Conflicting Narratives & the Distortion of Donald Trump

The U.S. president is not a populist champion of the little guy, nor a closet Nazi working to establish a white ethnostate, nor a Kremlin asset, but is in fact nothing other than a miserable rich man, says Caitlin Johnstone.

By Caitlin Johnstone

Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter went on a surprisingly vitriolic anti-Trump rant the other day, calling the president a “complete blithering idiot”, an “actual retard”, and “the most disloyal human God ever created” for his treatment of Jeff Sessions and his failure to build the border wall per his campaign promise.

“Coulter is right,” comedian Tim Dillon tweeted in response. “Trump doesn’t really care about immigration or the wall, it was just the way to win. He likes winning. You don’t live your entire life being a Hollywood star who hangs with the Clintons and Jeffrey Epstein and then decide you actually like people from Ohio.”

Which is true. Trump and his handlers understood that rising anti-immigration sentiment in America was a key to winning the presidency, but he never cared about immigration and never had any intention of going out of his way to do anything about it (which is why even his deportation numbers are still below Obama’s). Just one of the many ways where the popular narrative about Trump–the story everyone’s telling about him — differs wildly from the reality.

It is normal to have multiple contradictory mainstream narratives running about a president at the same time, and for none of those narratives to be accurate. Obama was simultaneously a progressive champion of sanity and a socialist Muslim from Kenya hell bent on America’s destruction, none of which was true but both of which were believed with equal fervor by either side of the illusory partisan divide.

What’s unusual about Trump is that there are multiple contradictory narratives running about him at the same time, within the same political factions. His own base is able to hold the belief that Trump is a brilliant strategic mastermind who is commanding a covert counter-coup to overthrow the Deep State, for example, while simultaneously excusing all the many, many establishment capitulations that he makes as being beyond his control. Much like Schrödinger’s proverbial pet Trump exists for them in two mutually contradictory states at once: a skillful hero who is taking down the Deep State, and a hapless victim who can’t control what happens in his own administration because it’s all being controlled by the Deep State.

On the other side of the imaginary partisan divide, Democrats spent years advancing the mutually contradictory narratives that Trump is at once (A) idiotic, (B) mentally ill, and (C) running a covert operation to sabotage America in the interests of Russia–but cleverly evading detection under intense scrutiny. They also hold him as simultaneously presenting an unprecedented threat to American democracy and also perfectly safe to keep voting in support of continuing and expanding his military and surveillance powers.

None of these narratives have anything to do with reality, yet they consume an immense amount of oxygen in U.S. political discourse while Trump continues andexpands the many depraved agendas of his predecessors.

Trump is not a populist champion of the little guy, nor a closet Nazi working to establish a white ethnostate, nor a Kremlin asset, but is in fact nothing other a miserable rich man from a miserable rich family who did what it takes to get elected to the presidency of a racist, corrupt, bloodthirsty empire and remain there for a full term. Everything else is narrative which is wholly divorced from reality.

The reason we can have wildly popular narratives dominating mainstream political discourse for years on end without their containing a shred of actual reality is because human experience is dictated by mental stories far more than most people realize. Establishment power structures, who have their hands in both parties of America’s two-handed political sock puppet show, stand everything to gain and nothing to lose by using narrative control to keep the public debating fake nonsense instead of the actual horrible things this administration is doing like imprisoning Julian Assange for journalism, vetoing attempts to save Yemen, inflicting starvation sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, and initiating cold war escalations against two nuclear-armed nations.

If people truly understood the extent to which mental narrative dominates their experience of life, propaganda, advertising and all other forms of psychological manipulation would be regarded by our society similarly to physical assault or property theft. For anyone who is interested in the pernicious ways narrative manipulation is used to keep people confused and conflicted while powerful people roll out toxic agendas, Trump is a very interesting case study indeed.

If humanity is to survive, people are going to have to evolve beyond the sticky relationship with mental narrative which enables establishment spinmeisters to keep an entire nation transfixed by fake stories about a very conventionally evil president instead of pushing for the real changes we’ll need to make if we’re to overcome the existential hurdles looming on our horizon. Learning to distinguish reality from narrative will send the whole prison crashing down.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a book, Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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26 comments for “Conflicting Narratives & the Distortion of Donald Trump

  1. Zhu
    June 4, 2020 at 01:13

    I maintain tate”W” Bush was worse than Trump, because he killed far more people. Killing is worse than anything else.

  2. Zhu
    June 4, 2020 at 01:06

    “A humanoid that has no place among us.” Such thinking exterminated the Native Americans.

    • Vera Gottlieb
      June 6, 2020 at 11:46

      No, what is still exterminating Native Americans is white race Christianity. And not Native Americans alone…

    June 3, 2020 at 00:13

    Thoughtful analysis by C.J.

    ” . . . Establishment power structures, who have their hands in both parties of America’s two-handed political sock puppet show, stand everything to gain and nothing to lose by using narrative control to keep the public debating fake nonsense . . . ”

    For example, a murder in Minneapolis is a crime. But we’ve seen that mass media has forged a narrative that a criminal incident is justification for mob violence and looting.

    Agitation-propaganda is a threat to our society. Meanwhile, critical thinking is a challenge, even for people who value it.

    • Zhu
      June 4, 2020 at 00:38

      Rioting and rebellion are part of every political system. How do you think you think the US won I lndependence?

  4. Jay
    June 2, 2020 at 15:33

    No, Trump doesn’t want a pure white ethnostate, though many of his hardcore supporters do. He wants something like an 80% white ethnostate, not sure say Sicilians would count as white in this state either.

  5. Seer
    June 2, 2020 at 13:37

    Not in any way to be confused with being in defense of all-that-is-bad, but the US is hardly the only country thus afflicted. You have Brazil with Bolsonaro, and the Philippines with Duterte; BOTH leaders were elected by their populaces. Yes, one can question the legitimacy of the election processes, same for the US, but that’s almost always the case for any/all elections. And that such “leaders” are still in power says a lot about their respective populations acceptance of them: well, it’s the congressional bodies that are responsible for keeping those “leaders” in place.

    Something about something corrupting, and absolute something corrupting absolutely…

  6. AnneR
    June 2, 2020 at 13:14

    While what you write is true, Ms Johnstone, it hardly scrapes the surface re the Strumpet AND the Blue Faces of the Janus party (only the diversity lipstick differs them from the Red Faces).

    There may be a handful of Blue Face Congressionals who are dependent entirely upon their earnings as Congress people. Of those not a few will be hoping either to maintain their not insubstantial income/med-insurance as such or to obtain an equally if not more lucrative post somewhere (in DC or NYC) *because* of their having been a Congress person, having sucked up to this or that or all lobbyists.

    The rest of the Blue Face Congressionals, like their Red Face close cousins, are very nicely off, ta very much, willy nilly of their Congressional wages. Such as Pelosi, for example – married to a multi-millionaire, I gather. The strumpet is hardly alone in being a miserable rich person only out to ensure they remain the same, preventing the pitchfork wielding poor, low income, ordinary working classes (the hoi polloi, the bewildered herd, the lower classes, [Marx’s Proletariat] the opportunity, the space to really alter the socio-economic status quo, to endanger what this class really fear: the loss of their property (not just real estate). This has been blatantly obvious these last days and is the sole reason the Po-Lice came into being and still exist.

  7. John Drake
    June 2, 2020 at 12:15

    “None of these narratives have anything to do with reality, yet they consume an immense amount of oxygen in U.S. political discourse while Trump continues and expands the many depraved agendas of his predecessors.”

    “Expands” yes, you are admitting he is worse than his predecessors. That is the problem, he is quantum leap in the worse direction. He has recently threatened what amounts to war on a segment of the American people-protesters for example.

    I think boning up on WWII history, particularly the rise of the Third Reich and Mussolini would be in order. A real understanding of fascism would be enlightening. For extensive understanding of the social disease try , Wilhelm Reich, “The Mass Psychology of Fascism”, which is the definitive work by a psychiatrist who fled Germany in that era.

    Regarding his not being mentally ill, that is technically true. He is not schizophrenic, bi-polar or completely psychotic. He does have quite a repertoire of major personality disorders, which are learned behavior: severe narcissism, sociopathic and the borderline disorder. The latter is characterized by extreme impulsive mood fluctuations, splitting ( pitting people off against each other) ,underlying hostility and a bunch of other ugly things that give people the creeps and result in an utterly toxic persona. His lying is hard to determine as conscious(i.e. he know it), or if he is sometimes delusional-Alice in Wonderland.

    As far as his intelligence is concerned; four bankruptcies and fourteen business failures does not indicate particular mental acuity. Neither does insulting veterans when running for office, just a few examples.

  8. Jeff Harrison
    June 2, 2020 at 12:13

    The fundamental problem, Caitlin, is that the MSM is not attempting to inform the citizens, it is attempting to entertain the citizens. As long as that’s all it does, it will only produce propaganda and not information. And since that has been happening for a very long time now, we have already lost our republic. The presence of qualities such as freedom, equality, justice etc in a society is generally in inverse proportion to the loudness and frequency with which they are proclaimed.

  9. Dave
    June 2, 2020 at 12:06

    Caitlin, as so many other columnists, omits one important aspect of Trump’s odious commercial endeavors: His intimate association with promoting professional wrestling via the World Wrestling Entertainment franchise. The Tangerine Terror’s on-camera persona actually comes, in part, from contemporary pro wrestling’s TV smackdown talk, its identification and demonization of adversaries, its threatening verbiage and theatrical posturing. Naomi Klein first brought Donilo Assolini’s WWE association (apparently he has been inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame), to my attention 3 1/2 years ago. The MSM produced a bevy of articles about the connection. Trump is nothing but a carnival sideshow barker, a snake-oil peddler; in short, a successful media-savvy conman. Don’t misunderstand me. Trump is without question the sleaziest, most obnoxious, least-educated, slimiest president ever inflicted upon USA by the Electoral College. [aside: when was the last time the reader was reminded that Hillary…equally slimey, sleazey, vicious, unprincipled, warmongering….won the popular vote by a whopping 2,900,000 votes?]
    Don’t get me wrong. Pro wrasslin’ 45 years ago was unmitigated fun if one witnessed it live with performers such as Ivan Putsky—the Polish Strongman; the Red Baron; and the inimitable tag team of Beautiful Buddy and Luscious Larry. But pro wrasslin’ has degenerated in recent decades into violence for violence’s sake, replete with lots of smackdown talk, deliberate insults, staged irrelevant and distractive violence, and the rest.
    Next target for Ms Johnstone’s observations: the demise of the moderate Eisenhower era (even including a few Nixon era) Republicans in favor of its reactionary Southern Strategy enunciated at least 50 years ago, and which is now bearing fruit with such far-right demagogues such as Cruz, McConnell, Graham, Rubio, Cotton, et al, and their down-ticket hangers-on and election manipulators.

  10. noel s. cowling
    June 2, 2020 at 10:03

    Caitlin, your last three paragraphs were outstanding, absolutely correct, stated perfectly, and I loved them. I believe whole-heartedly. Too bad I’m not as eloquent. Thank you so much.

    June 2, 2020 at 08:20

    “The U.S. president is not a populist champion of the little guy, nor a closet Nazi working to establish a white ethnostate, nor a Kremlin asset, but is in fact nothing other than a miserable rich man”

    I think that comes very close to summing the situation up.

    The other immensely important thing about Trump is that his concern, almost exclusively over any other concern – as with people’s welfare or genuine peace or rule of law – is the primitive one of winning.

    He just has to get reelected. To hell with China and international relations. To hell with the world’s fragile economy. To hell with the piles of bodies he has created at home and abroad. And to hell with any sense of fairness or decency.

    A truly ugly character, but one I do believe represents a sizable part of the American population.

    It ain’t a pretty picture. That’s why the country has always been a violent place and why seemingly endless wars are carried on abroad with no regrets.

  12. Tim S.
    June 2, 2020 at 07:05

    > Trump is not a populist champion of the little guy, nor a closet Nazi working to establish a white ethnostate, nor a Kremlin asset,
    > but is in fact nothing other a miserable rich man from a miserable rich family who did what it takes to get elected to the presidency

    Yes! You summed it up in one line.

  13. Vera Gottlieb
    June 2, 2020 at 04:45

    A humanoid that has no place among us.

      June 2, 2020 at 08:37

      “A humanoid that has no place among us.”

      I’m sorry, but I beg to differ.

      Despite Trump’s demonstrated incompetence in everything he undertakes – pandemic, international relations, world trade, and more – polls find about 42% to 45% approving of his job.

      That’s a lot of people, with not very pleasant attitudes and likely a good deal of ignorance.

      And what is the first thing this man does after two days in the White House bunker sending out ugly messages?

      Walks across a lawn under heavy, heavy guard, and carries a Bible to a church front for a photo-op.

      It was an almost unbelievable gesture, but it is very American. America, where about a quarter of the population have strange evangelical beliefs as about the Second Coming.

      Where there were three delusional “Great Awakening” movements in its history.

      And America, a place where an inordinate number of “pastors” are actually following a proven path to wealth and influence.

      Trump knows his P. T. Barnum “suckers” and they know him.

      I do think he is “one of you,” very much so.

  14. Donald Duck
    June 2, 2020 at 03:08

    Trump is of course simply a plaything for zionist and deep state interests. And most Americans seem to be unaware of their own literature and history. I don’t particularly like people of a foreign country what to do but since I live in an American occupied zone – viz., Europe – I would recommend Jack London’s insightful work, ‘The Iron Heel’ written around the turn of the 19th and 20th century. He is America’s own Orwell, and deserves a read, particularly now.

    • Donald Duck
      June 2, 2020 at 03:10

      That should read:

      ‘I don’t particularly like TELLING people of a foreign country ….’

    • Zhu
      June 4, 2020 at 01:01

      We are responsible for own crimes and vices – not Zionists, Russians or the Man in the Moon.

  15. Moi
    June 2, 2020 at 02:53

    According to CJ, you only have to _look_ like you’re “a closet Nazi” to remain president “of a racist, corrupt, bloodthirsty empire.”

    So why does Trump act like one as well?

    • Zhu
      June 4, 2020 at 01:22

      Our authoritarian presidents are more like Latin American strong men than they are like Hitler. While Rs and Ds faction call each other “Hitler”, “Nazi”, “Communist”, Bush II and Obana have turned the US into “dirty war” Argentina, with legal torture, legal disappearance into secret prisons and legal death squads.

  16. michael rohde
    June 1, 2020 at 22:52

    I agree with most of your comments. Our foreign policy is an international crime in progress and if the world court ever gets its’ hands on us we will pay severely. Of course this policy is driven by a handful of billionaires of both parties so don’t just blame republicans. The corporate democrats and their israeli fellow travellers drive the democratic party structure and funding. In California we have taken charge and taken the party back from them but this is a west coast phenomena not yet occurring on the eastern seaboard. When the Democratic Party takes back it’s policy choices from these wealthy operators we can get back to governing for Americans rather than the wealthy and the Israelis. It happened when the Supreme Court allowed unlimited funding and a few deep pockets purchased both parties. I hope this has ended with this election cycle but I doubt it.

  17. Robyn
    June 1, 2020 at 21:50

    Surely the problem could have at least half-way solved if the masses stopped consuming the MSM and turned to ethical journalists with a track record of honest reporting. They could start at CN.

    • Zhu
      June 4, 2020 at 01:10

      “A humanoid that has no place among us.” Such thinking exterminated the Native Americans. ” I’m not convinced that the alternative media is better. Think how many supported the Russiagate nonsense. Promote critical thinking early in life and it may catch with some.

  18. Tom Kath
    June 1, 2020 at 21:44

    Caitlin you have almost said what I have said since Trump’s election – He IS the quintessential American ! He DOES represent the American psyche. A mobile- phone fiddling, tweeting, get-rich, loudmouthed, big noting, YANK.
    You could hardly expect a polite, intelligent, sophisticated, diplomatic, Chinese to lead America ?

  19. KiwiAntz
    June 1, 2020 at 20:58

    Mrs Johnson, what you fail to recognise is that TRUMP IS AMERICA in all his stupid, immoral, arrogant & ignorant, technicolor glory? If you could use your imagination to distill this Nation down into one person, Emperor Trump, King of the American MIC Empire or as others refer him to be, as the Orange Bozo the Clown, this is the conman Carnival barker you would conjure up to describe America? Out in the real World, made up of sane rational people, Trump & his America is viewed as a utterly cruel, chaotic, dumb, vain & insane, merciless, heartless mess of a Nation that’s drunk on it’s own fake manifest destiny delusion & Imperial Exceptionalism hubris, that’s become the laughingstock of the World! Americans are the most brainwashed & propaganda gaslighted people on Earth & from a distance it’s staggering to watch how easily they are manipulated like sheep by lying Politicians & a demented Corporate Media & other warped & depraved authorities! And nothing will ever change unless this entire, rotten & corrupt Nation collapses & you start again from scratch to try & build a more equitable Nation that’s based & focused on peoples needs rather than injustice, greed & profits!

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