Fake news, a fake president and a fake country: Welcome to America, land of no context

Andrew O'Hehir in Salon:

Trump_fake_headlines-620x412How much of the “news” is fake? How much of reality is “real”? After an election cycle driven by lies, delusions and propaganda — including lies about lies, multiple layers of fake news and meta-fake news — we are about to install a fake president, elected by way of the machineries of fake democracy. The country that elected him is fake too, at least in the sense that the voters who supported Donald Trump largely inhabit an imaginary America, or at least want to. They think it’s an America that used to exist, one they heard about from their fathers and grandfathers and have always longed to go back to. It’s not. Their America is an illusion that has been constructed and fed to them through the plastic umbilicus of Fox News and right-wing social media to explain the anger and disenfranchisement and economic dislocation and loss of relative privilege they feel. All of which are real, if not necessarily honorable; it represents the height of liberal uselessness to keep on quarreling about whether Trump’s fabled “white working class” suffers real economic pain or is just a cesspool of racism. That argument is really about other things, to be sure: It’s about whether the Democratic Party — whose long-promised era of permanent demographic hegemony and middle-class multiculturalism keeps being delayed into the indefinite future, defeat after defeat after defeat — requires a major reconstruction or just a little cosmetic surgery. Meanwhile, out in the pseudo-reality of Trumpian America, racial resentment and economic suffering are so profoundly intertwined that there’s no way to disentangle them. Arguments that the so-called left should pretty much ignore the deplorables who keep on voting against their own interests, or should abandon “identity politics” in quest of some middle-road economic populism that blends Bill Clinton and FDR, are both missing the point. In a nation where a candidate who won the popular vote by roughly 2.5 million did not win the election, we are no longer dealing with reality, at least as it used to exist.

Hillary Clinton was the ultimate Establishment candidate facing the ultimate outsider, and also a quintessential old-media personality facing a veritable Voldemort of social media. Given that, she came pretty damn close to pulling it off. But Clinton was also a candidate from reality facing a shimmering celebrity avatar, a clownish prankster who took physical form in our universe but who could say anything and do anything because he was self-evidently not real. That disadvantage proved impossible to overcome. Furthermore, Trump’s supporters may be delusional and misguided, but they aren’t half as dumb as they often look to “coastal elites.” Many of them understood, consciously or otherwise, that his incoherent promises could not be taken literally and that his outrageous personality did not reflect the realm of reality. They were sick of reality, and you can’t entirely blame them. For lots of people in “middle America” (the term is patronizing, but let’s move on) reality has been so debased, or so much replaced, as to seem valueless.

More here.