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been abysmal, with the death toll now over 100,000 and the economy in dire straits. After bungling the response so badly that it will be studied by historians for centuries as an example of poor leadership, Trump is returning to his original instinct, which was simply to deny that the whole thing mattered, or was even happening.

His supporters have eagerly followed his lead, defying public health guidelines and demanding that their governors “reopen” immediately (or in Trump’s own words of incitement, that they “liberate” their states.) Trump clearly believes that he can wish away the virus — or at least people’s concern about the virus — by pretending that the crisis is over and that we can go back to normal.

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Weaponized Ignorance

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

― Issac Asimov

A comment I came across yesterday:  

“It’s not even that they’re angry, they mark anything off that goes against their views as inherently false and only look at things at face value without researching anything. It’s not anger, it’s weaponised ignorance.”

Weaponized ignorance!

The Psychologist part of me (yes, my academic background) is curious about the systemic informational bias, both in spin, and the uptake.  Misinformation is employed by the Left and the Right constantly, and mass-consumed by their respective following. Increasingly, we tend to demonize those who do not line up with our own entrenched tribal-bias, and laud anyone whose words seem to line up with the same. 

There’s a popular meme floating around with a tag line “… change my mind”.  I think it’s increasingly unlikely that anyone’s mind can be changed in an atmosphere of systemic mistrust and prevarication on an industrial scale!  It brings to mind the observations of C.S. Lewis’ characters Screwtape and Wormwood, as they tease their humans towards eternal damnation!  

Marshall McLuhan was prophetic when he said that “the medium is the message”.  Folks are addicted to the media(s) that feeds their bias!  Follow the goddamn money, my friends! Who benefits most from a divided and enraged populous? Those who need a soapbox to shill cheap auto insurance and boner pills, I say!

I would argue that “Trump” and the divisive politics associated with him were created in this hyperbolic environment. It’s difficult to wrap my head around his appeal to his base — although I do try to understand their longstanding gripes. But why Trump? At best, he’s a self-aggrandizing con who has found a circus parade to march out in front of.  He’ll apparently say and do anything to appease his base, contradicting a lifetime record of his utter distain for them. 

Why should I care about what goes on with the culture war in the States? Because the fallout from that bullshit is evident in my own backyard when random idiots decide it’s OK to ignore our public health advisors because Trump publicly trusts his gut over the best advice of America’s own. Just one example. 

You can’t get away from this nonsense! It’s 24/7 everywhere… 

Rant over. – cPaul

See also: Corona Virus Information-Apocalypse @ Buzzfeed News

Posted in Culture War, Politics, Psychology, Shameless! | Leave a comment

The 17-year cicadas are coming!!

I was driving back to Montreal from Corpus Christi 17 years ago… the sound driving through the Virginias at night was unbelievable! – cPaul

The bug-eyed Insects are emerging from the earth in Southwest Virginia this year, bringing a cacophony of white noise and molted brown husks.

James Mason | Virginia Tech Daily

As many as 1.5 million cicadas per acre will emerge from the ground this spring. Photo for Virginia Tech by Doug Pfeiffer.

With warm daytime weather and mild nights upon us, you may find yourself opening a window to enjoy the cool spring air. But accompanying this breeze will be a cacophonous whining like a field of out-of-tune car radios.

That can only mean one thing: the cicadas are back.

This year, that alien-like wail of the insect world will be even more pronounced, as millions of cicadas from brood IX emerge after 17 years underground.

“Communities and farms with large numbers of cicadas emerging at once may have a substantial noise issue,” predicts Eric Day, Virginia Cooperative Extension entomologist in Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Hopefully, any annoyance at the disturbance is tempered by just how infrequent — and amazing — this event is.”

The scale of these emergence events is astounding, with as many as 1.5 million cicadas emerging per acre. Each periodical cicada brood covers a specific geographical region, with some areas overlapping. This year brood IX spans Southwest Virginia, parts of North Carolina, and West Virginia. People who live in these regions will experience a unique natural phenomenon that has not occurred in most of the area since 2003-04 (some of the region overlaps with Brood II, which emerged in 2013). 

