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Trump supporters live in an ‘alternate universe’ like post-truth Soviet Union: Former world chess champion Kasparov

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Local residents react as U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at a rally in Huntington, West Virginia, U.S., August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Russia established a capitalist government that was headed by President Boris Yeltsin and later, President Vladimir Putin, it was infamous for Orwellian language: government-owned media reported what the Soviet Communist Party told them to report. Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was among those who grew up in the Soviet Union, and in a December 5 op-ed for CNN’s website, he finds some Orwellian parallels between the old Soviet Union and the Trump Administration.

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Now 56, Kasparov points out that in the Soviet Union, “reality” was “whatever” the Soviet Communist Party “put out on the nightly news.” Kasparov notes that the Soviet Union’s official government newspapers were Pravda and Izvestia; in Russian, “pravda” is the word for “truth,” while “izvestia” means “news.” And Kasparov recalls that in the Soviet Union, a common joke was that “there is no news in the truth and no truth in the news.”

“I’m a post-Soviet citizen,” Kasparov explains. “The country of my birth ceased to exist in 1991. We enjoyed less than a decade of tenuous freedom in Russia before Vladimir Putin launched its post-democratic phase. My ongoing attempts to fight that tragedy led to my exile in the United States. Now, my new home finds itself locked in its own perilous battle: a battle to avoid becoming the latest member of the post-truth world.”

Kasparov goes on to explain why Trump’s presidency reminds him so much of the Soviet Union.

“Unable to change the facts, Trump and his supporters instead try to shift the debate into an alternate universe where the truth is whatever they say it is today,” Kasparov observes. “Trump repeats the same lies over and over, and it’s hard to say which is more troubling: that his followers don’t realize that they are lies or that they don’t care. Globalization and the internet may have made the world smaller, but now, we’re experiencing a counterattack: the regionalization of truth.”

Kasparov observes that in 2019, Americans have a lot more media options than he had growing up in the Soviet Union; the problem is that Trump supporters only consume media that carries his water — Fox News, for example.

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“If you watched the impeachment hearings only on Fox News, you would have thought things were going great for the president,” Kasparov notes. “Any phrase that might sound like it exonerated him — and there weren’t many — was repeated over and over like a mantra. The copious and damning evidence provided may as well not have existed.”

Kasparov wraps up his op-ed on a sobering note, explaining that whether it’s pro-Putin media in Putin’s Russia or pro-Trump media in the United States, niche media is quite effective when it comes to indoctrination.

“What’s the truth? In the era of regionalized facts, it depends on where you stand, what channel you’re watching — and what party you belong to,” Kasparov stresses. “But there cannot be a red state reality and a blue state reality any more than there should be one world map inside of Russia and a different one outside. Trump is finally facing the music, and that must begin with everyone facing the facts.”

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