The Trump/Russia collusion fiction is on a par with the Bill Clinton/murdered associates fiction — both seem “obviously true” to one group and laughably false to another. What is going on has a scientific explanation, but I doubt anyone really wants to hear it. Nonetheless, here goes:
1) Humans have limited cognitive capabilities. We CANNOT process the complex interwoven infinite string of things that make up whatever it is that reality might be. At best, we can hold 5-9 ideas in our minds simultaneously. Most of us have lots of trouble with the idea that what matters may be one or two steps removed from what we are observing. We know we are limited in this way — but we ignore it.
2) We tend to speak as if we have access to something called “the truth.” Whatever access we have, however, is limited by the point above. We cannot process the whole truth. We can only process bits and pieces. The “truth” we are so sure we have access to is a narrative created by our minds to render the world somewhat coherent. Our mind’s goal is coherence NOT truth.
3) For every situation we find ourselves in, we pick out some aspects of what we are dealing with or encountering and using those 3-9 data points we tell ourselves a story. We then refine that story so that it “fits” into our current understanding of the world — an understanding which itself is the result of the years of prior story telling gone before and our immediate perception of the situation or context we find ourselves in. Our story of coherence is built upon those 3-9 data points, but we will tell the story as if it is based upon some “revealed truth.”
4) In order to avoid exhaustion, we also rely on our prior stories to “explain” current situations. If one or more of our chosen data points lines up with a previously told narrative, it requires a lot less energy to just go with the existing story rather than try to tell a new one. (Which, by the way, is why it is so much easier just to tell “the truth” — there is no need to either come up with a new story or remember what story you may have told previously.) We allow these chosen data points to trigger some meaning in our heads, and we then rely on the triggered meaning, unless or until the prior narrative fails to render the present situation coherent.
5) Throughout this process, we ignore the simple fact that we are CHOOSING which of the infinite data points and observations available to us to pay attention to. This fact needs repeating. We choose what we pay attention to, and then we weave our narrative around those choices. Different people encountering the very same situation are highly likely to make different choices of data points. (I wrote about this before).
Which brings us to Trump, Comey, and Russia.
To President Trump the relevant data points are these: he ran to beat Hillary Clinton, he beat Hillary Clinton, he had and has no desire to “collude” with the Russians, he does desire to rest World Politics so that what matters is that the US, Russia, and China cooperate on making big decisions, and, a big one, his legitimacy is not to be questioned.
By contrast, America’s Democrats and most of its media seem to have a Russia fixation. The idea that America might be better off if we had better relations with Russia is simply inconceivable. So if the Trump administration and indeed before it the Trump campaign were “talking” to the Russians evil must have been afoot. Evidence? Look at all the conversations!!!
Talk about missing the forest for the trees.
Yes, Obama and the Russians had issues. Yes, Clinton and the Russians had issues. But, fundamentally America would be much better off if we and the Russians had far fewer issues. And, the ONLY way that can happen is with lots of ... you guessed it ... conversations.
Instead, the Democrats and the media have worked themselves into a lather over the idea that Trump and the Russians “conspired” to get him elected. Hello world, no conspiracy was necessary. Trump was working to get elected, and the Russians were working to weaken Hillary. Each was pursuing their OWN interests. (And lest we forget, everyone and their uncle assumed Hillary would win, the Russian goal was to weaken her NOT to elect Trump.) The supposed problem comes from the idea that Trump must “owe something” to the Russians. Nice try. Trump has no such belief. The Russians have no such belief.
What is going on is the Democrats version of the Trump inauguration day crowds — a fervent belief in a truthy. As Colbert taught us more than a decade ago, a truthy is something that feels like it should be right regardless of underlying facts. Truthies allow us to make sense out of the world in a manner which minimizes our cognitive dissonance. Given all of our prior beliefs and the context in which we find ourselves, the truthy of the moment allows us to tell a story which makes sense out of the situation WITHOUT a need for further research or a questioning of any of our prior beliefs.
