The Trump era has introduced us to the concepts of the “Deep State,” and “Fake News.”
But perhaps it’s time to introduce something new: The Deep Lie.
The Deep Lie needs to be distinguished from the cascade of other lies — about everything from inauguration crowd sizes to the state of the pandemic — that flowed from the White House and numbed our sensibilities.
The Deep Lie is also subtly different from the usual understanding of the Big Lie, which was so brazen and “colossal" — as Hitler explained — that the public wouldn’t believe that anyone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously".
The Deep Lie is also “colossal,” but it does not merely mislead — it is a lie so deeply embedded in the media and political ecosystem that it distorts reality and shapes our political world. It is immune to evidence, to logic, or new information, and it is endlessly recycled until its shatters our sense of sanity.
It works this way. The lie (any lie) begins in the fever swamp—>social media —> Fox News/talkradio —> goes viral —> achieves critical mass —> politicians begin to “ask questions” because “people are saying” —> dominates political debate….and the loop continues until the lie shatters our polity.
We’ve seen the consequences. Dead cops, a Capitol under siege, and millions of Americans locked into a false narrative about the election.
But Trump’s lie about the election is only one aspect of the larger and deeper pattern that Hannah Arendt described as the ‘annihilation of truth.”
For Deep Lies to spread, it is not necessary to advance the Deep Lie oneself; all that’s necessary is to attack its critics.
And Tucker Carlson is there for it.
The other night, the highly rated Fox News host complained that “stupid people” want to eliminate Fox News.
“They’re not arguing that Fox News is inaccurate and dishonest and you shouldn’t watch it,” he insisted, “they are arguing that you shouldn’t be able to watch Fox News because Fox should be eliminated by force.”
Actually, that’s not true. The critics are, in fact, arguing that Fox News is often both “inaccurate and dishonest”—a vector of lies both Big and Deep.
But Carlson won’t let such details get in the way of his dominant narrative that conservatives are being silenced, muzzled, censored, and “eliminated.”
Tucker’s whine has been taken up by the snowflakes of the right.
As Axios’s Mike Allen observes: "‘Silencing’ will be to the modern Republican Party what big government was in the '90s—an all-purpose target designed to inflame feelings of victimhood.”
So we get this bit of victimist cosplay from Josh Hawley.
Which brings us back to Tucker, who could have used his platform to try to cut out the cancerous growths on the right. Instead, he has gone all-in to defend the dissemination of falsehoods, including QAnon.
The acolytes of the conspiracy theory believe many things, including that Trump is at war with a vast ring of Deep State satanic pedophiles who occasionally kidnap, torture, and kill babies, cannibalize them, and drink their blood. Some (including a sitting member of Congress) believe that “Hillary Clinton and former Clinton aide Huma Abedin were filmed ripping off a child’s face and wearing it as a mask before drinking the child’s blood in a Satanic ritual sacrifice.”
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.”
One Democratic congresswoman has proposed legislation to bar QAnonists from holding federal security clearances. This seems . . . reasonable?
Others—including Republicans—have warned about the dangers of spreading deadly falsehoods. Because truth, facts, reality, and basic decency.
But Tucker isn’t having it. Here he is his monologue from earlier this week:
Listen as the geniuses explain how the single biggest threat to this country isn't Chinese hegemony or even the coming hyperinflation, pretty much a certainty now, which was 100 percent caused by elite mismanagement of our economy. But no let's not talk about that. The real threat is a forbidden idea. It's something called QAnon.
Tucker then played clips of folks talking about the dangers of the conspiracy theories, including a brief soundbite from columnist Tom Friedman, who called the cult’s bizarre notions, “frightening.” This triggered Tucker’s mockery:
Ooh, Mr. Tom Friedman thinks this is all pretty frightening. And he’s right, but not, as usual, for the reason he thinks. We’re watching a profound change taking place in American society and it’s happening very fast. The stakes could not be higher. There’s a clear line between democracy and tyranny, between self-government and dictatorship. And here’s what that line is. That line is your conscience. They cannot cross that. Government has every right to tell you what to do.
No democratic government can ever tell you what to think. Your mind belongs to you. It is yours and yours alone.
Here we begin to plumb the depths of the dishonesty that Tucker Carlson is marshaling to defend the Deep Lie.
Once politicians attempt to control what you believe, they are no longer politicians. They are by definition dictators. And if they succeed in controlling what you believe you are no longer a citizen, you are not a free man, you are a slave.
But this is rank bullshit. None of the clips Carlson plays here say anything about the government coming to tell you what to believe. He is conflating questions about what is true or not true with accusations of government censorship.
