I've watched Scott Adams defend President Trump for years now, and I'm always fascinated by his ability to accuse people who disagree with him of any number of mental deficiencies. I am surprised that it took until today for him to pipe up about Trump's latest self-inflicted wound, but not by how he approached it.
In today's post, Adams continues his longstanding argument that, when it comes to Trump, we're experiencing a "mass hysteria bubble." How does he know? Because lots of people disagree with him:
The most visible Mass Hysteria of the moment involves the idea that the United States intentionally elected a racist President. If that statement just triggered you, it might mean you are in the Mass Hysteria bubble. The cool part is that you can’t fact-check my claim you are hallucinating if you are actually hallucinating. But you can read my description of the signs of mass hysteria and see if you check off the boxes.
If you’re in the mass hysteria, recognizing you have all the symptoms of hysteria won’t help you be aware you are in it. That’s not how hallucinations work. Instead, your hallucination will automatically rewrite itself to expel any new data that conflicts with its illusions.
The reason you can’t easily identify what-the-hell is going on in the country right now is that a powerful mass hysteria is in play. If you see the signs after I point them out, you’re probably not in the hysteria bubble. If you read this and do NOT see the signs, it probably means you’re trapped inside the mass hysteria bubble.
Right. So, if you agree with Adams, you're not hallucinating. If you disagree with him, or if you agree with the proposition he leads with ("the United States intentionally elected a racist President"), you're hallucinating.
First, let's remind ourselves that the United States has intentionally elected racist presidents about 40 times. I'm trying to think of the few who weren't racist in the sense that we typically use the word, and the candidates I come up with are: Lincoln, Obama, Carter...maybe Truman? Possibly Teddy Roosevelt? On good days, LBJ and Kennedy? (I don't think Ford was racist but he was never elected.)
Second, the fact that a candidate is racist doesn't typically come up in elections because most of them in the past 50 years tried to keep that to themselves, and before that it would never have occurred to anyone to care. Casual racism has been a feature of American life since two hundred years before the country was founded. Hallucination? Not so much.
Third, people have known about Trump's racism since he was a young adult throwing black people out of his apartment buildings. So this isn't exactly news.
But all of that together lands on a pretty simple theory: people who voted for Trump didn't care that he was a racist, or knew and approved of it. I would bet the proportions of those two groups were 80/20. People who cared and disapproved of it most likely voted for Hillary Clinton.
Adams then sets up a set of straw men to torch:
One sign of a good mass hysteria is that it sounds bonkers to anyone who is not experiencing it. Imagine your neighbor telling you he thinks the other neighbor is a witch. Or imagine someone saying the local daycare provider is a satanic temple in disguise. Or imagine someone telling you tulip bulbs are more valuable than gold. Crazy stuff.
Compare that to the idea that our president is a Russian puppet. Or that the country accidentally elected a racist who thinks the KKK and Nazis and “fine people.” Crazy stuff.
Let's parse that. In the three historical examples Adams lists in the first paragraph, people contemporaneously identified the insanity of what was going on, but there were not-so-crazy incentives for people to keep the "mass hysteria" going. Salem had land disputes at its core; McMartin was as much about attention-seeking as it was about child abuse; the tulip bubble was a pyramid scheme that we would call criminal today. So even before we get to Adams' straw men, we have to deal with his oversimplification of some pretty disturbing historical events.
And then he posits as the issue before us that people believe Trump is a Russian puppet. But actually, that's not the fear of people who know Russian methods and tactics. That Trump got elected was a bonus to Russia's rulers, not their goal. They want to discredit Western democratic systems to bolster their own internal political controls, not because they care about the West per se. Supporting Trump and interfering in our election was about that, not about Trump's allegiances, which they know as well as we do are entirely to himself.
Moreover, even if Trump didn't intend to do so, his words have emboldened the far-right groups that threaten not just our institutions and values but our property and lives, too. So whether Trump actually said Nazis are fine people, that's what the Nazis themselves heard, and why any other President would have slammed the door on the crazies.
Adams seems to concur in part: "If you already believed President Trump is a racist, his weak statement about Charlottesville seems like confirmation. But if you believe he never offered moral leadership, only equal treatment under the law, that’s what you saw instead. And you made up your own mind about the morality," he writes. Maybe people made up their minds about the morality because of the weak statement itself, not because they imagined Trump was supporting the racists?
Adams concludes: "If you are outside the mass hysteria bubble, you might see what I am doing in this blog as a valuable public service. If you are inside the mass hysteria bubble, I look like a Nazi collaborator."
No, Scott, you are neither providing a valuable public service nor are you a Nazi collaborator. You are, however, an apologist for a deeply flawed president who is, intentionally or not, exacerbating the divisions in our country to increase his own power and personal wealth.