The Democrats and the media go crazy every time Trump or a member of the administration tells a truthy. For example, it is obvious that the Obama administration was spying on some members of the Trump campaign and transition team — where else could the reports about Mike Flynn, etc. have come from. To Trump that justifies a truthy about Obama wiretapping him. But the Democrats and the media cannot accept that we are now in an age of truthies. They want to narrow Trump’s words — thus the false claim that Trump believes that President Obama personally ordered a wiretap in Trump Tower of Trump’s phone. Truthies are broadly constructed not narrowly. The words in a truthy have broad meanings, not tight constrictions.
When it comes to Russia, the shoe is on the other foot. The Democrats are engaged truthy broadcasting 24/7 aided and abetted by the traditional media. Adam Schiff talks about “circumstantial evidence, ” and the FBI says “yes we are investigating.” Comey went grandstanding in front of Congress. But, the evidence only shows that conversations were occurring.
What the Democrats conveniently leave out is that the subject matter of the supposed “interference” was news about their own misdeeds. The DNC and the Clinton campaign played rough and dirty regarding Bernie Sanders. Only if you believe in the Clinton higher good theory (the highest good to be served is to have elected Hillary Clinton, and that end justifies any and all means of accomplishing it), can you believe that it would have been BETTER if the American people did not know about these transgressions. The supposed Russian sin was exposing the Democrats misdeeds. If it had been the RNC, these same Democrats would be calling the Russians heroes and saying this was “journalism.”
The Democratic truthy starts from the idea that Clinton was going to be elected no matter what. That she wasn’t elected must mean evil intervened. There can be no other explanation. The Clinton higher good theory leaves no other possibilities. Since any and all means to get Hillary elected would have been justified, it takes conspiracies and evil to deny her her entitlement.
Almost six months after the election, the Democrats cannot adjust to the simple realities that Hillary ran a bad campaign, was not a good candidate, and roughly 40% of the electorate actually knowingly voted FOR Donald J. Trump. Instead, they insist on constructing truthies based on Hillary’s supposed inevitability. At the same time, they blast Trump’s truthies as delusional. Hello, pot may I introduce you to kettle?
Of course, the same problem exists in reverse. Trump believes that there is or has been massive voter fraud. His chosen data points are composed of simple observations: in the United States it is relatively easy for someone who is intent on committing voter fraud to do so, we fail to ask for identification at voting stations, we fail to cross check voter lists across jurisdictions or state lines, we are terrible about cleaning up voter lists to reflect those who have moved or died, and we have large groups of ineligible residents who would like to be able to vote (just like they would like a path to citizenship).
Donald Trump is a practicing constructivist (though he may not know that). He is continuously constructing and revising his narratives to fit the world he perceives at the moment. He is not starting from some “G-d given” understanding of “truth” and working backward. He is starting from what is going on right then and there and working forwards. Washington does not like to think it works that way most of the time. Politicians and the media have a self-image vested in the idea of truth, not in the idea of “getting things done.” If President Trump accomplishes nothing else during his 4-8 years, it will still be a big victory to change the DC mindset back to a focus on action instead of self-righteousness.
Until both Democrats and Republicans come to accept that they each speak in truthies, and until the media learns how to decode those truthies rather than merely repeat them, we will have major dissonance in Washington. That dissonance works, long-term, in Trump’s favor. The longer that government can go on understaffed and not take active steps, the greater the public’s acceptance that government is too big and can be shrunk. The Democrats are doing Trump’s dirty work for him. The focus on investigating truthies is crippling the government’s ability to “get on with it, ” and that very crippling is what millions of Americans voted to have happen.
I have called this the chasm of dissonance
Washington and the media suffer from the conflicting truthies problem: neither side of any issue seems to be able to get past their own view of the world enough to even begin to glimpse what was going on in the other side’s view of the world.
I keep tweaking the set of graphics below to better explain what is going on, but I believe I finally have them right.
We see the same situation differently:
We use the same words to mean different things:
We pick and choose what observations and data points to pay attention to:
We create a story around those CHOSEN points.
We test that story for coherence.
What this means is that the ONLY way to get past the discord and dissonance is for each side to ask lots of questions about what data points are being used to compose the narrative around and to acknowledge that the other side is using different data points. But, that would mean giving up the privilege that is asserted from falsely claiming that your narrative is “the truth.” Instead, we get the complete nonsense of each side insisting that the other side’s narrative is based on “lies and distortions.”
Trump is changing Washington. The media is having trouble keeping up. That is my truthy.