With Trump’s presidency, unfalsifiable Progressive delusions thrive

Progressive Delusions War of the Worlds

The banal news that Donald Trump Jr tried to get dirt on Hillary exposes Progressive delusions as a collective dementia unresponsive to actual facts.

In 1848, Charles Mackay published Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. The preface to his first edition explains the idea behind the title:

THE OBJECT OF THE AUTHOR in the following pages has been to collect the most remarkable instances of those moral epidemics which have been excited, sometimes by one cause and sometimes by another, and to show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes.

Four years later, when a second edition came out, Mackay expanded upon the notion of collective delusions:

IN READING THE HISTORY OF NATIONS, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.

Having established his predicate, Mackay described some of history’s best known mass delusions, including “The Mississippi Scheme,” “The South Sea Bubble,” and “The Tulipomania.” Had Mackay  lived long enough, he would undoubtedly have written about Florida’s land boom in the 1920s or Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds’ broadcast. I like to think, too, that had he lived into the 21st century, he would have written about Climate Change madness and, most recently, the Progressives’ Russia hysteria.

Before I delve more deeply into this subject, I need to make clear that I’m talking about genuine delusions, rather than mistakes, misunderstandings, or bias. A delusion is when an alternate reality occupies the brain and refuses to be displaced.

For example, whenever my mother was in the hospital, she suffered from “sundowning,” a common problem for elderly people in hospitals. (It’s also a regular problem for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.) For those who are hospitalized, starting as they are from a point of illness and, usually, fear, their older brains have a hard time processing the hospital environment.

Not only is the hospital an unfamiliar place, its rhythms are antithetical to natural biorhythms. Lights are on all the time, food appears at random times, patients are woken up at all hours of the day and night and, of course, there are drugs, lots of drugs. The elderly tend to hold things together during the day but, at night, their brains rebel and they start having serious hallucinations.

One of my mother’s hallucinations was that two German physicians came into her room to examine her. When they heard me coming, though, they quickly left through the other door so that they would not have to interact with me.

From my point of view, the beauty of this delusion was that it was provably wrong. The room had only one door. The “other door” to which she referred was a window that looked out over three stories. In this, the hallucination differed from some of her others, which involved nurses locking her in dungeons overnight or aliens taking over my body during the night. I truly thought that, armed with this indisputable fact, I could put to rest her fear that those German doctors were going to harm her.

What both fascinated and frustrated me was that no proof could dissuade my mother that the German doctors hadn’t been in her room and then left through a third floor window. It was as if a part of her brain had been hijacked by the delusion and was incapable of accepting countervailing data. For her, there was no mistake, misunderstanding, or bad dream. There was only a fact — an utterly wrong, easily falsifiable fact — but in her brain it lived and there it would stay, frightening her a great deal, until the day she died.

Is there any difference between my mother’s delusion and the Progressives’ Russia delusions when it comes to Donald Trump? I don’t think so.

For almost a year now, every newly dredged up claim has provably come to nothing. The best and most recent example is the Progressives’ claim 17 federal agencies prepared a comprehensive report damning the nascent Trump administration for having colluded with Russia to win the White House.

James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, and no friend to Trump explicitly stated that there was no truth whatsoever to this alleged “fact,” both with regard to the false number of agencies and with regard to the claim that Trump worked with the Russians to hack the election. Putin may have tried to hack the election, and Obama may have hidden that fact because he assumed Hillary would win and did not want her victory tainted by facts about Russian hacking, but Trump did nothing and 17 agencies did nothing too:

Despite Clapper’s logical and factually unassailable recitation of actual facts, the true believers cannot let go of their delusion that the entire intelligence community asserted that Donald Trump worked with the Russians to hack the American election:

It’s the myth that will not die: all 17 intelligence agencies worked on a comprehensive report on Russian activities during the 2016 election. Cortney wrote about The New York Times issuing a correction to that regard. Earlier this year, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a report saying that FBI, CIA, and NSA have high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an interference campaign. Keep in mind, that’s just three. Still, NBC reporter Katy Tur decided to get snarky, tweeting erroneously that 17 intelligence agencies signed off on the report and cc’ing the POTUS account. It’s since been deleted.

Katy Tur, AP, Al Franken, Jim Acosta — it lives in their head as permanently as my Mom’s fervent belief that two German doctors walked out of a door that exists only in her mind. It’s not a correctable mistake or a misunderstanding; it’s a delusion that has changed their brains’ fabric.

The reality is that there are no facts showing that Trump had any dealing with any Russians. There are no facts showing that anyone in the Trump campaign engaged in quid pro quos with the Russians.

There are, of course, innumerable facts showing Hillary and John Podesta doing precisely that. Rush has a splendid riff about Hillary’s colluding with the Russians against America (as did Obama), colluding with the Ukrainians against Trump, and colluding with the DNC against Bernie Sanders. If you’re looking for collusion, those undisputed, unmistakable, unfalsifiable facts about Democrats — all drawn from their own documents — spell it out. But if you’re trying to tie Trump to Russia, every trip you make to that well is going to come up factually dry.

The same problem arises with the latest Progressive excitement, this time about Trump Jr’s belief that he was going to get information about Hillary’s dirty dealings. The undisputed facts, drawn from Trump Jr’s contemporaneous email records, all of which he freely divulged, are clear and they tell a narrative that shows Trump Jr to be, perhaps, credulous and naive, but nothing else.

