Cult of Willful Ignorance: Stupidity as a Strategy, Donald Trump, and the Coronavirus Outbreak

by Henry Giroux  edited by O Society Feb 29 – Leap Day – 2020

Trump’s lies, his disparagement of science and scientists, his claim non-political civil servants are part of the deep state out to “get” him, his lack of credibility, his penchant for political opportunism over the needs of the nation, his pathological embrace of hyperbole, his delight in creating confusion, his reliance on luck and tactical stupidity, as well as his mistaking personal loyalty for public service all put the nation in grave danger in light of the growing pandemic.

He gutted the health services, slashed much needed revenue for public goods through tax giveaways to the ultra-rich, ousted Tim Ziemer, one of the most trusted leaders in public health, and appointed a religious fanatic called Mike Pence, to head the attack on the corona virus crisis.

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This is a politician who defunded Planned Parenthood and claimed smoking does not kill people. Pence is not merely incompetent, given the policies he sanctioned during the opioid and HIV crisis while he was governor, he is also a walking testimony to the rise of religious fanaticism and fundamentalism in its move from the margins to the centers of power where it influences the practice of medicine.

Trump played down the urgency of the pandemic, blamed the media for distorting its seriousness, and believes brown and yellow people are more of a threat to national security than real threats, such as a pandemic and climate change.

As a neoliberal on steroids, Trump is more concerned about the stock market than actual human lives. He trades in conspiracy theories, is addicted to brain dead propaganda outlets such as Fox News, and rewards a full-blown racist dung beetle called Rush Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom, which goes in the trophy case right beside his Award for Excellence in Bloviation. Seems the tiny man statue is already taken.

After all, Limbaugh claims the news about the virus is false and is being spread by the alleged deep state in order to sabotage Trump’s re-election. Evidence for such a charge is based on the claim Dr Nancy Messonnier – who worked for the CDC for 25 years – is the sister of former attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Someone should revoke Limbaugh’s high school diploma (or jr. high as the case may be).

Trump and his ultra-nationalist, racist loyalists cannot fathom transnational problems demand transnational solutions as is made clear in his flat earth denial of global warming. This criminogenic administration poses a serious threat to the nation and the globe. If there is anything to learn from an earlier time about governments wedded to ignorance, racism, anti-intellectualism, racial cleansing, and the glorification of ultra-nationalism, it is now. Trump and his merry band of incompetent lackeys are symbols of a necropolitics wedded to destruction, violence, greed, falsehoods, and the needs of capital.

Terminal idiocy, cultish absolutism, bottomless ignorance, and unbridled arrogance and narcissism gave rise to a form of neoliberal fascism and a culture of cruelty unlike anything we have seen since the 1930s. This is what neo-fascism looks like when it ignores social needs for the demands of cravenly loyalty and the accumulation of power and profits. Trump is a menace and danger to the world, not just the United States.

Obsessed with loyalty, he hates competing centers of power,  ravages public health services in favor of his free market, privatization, and deregulation schemes while putting unqualified political hacks such as White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow in important positions of leadership. Kudlow recently claimed the spread of the virus is almost airtight contained in spite of growing evidence to the contrary.

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Nazi Germany once showed us what the end of humanity looks like. Trump and his followers revived the threat. Trading on a culture of fear, lies, false promises, massive anxiety, and the demand for unconditioned loyalty, Trump thus far manages to keep his neoliberal fascist administration afloat, in spite of his repeated acts of domestic terrorism—violence waged against the very populations he is supposed to represent. The coming crisis may prove his undoing. Let’s hope one byproduct of this crisis is what Walter Benjamin once called “profane illumination” leading to massive collective resistance.

One place to begin is to take seriously Bertolt Brecht’s argument it is impossible to condemn fascism without condemning capitalism. According to Brecht, “But how can anyone tell the truth about Fascism, unless he is willing to speak out against capitalism, which brings it forth?”

In the shadow of this pandemic virus, we are witnessing the slow violence of capitalism and its resort to the defunding of the welfare state, government services, the regulatory state, and the public good. Under such circumstances, fascism sets the stage for increasing acts of barbarism to develop and accumulate into forms of political corruption, endless crisis, and the production of an ecosystem of ignorance that is death dealing.

7 thoughts on “Cult of Willful Ignorance: Stupidity as a Strategy, Donald Trump, and the Coronavirus Outbreak

  1. We’re over 20 years into the Democrats’ war on the poor, during which the overall life expectancy of the US poor (a chunk of the former voting base) fell below that of every developed nation. The Obama years confirmed that this is permanent. By 2016, Sen. Sanders dropped his yrs of advocacy for legitimate relief for those left jobless. Liberals cant figure out what any of this has to do with the 2020 election results.

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  2. And what exactly did Dubya do to make life better for poor folks?

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/09/closing-the-book-on-the-bush-legacy/26402/

    And what’s going on in your mind to make you continously parrot “the Democrats war on the poor?”

    I’m not a Democrat and have never registered to vote as anything other than an Independent. I did not at any time vote for HillBillary Clinton. And I ain’t remembering all the Republican candates who fixed anything for anyone but the already-rich folks. Who are these unicorns?

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  3. Usually a wave of ignorance, news and comments reaching outmost stupidity but which everyone is concerned about, is intended to hide something else of true danger or political importance going on. Maybe the coming new refugee crisis in Europe, maybe new developments in space warfare, who knows. The more reason it gives to try to look behind the headlines and to read anything printed small in the papers, there may be found keys to get the big picture.

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  4. With Donald Trump specically, the cloud of confusion and chaos he generates is meant to deflect any and all blame from landing on his Aquanet orange noggin. This allows him to claim credit for everything he wants credit for (which is everything) and simultaneously never face consequences for his own incompetence.

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