At some level, Carlson knows this is transparent demagoguery. He knows there is no push to have government tell people what to think. He knows there are no jack-booted woke thugs coming to force you to stop believing in Pizzagate.
Conservatives used to understand the distinction between government action and private choice. Private companies have the absolute right to decide what they will and will not publish.
Company X (Twitter, Facebook, Fox) should no more be compelled to carry deceptive content than any other business should be required to bake certain kinds of cakes or take certain kinds of pictures.
Here is why this matters: Carlson is creating a climate on the right where any attempt to question the truth or falsity of these batshit claims is now somehow an act of “silencing.”
In Tucker’s disingenuous new world, fact-checking, exposing fraud, calling out dishonesty, conspiracy theories, or overt racism are all forms of “silencing.” If you try to block deadly misinformation you are attacking freedom of thought. If you refuse to carry bigots, or try to hold trolls accountable, he cries censorship and slavery.
Tucker also knows that “conservatives” are not being muzzled. You can tell, because they are still . . . everywhere. They are on network television, host cable shows, have vast networks of radio shows, and remain ubiquitous on social media.
Tucker Carlson has his own Deep Lie: The “cancel culture,’ wants to destroy you all. You are all victims. The fight over truth is just a cover for the move to exterminate everyone like you.
In other words:
The enemy is not The Lie. The enemy is the person telling you that it is a Lie.
It will probably be good for ratings.
Former President Donald Trump will never admit that he lost a fair election, but every elected Republican ought to be telling voters that as a step toward bringing the country together, Sen. Mitt Romney said Tuesday.
In addition to social media perpetuating the “big lie” that Trump is somehow still president and President Joe Biden stole the election, GOP officials, too, are contributing to that notion, the Utah Republican said.
“You have many of the Trump supporters in elected office, senators, congresspeople, governors, continuing to say the same thing, that the election was stolen,” Romney said.
But, he said, what they should tell people is that the Trump campaign “had a chance to take their message to the courts, the courts laughed them out of court. I’ve seen no evidence that suggests that there was widespread voter fraud.”
What do you do with a problem like Marjorie?
Republicans knew they had a Marjorie Taylor Greene problem back in the summer of 2020 when she was running for Congress. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the QAnon supporter’s comments about Black people and Muslims “disgusting,” while a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called them “appalling.” Scalise backed her primary opponent.
Then she won, and Republicans tried to put a good face on it — even falsely claiming she had disavowed QAnon and suggesting the country should move on.
That posture is looking increasingly untenable.
John Berman @JohnBermanJUST NOW: "This is not an aberration. " Former GOP @RepRiggleman on @mtgreenee and others driving GOP now. Says he is leaning toward leaving party. @NewDay https://t.co/URJGJFtVP3
Bonus: Who is more likely to be purged: Liz Cheney or MTG?
Profile in courage. ICYMI: great profile of GOP Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
One thing to understand about Adam Kinzinger is that he knows how this will end.
“The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead,” the Republican congressman from Illinois says. He is quoting a scene from the World War II series “Band of Brothers” in which an officer dresses down a soldier who hid from battle. The officer continues: “And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function.”
Kinzinger, who is also a pilot with the Air National Guard, took those words as an order.
His embrace of this fatalistic credo made it easier for him to fly planes into enemy territory during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. It made it easier for him to object late last year as President Donald Trump and some of his congressional colleagues amplified the myth of a “rigged” election, stoking violent revenge fantasies among the party’s politically valuable give-me-MAGA-or-give-me-death contingent. And it made it easier for Kinzinger, a young, square-jawed Republican with his whole political life ahead of him, to vote to impeach Trump in the aftermath of the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Join us for a livestream conversation tonight, exclusively for members of Bulwark+.
Jeffrey Toobin has some thoughts about this.
GOP senators need to repudiate Trump.
Yet 45 Republican senators voted against taking up the impeachment trial Tuesday. Some want to spend as little time thinking and talking about Trump as possible, but many are still in thrall to his base. Twenty Republican-held Senate seats will be contested in two years, and the current occupants no doubt fear primary challengers from the MAGA right if they show any sign of breaking with Trump. What's less clear is why, given their rhetoric and behavior over the last four years, they think the country would be any worse off with Trump sycophants in their seats.
Thanks to the impeachment process they've been gifted by the Democrats, Senate Republicans have one last chance to break with Trump and the conspiracist authoritarianism he represents. Their opening move Tuesday was a weak one, but they still have time for a course correction when the vote on conviction takes place next month. If they won't do it for the country, they should at least do it to save their place in the party.