In the world we inhabit, what used to be called ‘myths’, once long in the growing, have morphed into swiftly manufactured ‘conspiracy theories’, and in the same way that religious myths can engender unquestioning belief in non-facts, so these invented conspiracies can influence followers of a political idea. This phenomenon was witnessed five years ago in Britain, when the promoters of the Brexit Project created new myths based on bogus, empire-centric English history, and straight-forward manipulation of economic forecasts that would appeal to more unsophisticated voters.
The recent US presidential election was undoubtedly warped and mis-directed in many unpredictable ways. Perhaps, by the time you read this, Mr Trump will finally have accepted the inescapable, and agreed that he will go. Many of those who consider that he was the most unpleasant and, in every way most ill-equipped individual ever to have led the globe’s wealthiest democracy, attribute his reluctance to give up the White House, and the immunity it offers, to his fear that as soon as he does so, many past irregularities in the conduct of his deeply troubled property business will lead to his being charged and convicted of a variety of crimes of fraud and tax-evasion. I doubt that this would be enough to persuade his many millions of apparently gullible supporters to abandon him, but it would, without doubt, make it impossible for him to attempt to run again in 2024. And unless he starts up his own television station (which he doesn’t appear to be in a position to achieve) no other serious outlet will touch him, particularly now that he has been abandoned by Rupert Murdoch, who only backs people whom he thinks will win.
One of the prime deviating influences on Trump’s supporters has been the proliferation of extraordinary, entirely unfounded myths about the nature of the Democratic Party, the Biden family and the extremity of democrat policies. Televised vox-pop among Trump voters has shown that there is surprisingly widespread conviction that democrats have criminally interfered with the election, and that they are engaged in protecting an extensive paedophile ring, a fabrication based entirely on a series of anonymous tweets and bolstered by the growing influence of Q-Anon.
Conversely, without wishing to launch a conspiracy theory of my own, I believe I have identified a bizarre myth vigorously promoted by Trump’s campaign concerning his own apparent contracting of Covid-19. It must have been a simple matter, by threat or guile, to persuade the necessary parties to support his claim, although, to the perceptive observer, this manufactured ‘fact’ was ineluctably compromised by his one appearance in hospital when making a brief statement without wearing make-up, when it is widely acknowledged that such is Trump’s vanity, he would not have done this for any reason other than to allow his naturally pasty and unhealthy complexion to provide physical evidence of his ‘illness’. Had he truly been ill, it would have been entirely consistent with his clinical narcissism to have worn his customary orange tan for that public appearance.
He showed no other visible signs of the disease, and his wife’s condition was subsequently barely mentioned. The whole myth had all the unsubtle Trump hallmarks of a macho display designed to prove:
- a) That the coronavirus wasn’t particularly deadly (if you ignored the hundreds of thousands of American deaths), and
- b) What a tough fellow he was.
Trump may have taken the view that if Brazil’s Bolsonaro could pull it off, so could he.
These recent manifestations of myths and the power they can wield should remind us of the extent to which large scale manufactured versions of truth can affect the human race more generally. The world’s major religions are without exception based on mythology – some, like Hinduism in a manner so palpably obvious that translation of its mythology into parable is easily accepted. In the case of Christianity, there is less acceptance that much of scripture is mythical and many millions of the world’s – and America’s – fundamentalist Christians still cleave, for example, to the Seven Day Creation described in the Book of Genesis. The Trump campaign with ruthless cynicism has used this unquestioning literal acceptance of Christian myth to graft on the almost equally unlikely myth that Trump loves God, so effectively that followers at Trump’s rallies have been filmed claiming specifically that their reason for supporting him is his ‘love of God.’
These people are, of course, entitled to a democratic vote. But with this kind of political thinking responsible for electing and trying to sustain an administration like Trump’s, when Joe Biden finally gets into the White House, if he wants to avoid the potential Armageddon of a future election of a man like Trump,his absolute priority should be the profound education of the American people.