Opinion

Please Advise: Is Paranoia the Only Sane Response to Our Times?

Dr. Steve on an age of lies, spies, Trump and a public that just doesn’t care.

By Steve Burgess 11 Mar 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

I don’t know who to trust anymore. And nobody seems to trust anybody else either. The media is unreliable, politicians lie with impunity — you can’t even count on the Maple Leafs to suck anymore. Also, I think my TV might be watching me. Am I crazy?

Signed,
Paranoid

Dear Paranoid,

There have been people who thought the TV was spying on them. But until now they were either Orwell characters or off their meds. Now, thanks to the latest Wikileaks data dump, we find out certain Samsung TV models can be used as eavesdropping devices. Disturbing certainly, but still a step up from owning a Samsung device that could suddenly explode in an airplane while you are 30,000 feet above Kansas. Samsung product flaws: they’re all relative.

And oh yeah, Wikileaks. Remember when they were righteous truth warriors, fighting the power? Good times. Take the red pill! Find out how deep the rabbit hole goes! That was back when you could say, “Take the red pill,” without sounding like a misogynist. And before Wikileaks apparently became a key tool in Vladimir Putin’s sabotage of the Hillary Clinton campaign. “I love Wikileaks!” said Donald Trump, putting the organization on that special Trump list that also includes the poorly educated and sexual assault.

It doesn’t help that the Russians are stinking up the online media environment like a dead cat in a furnace duct. Among their latest projects: smearing Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland by unearthing the story of her Nazi-friendly grandfather. It’s not even a lie. That’s how clever these Russians are — so devious they’re not above occasionally using the truth.

Paranoia — the destroyer, Ray Davies called it. And the flavour of the moment. Paranoia is the go-to response of the savvy political animal. It’s an understandable reaction when people in positions of responsibility refuse to face reality. The new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says he does not believe carbon dioxide contributes to climate change. Which pill — red or blue — means you wake up and Betsy DeVos is no longer U.S. secretary of education? If you are taking the proper medication, does Trump stop accusing President Obama of wiretapping his penthouse?

Paranoia makes sense when the president of the United States gets information from the likes of Infowars host Alex Jones. If Jones is clinically paranoid, some of his horrific claims (e.g. the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax) can at least be understood, if not excused. But if Jones is sane, he is one of the most heinous human beings ever to sit at a microphone. Jones nestles inside the First Amendment like one of those wasp larvae that eat their paralyzed hosts alive. And he has the president’s ear. In such times a little paranoia probably means you have a pulse.

I get paranoid too. I lie awake at night wondering: Did the Russians kidnap Richard Simmons? What will become of the radioactive wild boars roaming the countryside near Fukushima, Japan? Optimistic scenario: mentored by kindly mutant rat, name themselves after famous artists. Pessimistic scenario: bipedal, fire-breathing, Tokyo-stomping. Best-case scenario: fun recipes for glow-in-the-dark pork chops.

But what truly makes me paranoid is the growing sense that none of Trump’s outrages will destroy him. People hope Trump will be impeached, but by whom? Paul “Concerned Expression” Ryan? A Republican caucus that collectively make Waylon Smithers look like Robespierre? No.

The Republicans will do nothing because their base does not want them to. Scary as he is, Trump is not as frightening as the people who elected him. Democracy cannot be imposed from the top down — it requires a responsible electorate.

And it now appears that a sizeable chunk of the U.S. electorate does not give a radioactive boar’s anus about democratic principles. They proved it when Trump revealed, on a debate stage before tens of millions of viewers, that he would not pledge to support the outcome of the presidential election. Take everything else away from vile, fetid Campaign 2016, and that statement alone is disqualifying — you cannot be a legitimate democratic leader if you do not agree to respect the process. Donald Trump publicly, repeatedly announced that he did not, and more than 63 million Americans didn’t care.

Today I believe Trump could announce Congress has been dissolved, the Supreme Court imprisoned, and Salma Hayek deported, and Sean Hannity would weep for joy while his loyal stooges bayed like bloodthirsty hounds. Does that make me paranoid? I refuse to answer. Not with the TV listening.  [Tyee]

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