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How to Make Six Different Forts Out of Ikea Furniture

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Watch this robotic sheepdog manage a flock

I, for one, will welcome our robotic overlords… – cPaul

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An imperfect TV icon reexamined.

The mad, sad, totally fab life of Paul Lynde

by James Hibberd | Entertainment Weekly

“I’ll take Paul Lynde.”

Not so very long ago, a lifetime ago, those words took Americans somewhere wicked. In the ’70s, if that sentence was uttered by a contestant on Hollywood Squares, lights would flash around the center cube in a grid of celebrities — those of the stripe who wind up on game shows — and settle on a genuine star. He was tanned, with shining teeth, if no leading man. He was in his 40s but looked older, and he had a whinnying snigger. But when it came to providing risqué answers to questions posed by the NBC show’s host, Peter Marshall, he could not be matched.

Is the electrical current in your house AC or DC?

“In my house, it’s both!”

Does Mark Spitz believe it’s easier to swim nude?

Well, it’s easier to steer…”

You’re the world’s most popular fruit. What are you?


The audience would roar approval at his bawdy jokes, and Lynde would flash his Cheshire-cat grin. He delivered that performance thousands of times in the 14 years after the show’s 1966 premiere. Between Lynde’s center-square residency and his guest spots on sitcoms and variety shows, the actor was booking up to 200 televised hours each season by the mid ’70s. It made him rich enough to buy Errol Flynn’s L.A. mansion, where he lived with his dog, a terrier named Harry. “There was no one funnier than Paul Lynde,” says Whoopi Goldberg, who took over the center square in the Hollywood Squares revival that premiered in 1998. “I don’t know if the public thought about his sexuality.”

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The science of digital music and why analog isn’t actually better

Interesting podcast @ – cPaul

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QAnon conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic are a public health threat

Marc-André Argentino | Concordia University via

A researcher at Concordia University looks into online movements like QAnon, using a combination of data science and digital ethnography to research how extremist movements use technology to create propaganda, recruit members to ideological causes, inspire acts of violence or impact democratic institutions. – cPaul

First there was the pandemic, then came the “infodemic” — a term the head of the World Health Organization defines as the spread of false information about COVID-19.

The most dangerous conspiracy theories about the coronavirus are now part of the QAnon phenomenon. For months now, actors in QAnon have downplayed the severity of the crisis, amplified medical disinformation and have been originators of hoaxes.

The QAnon movement started in 2017 after someone using an anonymous account known only as Q posted wild conspiracy theories about U.S. President Donald Trump on the internet forum 4chan.

QAnon conspiracy theorists believe a deep state cabal of global elites is responsible for all the evil in the world. They also believe those same elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the deep state. QAnon has now brought the same conspiracy mentality to the coronavirus crisis.

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Rethinking the Canada-US relationship after the pandemic

My learned friend Richard Nimijean co-authored this article for Policy Options. – cPaul

The COVID crisis has made it clear that we need to examine our economic and geopolitical prospects as the “special relationship” comes to an end.

Donald Trump’s erratic management of the COVID-19 crisis has been overwhelmingly rejected by Canadians, who feel good about themselves and their leaders. The crisis has reinforced a belief in government for dealing with pressing issues. Values that inform the Canadian identity explain Canada’s different response. Whereas Trump has portrayed the virus as yet another kind of foreign invader, Canada’s chief public health officer has used the crisis to stress values of inclusion and diversity.

Canadians recoiled when Trump floated the idea of stationing troops near the Canadian border and tried to block PPE exports to Canada. Whereas Prime Minister Trudeau continued his strategy of never directly confronting the president, several premiers did not hesitate to criticize Trump.

Thus, we need to rethink the Canada-US relationship, a difficult task given the high degree of integration of our economic and security institutions. Canada’s fate, owing to decades of policy decisions, is inextricably linked to that of the United States. While Canada has benefitted from the relationship, it is in an increasingly unenviable position. Since the election of Trump, Canada has been squeezed by both China and the United States as they engage in their high-level conflict.

