CA$H

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - GENE LYONS eu­gene­lyons2@ya­hoo.com

Per­haps you re­mem­ber what some called the “In­for­ma­tion Su­per­high­way” and how it was go­ing to de­liver us to wis­dom and en­light­en­ment. Alas, it hasn’t quite worked out, has it?

More like the Free­way of Delu­sion, it would ap­pear.

In the era of so­cial me­dia and satel­lite TV, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who strug­gled with 9th grade bi­ol­ogy now fancy them­selves ex­perts on in­fec­tious dis­eases and their treat­ment. Real sci­en­tists and gen­uine ex­per­tise they de­ride as “elit­ist.”

Never mind that the United States of Trump has ac­cu­mu­lated al­most 24% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths, with 4% of its pop­u­la­tion. The same gov­ern­ment that makes you wear pants in public now re­quires masks. It’s tyranny, they say.

Boss Trump dis­penses quack cures on na­tional TV, even as mil­lions of his sup­port­ers en­list in an on­line po­lit­i­cal cult that ba­si­cally re­ca­pit­u­lates the themes of the Salem witch­craft tri­als of the 1690s.

The on­go­ing won­der is how in­di­vid­u­als so gullible as to subscribe to QAnon can be ca­pa­ble of hold­ing down jobs, get­ting the trash to the curb each week, or even dress­ing them­selves with­out help.

Last week, Trump de­scribed this par­lia­ment of loons as pa­tri­ots “who love our coun­try” and not so co­in­ci­den­tally love him — a holy war­rior who they be­lieve is se­cretly con­duct­ing a subter­ranean battle against Satan-wor­ship­ing, can­ni­bal­is­tic pe­dophiles led by Hil­lary Clin­ton.

It’s a fes­ti­val of lu­nacy the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Mas­sachusetts Bay Colony, when a score of hu­man be­ings, dogs and even barn­yard an­i­mals were ex­e­cuted for witch­craft, most by public hang­ing.

Much of the Salem ev­i­dence was “spec­tral” — that is, ghosts. Al­most need­less to say, there was a lot about women hav­ing sex with demons and, to quote one vic­tim’s con­fes­sion, “the dark ri­tu­als which bind them to­gether in ser­vice of Satan.”

His­to­ri­ans partly blame an out­break of rye er­got — a fun­gus that forms hal­lu­cino­genic drugs in bread. But there’s al­ways a strong el­e­ment of au­thor­i­tar­ian re­li­gion and sex­ual fan­tasy to th­ese things. Peo­ple bored and be­wil­dered by or­di­nary life get ex­cited imag­in­ing Hil­lary abus­ing and tor­tur­ing chil­dren. It’s pornog­ra­phy for True Be­liev­ers.

If you want to know how crazy it can get, Google “QAnon” and “adrenochro­me.” That’s a drug al­legedly har­vested from the pi­tu­itary glands of tor­tured chil­dren. Hil­lary and Huma Abe­din are sup­pos­edly ad­dicted. (Hint: It’s a make-be­lieve high in­vented by Hunter S. Thomp­son in his stoned clas­sic “Fear and Loathing in Las Ve­gas.”)

Any­way, how long do you sup­pose it will be be­fore Ka­mala Har­ris is ac­cused of witch­craft?

My man Charles P. Pierce saw this stuff com­ing in his ter­rific book “Id­iot Amer­ica: How Stu­pid­ity Be­came a Virtue in the Land of the Free.”

Pierce de­scribes the Three Great Premises of Id­iot Amer­ica:

1. “Any the­ory is valid if it sells books, soaks up rat­ings or oth­er­wise moves units.

2. “Any­thing can be true if some­one says it loudly enough.

3. “Fact is that which enough peo­ple be­lieve. Truth is de­ter­mined by how fer­vently they be­lieve it.”

En­ter Don­ald J. Trump, re­al­ity TV ty­coon and pro­fes­sional wrestling shill. Pos­sessed of ab­so­lute con­tempt for his au­di­ence of dupes, Trump runs his po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns ex­actly like a WWE pro­mo­tion.

He­roes be­come heels in the blink of an eye. One day you’re Sec­re­tary of De­fense Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mat­tis, and the next day you’re out: a loser, a has-been, a nev­er­was. It’s hap­pened over and over.

Know­ing very lit­tle and ut­terly with­out shame, Trump can be­lieve vir­tu­ally any­thing that’s con­ve­nient for him to be­lieve at any given mo­ment — con­fi­dent that his “base” will fol­low him al­most any­where.

Keep­ing track of, much less re­fut­ing, his more than 20,000 doc­u­mented lies is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble. Two weeks ago, CBS cor­re­spon­dent Paula Reid asked him why he keeps claim­ing that he, and he alone, was able to pass the Vet­er­ans Choice Act that was, in fact, signed into law by Pres­i­dent Obama in 2014. He turned and stormed out of the press con­fer­ence.

How much fol­low-up have you seen? Last Monday, Trump claimed that the Demo­cratic Party cut the words “un­der God” out of the Pledge of Al­le­giance dur­ing their na­tional con­ven­tion. Ab­so­lutely false.

He just flat made it up. Video ev­i­dence is read­ily avail­able.

He al­leged that Democrats planned to cir­cu­late 80 mil­lion mail-in bal­lots to un­reg­is­tered vot­ers and dis­patch op­er­a­tives to col­lect them.

To­tally il­le­gal, to­tally imag­i­nary. Mean­while, Trump wages war on mere re­al­ity. Any­thing he doesn’t want cultists to know, he calls a “hoax.” CNN’s Brian Stel­ter has been keep­ing track. Writ­ing in The New York Times, Stel­ter doc­u­ments Trump cry­ing “hoax” 18 times in 2017; 63 times in 2018, and “a whopping 345 times” last year. “[A]fter the news broke that Rus­sia paid boun­ties to mil­i­tants for killing Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers, Mr. Trump tweeted, it’s ‘just an­other “HOAX!’”

So who are you go­ing to be­lieve, Amer­ica? Trump or your ly­ing eyes?

EVAN VUCCI/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Don­ald Trump Jr. stand Thurs­day on the South Lawn of the White House on the fi­nal day of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

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