If you remain a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, or if you turn only to the likes of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh for information, stop reading.
This column is not for you. If you’d like, skip to the end. My email address is there and will allow you to get to the important work of crafting an ornery note lambasting my bias (I’m an opinion columnist), my lies (I haven’t had a factual error in a column in ages, and when I do, the paper runs a correction and holds me accountable) and my refusal to stop criticizing the president (guilty as charged).
For the rest of you, those appalled by our president and those middle-grounders whose minds haven’t been rewired by propaganda, I come offering reassurance and perhaps a bit of comfort.
It can feel, especially lately, as if reality has been bent sideways and backward, like facts are meaningless and, quite frankly, like many of us are losing our minds.
It would be unsurprising at this point for the following scenario to unfold:
Trump: “Bigfoot is real.”
Excerpt from a U.S. Department of the Interior Inspector General Report on Bigfoot: “There is no indication that Bigfoot is real.”
Trump, Republicans and Fox News pundits: “SEE! WE TOLD YOU BIGFOOT IS REAL!!”
Such is the disinformation-rich country we call home. It’s exhausting.
So I have two things to tell you, one good, one bad.
First, the good: Facts still matter, and truth still exists.
Second, the bad: You can’t feel exhausted. You have to cling to the truth, tighter than ever before, because an entire political party, a massive news network and the leader of the free world are trying to pull it away.
Consider how the president, his Republican cronies and the right-wing media reacted to the release this week of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Even a cursory review of the report reveals a thorough debunking of many of the president’s favorite conspiracy theories. It clearly states there is no “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced” the decision to launch an investigation into contacts between Russians and Trump campaign members.
The report shows the FBI had an “authorized purpose” for starting the investigation, meaning it was not, as Trump claims ceaselessly, a “witch hunt.” The report even shows that while screams of bias have been leveled ad nauseam at certain investigators who were texting anti-Trump comments, there were also investigators texting pro-Trump comments. There was no evidence either form of bias had bearing on the investigation.
The inspector general’s report did find highly questionable behavior by lower-level officials in the FBI when it came to surveillance warrants for Carter Page, who spent time on Trump’s campaign. Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray responded to the report in a letter saying he had ordered “more than 40 corrective steps to address the Report’s findings” and “accepts the Report’s findings and embraces the need for thoughtful, meaningful remedial action.”
Still, as Wray wrote in his letter, the report concludes that the investigation into the Trump campaign was “opened in 2016 for an authorized purpose and with adequate factual predication.”
Here’s how Trump responded to the report: “This was an overthrow of government. This was an attempted overthrow — people were in on it and they got caught, they got caught red-handed.”
He described it as “far worse than I would’ve ever thought possible.”
Fox News host Sean Hannity said: “Well, everything we said, everything we reported, everything we told you was dead-on center accurate. And the mob and the media has missed what is the biggest abuse of power corruption scandal in the history of the country.”
Up is down. Dogs are cats. The world is flat as a pancake.
Trump, members of his party and propagandists like Hannity failed to note anything debunked by the report. They didn’t just overlook a few things. They flat-out lied.
And they did it as easy as they breathe.
They deny or downplay Russian interference in the 2016 election, despite rock-solid conclusions from all the nation’s intelligence agencies.
On Tuesday, the administration let Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stand in the U.S. State Department and say: “We have highlighted once again that all speculation about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the U.S. are baseless.”
That Russian propaganda has become the company line in Trump’s America.
During the recent impeachment hearings, and now as Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House draw up articles of impeachment, Trump and company have not so much rebutted sworn testimony and evidence of wrongdoing as they have simply denied its very existence.
It’s maddening to anyone who declines to drink Trump’s orange Kool-Aid. And that’s the idea.
Disinformation is intended to wear critics down, to make them feel that resistance is futile, that combating nonsense with facts is a waste of time.
You can’t let that happen. You need to keep your mind right.
You are not losing your mind. Hold fast to the truth. The disinformation and dishonesty of Trump and his mendacious lemmings isn’t your burden. It’s theirs.
And the weight of it, as sure as up is up, will inevitably pull them down.
Rex Huppke is a Chicago Tribune columnist. Readers may send him email at rhuppkechicagotribune.com.