Trump’s “America First” policy hurts trustworthy allies including Canada as the US places its own security and interests above all else. Peter Navarro, Trump’s China hawk and chief architect of the US response to COVID-19, has quipped that no country – even an ally – would retaliate against America because its market is too large and too important. This bold prediction, based on US exceptionalism, is now being tested as America’s claims to global leadership are cast in doubt by its response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Canada has gone to great lengths to not upset President Trump, even to the point of jeopardizing its own interests. Canadian interests and sovereignty were already being undermined before the crisis, as evidenced, for example, in the renegotiated Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), which places caps on Canada’s auto sector and prevents Canada from engaging in free trade negotiations with China. With so much now at stake, can the shared institutions that mark our bilateral relationship function as intended once the first wave of the pandemic subsides?

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Rethinking the Canada-US relationship after the pandemic

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R.I.P. Brian Howe (1953-2020)

See the source image

The Guardian

Brian Howe, the singer who fronted the British rock supergroup Bad Company for eight years, has died aged 66. He had a heart attack at his Florida home.

Howe’s manager Paul Easton said: “It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the untimely passing of a loving father, friend and musical icon.”

Bad Company originally formed in 1973 by Free singer Paul Rodgers and Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs. After Rodgers left to form another supergroup with Jimmy Page, the Firm, Bad Company recruited Howe in 1986, and he went on to perform on four subsequent albums.

The band was at a low ebb when Howe joined, having fallen from their peak 70s popularity with platinum-selling albums such as their self-titled debut, Straight Shooter, and Run With the Pack. But after helping to steer them away from the poppier sound of flop album Fame and Fortune, he returned them to success with 1990’s Holy Water, another platinum-seller in the US.

He said in a December 2019 interview: “I kind of stamped my foot a little bit and said, ‘Guys, this is a rock’n’roll band! We need to toughen things up a little bit. This is a guitar band, you know! This is a bluesy guitar band, and we need to get back on that.’ And with tremendousresistance, they were finally pushed into it, I guess.”

He left Bad Company in 1994, later complaining: “The band was getting very very sloppy live. I quite simply, along with [songwriter-producer-guitarist] Terry Thomas, got tired of doing all the work.”

Howe was born in 1953 in Portsmouth, and initially performed with heavy metal band White Spirit. He was hired to perform vocals with US guitarist Ted Nugent, touring with him and singing on his 1984 album Penetrator. Following his subsequent spell with Bad Company, he released three solo albums and briefly collaborated with Megadeth.

He suffered an earlier heart attack in September 2017, later saying: “It was a bad one, apparently – I don’t remember anything about it. I was driving. And I was found in my car at a stop sign, unconscious … It took me a long time to recover.”

He continued touring until close to the end of his life, with dates across the US throughout 2019.

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A very (very, very) big asteroid to pass close-by!

Round orbits of planets in the inner solar system, with big oval orbit of asteroid.
Orbit of asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2. It requires 3 years and 8 months to orbit the sun once. It gets nearly as far from the sun as Jupiter (about 5 times Earth’s distance from the sun). Image via NASA/ JPL.

A big – very big – asteroid passed relatively close to Earth this morning (April 29, 2020). Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 passed at a safe distance, at some 4 million miles (6 million km), or about 16 times the Earth-moon distance. It’s the biggest asteroid to fly by Earth this year (that we know about so far); according to current estimates, it’s probably a bit over a mile wide (2 km) and mostly spherical. Closest approach was April 29 around 4:56 a.m. Central Daylight Time (09:56 UTC). An online viewing of the asteroid from the Virtual Telescope Project in Rome, Italy – originally scheduled for April 28 – has been rescheduled due to clouds last night. The new time for the online viewing is today (April 29, 2020) starting at 1:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time (18:30 UTC; translate UTC to your time).

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Coronavirus shakes the conceit of ‘American exceptionalism’

Calvin Wood | AP News

What if the real “invisible enemy” is the enemy from within — America’s very institutions?

