If you ever needed proof that a large chunk of this country is enveloped in a right-wing cult of enforced ignorance, just look at Trump supporters’ reactions to the capture of Cesar Sayoc, the so-called MAGA bomber. On Friday, Sayoc was arrested for sending pipe bombs to several Democratic politicians and activists. Even though Sayoc’s van was covered with Trump stickers, he was pictured at Trump rallies and he shared Trump’s hatred for the media, Trump supporters refused to believe he was the culprit.
The Guardian interviewed some Trump supporters at a rally in Charlottesville, and their heads were firmly stuck in the sand.
“I bet $500 they are lying,” said Terry Pennington. “I bet it was a liberal who did it. Have you stopped to think why those bombs were only sent to high-level Democrats? They are trying to make it look like Donald Trump is encouraging terrorist. The truth is, the liberals are the terrorists.”
An MSNBC interview with Trump supporters was even more revealing.
“They probably had it done. They may have paid him to do it,” said Avril Runyon, a Trump supporter.
However, Trump isn’t the only person responsible for this rejection of the facts. It’s the entire right-wing mediasphere. For about 30 years, right-wing AM radio, has been pumping out this kind of garbage. It was joined in 1996 by FOX News, which served a 24-hour, non-stop diet of glossy propaganda. More recently, Alex Jones appeared on the scene and has added conspiratorial lunacy to the mix. (Jones claimed that the children killed in the Sandy Hook shooting were secretly living on a Martian penal colony. NASA denied this.)
Trump continued feeding right-wing conspiracy theories with his promotion of the racist birther myth, and idea that was debunked back in 2008. Even though President Barack Obama showed a certificate of live birth and there was plenty of evidence showing that he was born in Hawaii, some people still refused to believe the truth. The birther conspiracy theory isn’t dead. Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio told a group of California Republicans that if was elected to the Senate, he intended to find out the truth about Obama’s birth certificate!
The end product of this onslaught of propaganda is a segment of the population who is suspicious of anything from the mainstream media. They’ve been programmed to only believe what they hear from right-wing sources, even if that’s the complete opposite of the truth.
On Sunday, “FOX and Friends” co-host Rachel Campos claimed Trump had tried to unite the country.
“And one of the things I think President Trump has been very good about is really supporting our flag, uniting us around our patriotism, help us being proud about being Americans,” she said.
However, Trump has called the press the enemy of the people, encouraged his supporters to assault protesters and led them in chants of “lock her up” directed at Hillary Clinton and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) His rhetoric is directly tied to Sayoc’s pipe bombing attacks.
Right-wing voters have been primed to automatically believe whatever their politicians and media tell them. So when the mainstream media tells them Trump clocks an average of eight lies a day, they refuse to believe it. Instead, they swallow Trump’s lies about enacting a middle-class tax cut, when Congress isn’t in session, and also believe 17,000 Latino migrants are threatening to storm the border and occupy their summer homes.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said conspiracy theories are central to the modern-day conservative. In a series of tweets, he argued that conservatives often prefer to believe their own ideas and reject scientific and statistical evidence.
“And the conspiracy theorizing is itself part of an even broader attitude on the right: this is a movement that never accepts evidence that contradicts its preconceptions,” said Krugman in a tweet. “My point is that it’s all of a piece: there’s a straight line running from voodoo economics, to climate change denial, to deep state paranoia and the false flag hysteria we’re seeing this weekend.”
There a word that describes a group of people who believe in ridiculous ideas, refuse to accept the facts and who follow a charismatic, dishonest leader — a cult.