Trump Jr got a come-on promising him that a Russian lawyer would give him dirt on Hillary. Given the known facts about Hillary’s dealings with the Russians during her tenure as Secretary of State, it was not unreasonable for him to believe that a Russian who allegedly was connected to Putin might have interesting news.

Trump Jr went into the meeting hoping for information proving that Hillary acted illegally — which he would logically have turned over to the FBI as part of a demand that she be investigated for criminal activity — or that she just acted in a greedy, underhanded way. Heck, he might have hoped the Russian lawyer would hand him a photo showing Hillary flipping off a taxi driver of color. In today’s world, that kind of dirt means something in an election.

When Trump arrived at the meeting, the Russian lawyer had nothing about Hillary. When it came to Hillary, Trump Jr got nothing and gave nothing. Instead, the lawyer wanted to press Trump Jr about changing a law that the Russians disliked. Trump Jr’s response was to end the meeting. Again, nothing given; nothing received.

It’s these facts that have those delusional Progressives certain that they’ve found the smoking nuclear missile launcher that will destroy the Trump presidency. Paul Mirengoff sums up this latest mass hallucination:

The mainstream media is in a state of ecstasy over the story of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with that Russian lawyer. It’s easy to understand why. After months with nothing to feed on, the media now has a scrap. In this context, the meal feels like a feast.

It certainly seems that way to Ruth Marcus. She declares, absurdly, that the Trump Jr. emails “could hardly be more incriminating.” I must have missed the one in which he told the Russkies to go ahead and hack John Podesta’s emails, and provided them the password.

Marcus also opines that Trump, Jr. violated U.S. law by accepting something of value from a foreign government agent. If that’s true, then the FBI should raid every embassy party in Washington and half of the city’s cocktail parties. Journalists and others routinely accept useful information (and plenty of interesting gossip) from “foreign government agents” at these events. Even I have used information obtained from diplomats in my writing.

What’s especially interesting to about this latest mass delusion is the contention that Trump Jr, just by asking “what have you got?” violated international law. Indeed, the Left’s approach to the alleged nexus of law and fact here interests me on two levels.

The first level is the mental breakdown I’m seeing amongst attorneys whom I’ve known for decades. They are, without exception, extremely successful attorneys, some with national reputations. Presumably, therefore, they are good lawyers.

When it comes to Trump, though, the legal part of their brain simply shorts out. They no longer read the law or understand it. The same held true, incidentally, when they concluded, as Comey did, that Hillary did not violate national security laws, even though her conduct matched precisely that barred by the laws and even though the laws do not require intent. The lawyers I know become as stupid as Ruth Marcus. To me, facts are stubborn things. To them, delusion trumps facts every time.

The second thing that’s so interesting about nexus between Trump Jr and the law, is that Progressives have come up with a new definition of “treason.” According to the law on the books, the various acts constituting treason require very specific conduct directed against the United States:

18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason. Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

18 U.S. Code § 2382 – Misprision of treason. Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States and having knowledge of the commission of any treason against them, conceals and does not, as soon as may be, disclose and make known the same to the President or to some judge of the United States, or to the governor or to some judge or justice of a particular State, is guilty of misprision of treason and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than seven years, or both.

18 U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or insurrection. Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

18 U.S. Code § 2384 – Seditious conspiracy. If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

18 U.S. Code § 2385 – Advocating overthrow of Government. Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

As used in this section, the terms “organizes” and “organize”, with respect to any society, group, or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons.

There are a few other relevant statutes, but you get the gist: Treason occurs when you work with America’s enemies to overthrow the American government. In a sane world, hoping to get dirt (for free) on an opposing candidate does not constitute an effort to overthrow the U.S. government. (Thomas Jefferson would have been clapped in irons if that had been the standard.)

It’s become clear to me, however, that the Progressives have a new standard for treason: It’s treasonous to engage in any activities intended to defeat a Democrat candidate. 

Think about it: That standard is what underpins the Progressive excitement about Trump Jr’s meeting. It matters not that nothing Trump Jr did during that abortive effort to get information harmed America. What offends them so deeply is that he was attempting to harm Hillary’s candidacy. The only exception to this rule, of course, is if you’re Hillary working to defeat Bernie, by fair means and, especially, foul, in which case a sizable number of Progressives think it’s all good.

Let us be thankful that Justice Gorsuch sits on the Supreme Court and that Trump and the Republicans are in a position to fill up vacancies in the federal court system. Otherwise, it’s a dead certainty that activist judges would interpret the treason laws to cover Republican candidates doing opposition research on Democrat candidates.

The problem with delusions is that, as my mother proved to me, one cannot correct them. They arise from a diseased or damaged brain that copes with confusion and fear by creating an alternative reality. Some people create pleasant realities in which they converse with old friends who died long before or revisit happy places.

Other people, however, when their damaged brains can no longer cope with the real world, sadly traffic in delusional conspiracy theories that are as real to them as the breakfast you had this morning. Once that happens, you will never alter the delusional person’s conviction that his hallucinations are real. Indeed, your words only provide more evidence that he is the victim of a dangerous conspiracy.

UPDATE: Minutes after I finished writing, this popped up on my Twitter feed, perfectly making my last point about the new definition of treason:

About Bookworm 1331 Articles
Bookworm came late to conservativism but embraced it with passion. She's been blogging since 2004 at Bookworm Room about anything that captures her fancy -- and that's usually politics. Her blog's motto is "Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts."