It would be ridiculous if it were not horrifying. What we saw was neither a metamorphosis nor an embodiment of the sarcastic and very popular quote often attributed to Groucho Marx: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”
Nothing can quite capture Donald Trump’s shift yesterday. The outgoing US president decried the “heinous attack” on the Capitol. “Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem,” he said, although it was he who incited the unthinkable riot.
Trump, who is bound to go down in history as a leader who sowed hatred and divided his nation, was now appealing for “healing and reconciliation.”
Trump is obviously afraid of the 25th Amendment being invoked, which would result in his immediate removal from office and being brought to justice.
That said, nothing is really “obvious” anymore. A survey released by YouGov on Thursday morning found that 45 percent of Republican voters backed the attack on the Capitol building, while 43 percent said they “strongly or somewhat” opposed the act. Meanwhile, 35 percent blamed President-elect Joe Biden for the incident, while only 13 percent pointed a finger at Trump.
Speaking to Kathimerini, Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle made a key observation: “The great tragedy of what happened on Capitol Hill yesterday is that the people who stormed Congress weren’t wrong on the morals; they were mistaken about the facts,” she said. This is where the chasm between reason and unreason becomes unbridgeable. “An even bigger problem is that there seems to be no channel by which saner heads can reach Mr Trump’s followers and explain that he is lying to them. Anyone who tries is dismissed as yet another member of the conspiracy,” she said.
That channel was once the press. The press was able to bring together different views and trends, of cool-headed evaluation, of that sober approach that breeds critical interpretation – not conspiracy theories.
Today, the anything-goes attitude is shaping its own reality. In this universe of aggressive ignorance, the spectacle of a shirtless tattooed protester wearing a horned furry hat while taking selfies inside the Capitol resembles “normality.”
The good news is that it is not dominant. But if this “wrong image of reality” is left unchallenged, it will multiply. It doesn’t take much effort to reproduce it, only exclusion, anger and envy.