When the coronavirus pandemic came from distant lands to the United States, it was met with cascading failures and incompetencies by a system that exists to prepare, protect, prevent and cut citizens a check in a national crisis.

The molecular menace posed by the new coronavirus has shaken the conceit of “American exceptionalism” like nothing big enough to see with your own eyes.

A nation with unmatched power, brazen ambition and aspirations through the arc of history to be humanity’s “shining city upon a hill” cannot come up with enough simple cotton swabs despite the wartime manufacturing and supply powers assumed by President Donald Trump.

The crisis turned doctors in the iconic American shining city, New York, into beggars with hands outstretched for ponchos because they couldn’t get proper medical gowns. “Rain ponchos!” laments tech entrepreneur Marc Andreessen. “In 2020! In America!”

It’s turned a Massachusetts hospital executive into an under-the-radar road warrior, working up a deal through a friend of a friend of an employee who heard about a warehouse more than five hours away with masks. Two tractor-trailers disguised as grocery trucks picked them up, dodged interference from Homeland Security and took separate routes back in case one load got intercepted on highways through the northeast “pandemic alley.”

“Did I foresee, as a health system leader working in a rich, highly developed country with state-of-the-art science and technology and incredible talent, that my organization would ever be faced with such a set of circumstances?” asked Dr. Andrew W. Artenstein of Baystate Health, who was on hand at the warehouse to help score the booty. “Of course not.”

But, he said, “the cavalry does not appear to be coming.”

At the time of greatest need, the country with the world’s most expensive health care system doesn’t want you using it if you’re sick but not sick enough or not sick the right way.

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Trump is insane: And it’s time for leading Democrats to say that out loud

David Masciotra | Salon

Rational Americans already understand that our president is mentally ill. Will Democrats ever speak truth to power?

Psychologists warn of the deadly consequences of the “silent partner” in abusive homes. When a father beats or sexually assaults a child, the family will often react by refusing to discuss the abuse, allowing silence to enable the predator and protect against confronting a reality that is too painful and frightening. 

The United States of America is now an abusive household. Donald Trump is the lunatic authority figure stalking and traumatizing the victims — the American people — while the Democratic Party, along with the mainstream media, act as the silent partner.

It becomes increasingly evident, with Trump’s every social media post, public utterance and policy directive, that our president suffers from a severe form of mental illness. His insanity threatens millions of lives, and has become particularly dangerous during the most devastating public health crisis in the last 100 years.

For all the criticism that Democrats and pundits advance against Trump, their refusal to state the obvious forces the American public to feel as if we are the ones confined to a mental institution. It also emboldens Trump, even as he prioritizes his fragile ego, his compulsion to appear infallible and political expediency above the lives of countless human beings.

The most popular terms that Trump’s opponents use are “liar,” “un-American,” “egomaniac” and “malignant narcissist.” All of these labels are weak, which is why we watch as Trump peels them off like Band-Aids after a shower. Half the public probably doesn’t know what “malignant narcissist” means, while “un-American” is too vague and ideological to have any widespread resonance. “Liar” quickly collapses into the “all politicians lie” refrain, and “egomania” is borderline meaningless, considering that almost anyone who becomes famous in our consumer society — including most high-powered CEOs, Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes — obviously have massively swollen egos. 

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Trump is insane: And it’s time for leading Democrats to say that out loud |

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Bullshit is everywhere. Here’s how to deal with it by using the CRAP framework in the workplace.

by Ian McCarthy, David R Hannah, & Jane McCarthy | The Conversation

Employees might speak out against workplace bullshit if they don’t fear they’ll face some bullshit punishment for doing so. (Pixabay)

What’s colloquially known as “bullshit” occurs when people make statements with no regard for the truth, and unfortunately, it is more prevalent than ever.

Thankfully, we can all stem the production and spread of bullshit in our workplaces by applying the CRAP framework from our recent academic paper, “Confronting indifference toward truth: Dealing with workplace bullshit.” The framework consists of four steps: Comprehend why bullshit exists; Recognize when it is produced; know how to Act against it, and Prevent it from occurring…

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