by Jonathan Chait, Intelligencer – NY MagazineNovember 2018
The conservative movement has long dismissed the value of neutral expertise — environmental scientists, arms control analysts, budget forecasters, or any other meddlesome nerds who question the simple verities of right-wing politics — as biased. Conservative media is built on this insight, constructing an alternate information ecosystem, in which only conservative sources can be trusted.
Donald Trump, an avid consumer of conservative media, has taken this style to its next step. Trump insists he is the sole arbiter of truth. Anybody who questions Trump is by definition biased. By his circular logic, any attempt to question Trump is inherently false, since the act of challenging Trump reveals the source to be dishonest. Reporters can try to chase the lies down one by one, but they always lead back into this same logical cul-de-sac.
It is obviously impossible to disprove an epistemology that begins and ends with the assumption that Trump is always right. But Chris Wallace, in his interview on Fox News Sunday, did an unusually clever and persistent job of drawing out the absurdity of Trump’s systemic lies.
Authoritarians are very dependent on social reinforcement of their beliefs. They think they’re right because almost everyone they know and listen to tells them they are. That happens because they screen out sources that will suggest that they are wrong.
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