A Yale University philosophy professor said the news cycle’s lightning-fast pace in the social media age is helping President Donald Trump blur the line between truth and fiction — and nudging the U.S. toward fascism.
Jason Stanley, author of the new book “How Fascism Works,” said the accelerated news cycle undermines democratic institutions that rely on an informed electorate and permits Trump to twist reality for his own purposes.
“A democratic culture is one that reflects truth,” Stanley told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Democracy is based on two values, liberty and equality. Nobody thinks the people of North Korea are free because they have been lied to — they don’t know what they are doing.”
“Equality means you can speak truth to power,” he added. “Fascism is ideology based on loyalty, power and fear of the other, so you have to smash truths so no one can speak truth to power.”
News in the age of Trump moves from one scandal to the next, with barely a pause before a major story is wiped from the front page, and Stanley said that hands the president and his partisans a major advantage in gathering power.
“It’s an old tactic to attack the mainstream press,” Stanley said, “so there is no uniform reality on which to base our shared citizenship, so when we can just pick and choose among any news stream that fits our proclivities, we can just think that reality is, in fact, vacuous and it’s our team versus your team. When it’s your team vs. my team, we don’t have a respect for truth and just look to who has the best show and who is on my team.”
Stanley said the president’s behavior since entering politics have signaled his autocratic tendencies.
“The initial warning signs are attacking the mainstream media, attacking truth,” he said. “Conspiracy theories are particularly worrisome signs, birther-ism was very worrisome sign, is a sort of standard way to attack the mainstream media. You say, ‘The mainstream media is controlled by some shady forces, and you can tell because they’re not reporting on the conspiracy theory.’ (Then) they have to report on the conspiracy theory and they give it validity.”