Trump Has The Rona…Or, Does He?

The conspiracy theories started immediately upon hearing that Donald and Melania “Eff Them Kids” Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus.

This is a good time to remember that misinformation and disinformation are not conservative or liberal behaviors. They are human behaviors.

Is Donald Trump lying about having coronavirus so that he can regain control of a horrible news cycle in which he has proven a tax evader and his First Lady did her best Cruella de Vil imitation? My family group chat is split 50–50, if that is any barometer of where people are on this issue.

Whether you believe that depends on two things: how committed you are to the idea of “grand plans” and why you think Donald Trump lies.

The grand plan fallacy is summed up in the “chess not checkers” trope. That’s the one where powerful people, particularly white men, are playing some complex game of strategy while everyone else is playing the game by rules they do not control and can only partially know. That is very seductive if these things have ever actually been true for people like you. If a white man doctor really did lie about sterilizing you against your will, for one true example, then there really has been a wizard behind the curtain. If you believe this trope and you haven’t ever personally experienced structural violence aimed at you for something you cannot hide or change? You may just be likely to buy magic beans with your market money.

The second part is one that interests me. It is the idea of Donald Trump as a liar. Trump lies a lot. He tells big lies and small lies. He lies about lies. He lies about things that do not even matter and he lies about things that matter a lot. When someone lies so much, it is reasonable to assume that everything they say is untrue.

But there are different kinds of lying schemas, if you will. Sometimes, people create entire new fictions. That is the lie where a white man college professor pretends to be a woman of color online, presumably for attention and risk-taking thrills. It is a bad lie, told for bad reasons. But it is also a type of lie. It is a lie that invents something for the purpose of deception and to augment one’s sense of self.

Trump does not have a self-esteem problem. By most accounts, he has no self. That may be why his lies are rarely so inventive that they create fictions but instead are lies intended to sow doubt about what is true. Trump lies to control the truth.

Given the types of lies that Trump tells, I am inclined to believe that he has the coronavirus…and that everything he will say about that truth will be a lie.

I joined Open Source radio this week immediately after the first Presidential Debate. Host Chris Lydon asked us to do it this way so that our reactions would be “fresh”. My god, was it ever fresh. I really like Joe O’Neill here on U.S. fascism.

Sociologist. Writer. Professor. MacArthur Fellow. Books, speaking, podcast:

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