Inside #Cult45 is an ongoing contributor project and as such will be presented as a series, updated with new chapters as the project progresses. This post will include the seventh and eighth chapters, When Truth isn’t Truth and Insults and Civil War II. Any specific identifying information to the contributor has been altered to protect the privacy of the author and the subjects.
When Truth isn’t Truth
While spending time in this alternate reality, I noticed that it was teeming with fake news. I cannot underscore the amount of obviously false headlines, false with some truth headlines, and the usual right wing media bias headlines. I figured it may be time to watch the news that they watch in addition to the MAGA friendly Twitter feed. I opted for some simple Fox News. It was apparent fairly quickly what was going on with that “News” network. When compared with other news networks it seemed we actually were living two different realities. The commentary leaned far to the right, with even the anchor’s word choices being crafted to push the right wing agenda. They completely ignored some stories that were being covered by other networks.
Other times it was even more obvious than than that. For example, back during the Impeachment trial of Donald Trump, they carried the broadcast of the senate arguments on whether or not to allow witnesses and evidence. If you had watched CNN’s broadcasts, you saw the trial and listened to the arguments of both the republicans and the democrats. The democrats made a very compelling case for the addition of witnesses and evidence while simultaneously laying out all his transgressions. They made it a point that he had consistently withheld documents, witnesses and recordings during their inquiry. Every subpoena from congress had been ignored. The republicans on the other hand, completely ignored the facts, changed goalposts multiple times and screamed Hunter Biden. Hunter had apparently had become a human version of Hillary Clinton’s email server. In comparison to CNN, Fox carried muted video of the sessions, with right wing pundits supplying a narrative for you that painted a very different picture. They literally muted the facts that were being presented, never to be heard by their audience.
Conservative media caters to it’s base. It is also often used to instill fear and paranoia. They manufacture outrage, appealing to the baser instincts of their viewership. They wanted them scared, paranoid and angry. Which were three common motivator emotions of conservatives. Everyone has these emotions, however in conservatives they play an important role in their world perspective.
This reminded me of some studies I had read on the brain structure of conservatives and liberals. People who identified as conservatives had been found to have larger amygdala’s than those who identified as liberals. The amygdala is a part of the brain that is active during states of fear and anxiety. Liberals on the other hand had more grey matter in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region that assists in coping with complexity. This duality reflected the political motivations of bipartisan societies. One part of society welcomed change, while the other feared it. One favored intellectualism, the other was anti-intellectual.
The Conservative party is known for its never ending preparation for war and magnified perception of threats. Whether it’s the war on terror, or poor immigrants seeking refuge, the threat is there. The right wing feeds fear to their base, and biologically, the base is hardwired for that. Taking this into consideration, it made perfect sense. Truth did not matter anymore, as they were dealing in emotions and manipulation of said emotions. This had been an unintentional (?) result of the abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. The FCC no longer held media to be accountable for extreme bias and agenda pushing. The base was literally served the reality that their brains craved.
The MAGA Twitterverse combined all of the conservative media in a concentrated, continuous stream. Users were saturated with it. There was a single, heavily emphasized worldview and a reimagining of history, and world politics. This was extremely disturbing to realize that people were actually consuming this type of media. It was feeding their confirmation biases with manufactured conspiracy, outright lies and half truths. It was rare to find legitimate news sources, the majority of articles often from suspect sources. Conspiracy was accepted as fact here, and verified truths were denied. These people did not vet anything that they read. That would involve effort and the danger of challenge their belief system. They feared change. The left on the other hand, in my biased opinion was very cognizant of this damaging form of media, and had become somewhat inoculated to it.
The Trumpers consumed this propaganda, and spread it exponentially. In retweeting some of these things I actually felt disgust and was discouraged in the project for the sole fact that I was now contributing into a massive disinformation ecosystem. One that had taken hold of millions of Americans and essentially brainwashed them. This subculture was a direct result of right wing media and foreign propaganda. Seeing all this firsthand, taking part in it, made me realize we were in a much more dangerous place than we realize. When truth isn’t truth and the unreal is proclaimed to be real, the consequences for the larger community can be devastating.
