Reality. It’s What We’ve Got to Deal With

This piece ran in the newspapers in late May, 2024.


The thing about reality is that it’s what is. And “what is” is what we have to deal with.

False pictures only disable us, lead us astray.

Consider the unfortunate Russian people in the wake of the recent terrible terror attack. Not only did the Russians suffer multiple fatalities, but they’re unfortunate also for living under a dictatorship that tells them lies to prevent them from understanding their real situation.

That’s what fascist regimes do.

In the immediate aftermath of the mass-murders in Moscow, the American journalists on TV screen were – rightly — stressing that it was not yet known who the perpetrators were.

Then the Russia-experts came on, adding that the question wasn’t just who was to blame, but also who would Putin choose to blame. “Choose” — not because it was true, but because it would serve his political purposes to direct people’s anger against his enemies.

And lo and behold, it was soon being reported that Putin’s propaganda machine was putting the blame on Ukraine and the United States. Even after an ISIS group claimed responsibility, the regime has kept insisting on the falsehoods that serve their purpose better.

Despite Putin’s lies not even making much sense, there’s every reason to believe that the majority of Russian people – having been subject to the propaganda of Putin’s fascistic regime for a generation – will believe the unreality their dictator paints for them to serve his own power.

Lies are a major tool in the toolbox of Fascism.

It was Hitler’s propagandist – Goebbels – who advertised the possibility of selling the “Big Lie.” That lying regime led the nation into destruction.

Despite the reality that the United States has never yet been in thrall to a fascist dictatorship — like the one Putin has established in Russia — a fascistic force has been rising in America for a generation. And with it, the tell-tale lack of respect for truth and reality.

The Presidency of George W. Bush showed some of the hallmarks of fascism—the lawlessness of torture and the torture memo, the deliberate cultivation of fear in the people, the deception of the public to justify going to war.
Tellingly, that deception and manipulation was accompanied, in that presidency, by a lack of respect for reality, a denial that reality is something to which we must accommodate ourselves:

Memorably, in a much-reported scene during W’s Presidency, his chief aid (Karl Rove – dubbed “Bush’s Brain”) lectured the press about the difference between his powerful ruling gang and what he called, derogatorily, “the reality-based community.”

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,” “Bush’s brain” boldly asserted.
But reality came back to bite them –realities that they didn’t create e.g. in Iraq, and ill-attended housing bubble and subprime mortgage markets.

For though Fascism seems to attract people who want to play God, they are not God. And the natural consequence of such arrogance is that the fascists bring destruction upon themselves.

(Like Putin’s disaster in Ukraine.)

On the American political scene, in the years since an arrogant Presidency spoke condescendingly to “the reality-based community,” the destructive impact of fascism’s purveying of falsehoods on the American political scene has grown ever graver.

Though it began with W, who was far more deceptive than previous president, Bush was hardly in the same league as a liar, as the next Republican President. Donald Trump was catalogued to have made more than 30,000 false or misleading statements during his four-year term.

Among Trump’s still impactful lies:

• He’s convinced millions that the election that he clearly and openly tried to steal was instead stolen from him.
• He’s persuaded those same millions that he “did nothing wrong,” despite having committed crimes of utmost seriousness right before everyone’s eyes, for which mountains of evidence has subsequently been shown.
The ability to deceive his followers is his genius. Along with the lies, his increasing explicitness about his fascistic intentions).

The increasingly fascistic party – that is nominating this leader for President again – has separated millions of Americans from reality in a variety of politically consequential ways.

• That party, for example, has persuaded tens of millions of Americans that – under the other party — the American economy has fallen into terrible shape. That’s despite the fact that the performance of the American economy is the very best among all our peer nations (all of which have also been striving to recover from the economic damage inflicted by a global pandemic). What they can see with their own eyes – i.e. their own finances – they recognize as being pretty favorable. But when it comes to the overall economy – which they can’t see, and in which unemployment has been at historically low levels, and post-pandemic inflation has backed down to acceptable levels — they can be deceived.

• Likewise with the false alarms about crime in America. Despite crime rates having fallen to levels way below those of a generation ago, and to be falling again in the wake of the pandemic, the fascistic leader and his party have deceived their followers into thinking that crime is out of control, and the Republic must be saved by putting him back in power.

Good political decisions require good contact with reality. Politics based on lies has proved a recipe for disaster.

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