There were and are millions of Twitter users living in a different timeline. In this alternate timeline, Russian interference did not exist. It was a Democrat and media manufactured conspiracy. The Mueller report is ignored due to it being a product of a never-Trumper led investigation. The majority of the current divisions lay solely at the feet of the “do-nothing democrats”, the liberals and the communist, socialist, left wing media. Who was the enemy of the state. The left was clearly the problem in this world, the impeachment was a hoax and the President Donald J Trump was the acquitted savior, unstoppable, kicking ass and taking names through all of it. He was the lynch pin.
To be fair, we all create comfort zones of closed off worlds. We feed our biases with information that supports them. Its a defect of human nature. Here in Twitter however, this phenomenon is then amplified by the algorithms that make up the platform. You see only what you want to see. This alternate timeline was magnified and supported by tacit acceptance by the community. No one, not one user, in my time there, called out the disinformation. Proven facts, evidence and logic were heresy and a singular group think perception of world events and politics prevailed.
Insults and Civil War Two
While absorbing this barrage of false news and narratives, I would spend some of the time reading Tweets and replies by the MAGA faction. The amplified fake news was constant and so were the MAGA clan Tweets. At it’s most harmless, it was a cacophony of self congratulatory messaging and slogans. This is what formed my initial impression. They were the chosen ones and every one was optimistic and confident. The identifying phrases and slogans were ubiquitous. Patriots United. America First. Make America Great Again, Keep America Great. Shall not Infringe. Proud and Unapologetic Christian. God Fearing Patriot. Build The Wall. All Lives Matter. Deport All Illegals. Proud Nationalist. Then, digging further into the Twitter threads, was evidence of their opinions of the left and of Democrats. There was vehement ridicule and worse of the liberals, Democrats and never-Trumpers. RINOs were particularly abhorred. Mitt Romney was considered a traitor. A large percentage of these people fed into this negative narrative, like a team building exercise.
At it’s worst there were threats, references to violence and calls for civil war. Yes. Some actually believed in the need for a second civil war to fix the divisions in the U.S. It took me less than a day in this environment to stumble across those Tweets. The first day had found me opening direct messages that were welcomes in the form of memes about God, guns and their freedom. A cliche turned real. And the foundation for all of this? Existing opposition of the left and right, amplified by media, Russian trolls, bots and propaganda and then exploited and amplified to a feverish pitch by a non-stop tweeting Donald Trump. The president who lead by Twitter. The commander in chief’s commentary was impossible to get away from.
Reading profiles there was a common sentiment. Many of these MAGA folks joined due to Trump, to follow his Twitter feed. It was like a favorite reality TV show for them. Finally a president that echoed their feelings and thoughts on society, politics and culture. A lot of these people’s entire social media experience originated in wanting more Trump, the tough talking president who told it like it is. He was their golden calf.
In addition to the unadulterated adoration of the President and his commentary, Followers displayed some pretty virulent commentary on the Democratic candidates, House and Senate Democrats, the Democrat rank and file and prominent outspoken liberals. This included but was not limited to the standard misogyny, homophobia, racism and antisemitism. They displayed xenophobia, were anti-immigration, and vehemently opposed to movements like Black Lives Matter and Me Too. A majority of this was implicit commentary, while a slight minority was explicit. Twitter rules prohibited abusive behavior and harassment, so the worst was often removed by Twitter.
Pro second amendment sentiment was an extremely common theme, taking the form of what can only be described as Gun Worship. These folks were single minded in their world view. “Kill or be killed, and you damn well won’t take that right away from me” The Gun Worship follower was only rivaled in its prevalence by the Proud Christian MAGA follower. A belief in god was paramount and belief in THEIR god was even more important than that. Everything they posted and replied was religious in nature, and prayers for their leader abounded. They truly believed, to a religious extent these themes. And the right wing media machines presentation of our current situation in this country only bolstered that.
The Twitter amplification of these narratives was deafening. These were the themes that were the foundation of the type of manic camaraderie that existed between all the MAGA folks. When they were not hating on the left, they were praising POTUS, America, Freedom, guns, god and each other. Constant exhortations of MAGA, KAG, Trump 2020 and other catch phrases that dominated this corner of Twitter filled my feed at all times. It was a dizzying milieu of mostly shallow interactions mixed with right wing propaganda and Trump worship.