I Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up The cre­ator of ‘The Death of Stalin’ and ‘Veep’ on a week that sur­passed satire.

New York Magazine - - IN­TEL­LI­GENCER - by ar­mando ian­nucci

So­cial me­dia has been split on how to re­spond to Trump’s ill­ness. Some peo­ple want him to die; oth­ers pray he will make a full re­cov­ery so he can go on to be reg­u­larly as­saulted in prison by ex-col­leagues. There is, how­ever, one thing we all agree on: The col­li­sion of a deadly pan­demic with a re­al­ity-show host on steroids has shat­tered all that’s left of our def­i­ni­tion of re­al­ity.

For lo, He fell sick and seemed dead and buried. But on the third day, He cast off his bed­sheets and rose again. And, lo, the door of the tem­ple hos­pi­tal was rent in twain, and He as­cended into Heaven. Then He de­scended onto the White House Lawn and saluted for what seemed like 40 days and 40 nights. And ver­ily, the prophets in white did come forth and say, “He hath con­quered Death, though there are some resid­ual breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties that still need mon­i­tor­ing!”

In re­al­ity, Don­ald Trump is still prob­a­bly con­ta­gious and cur­rently breath­ing on Repub­li­cans to death—but the vi­sion of him de­feat­ing the virus has al­ready been cut and pasted into a nar­ra­tive ren­dered of­fi­cial. Even the White House web­site has footage of Trump declar­ing it a mir­a­cle, so who are we to ques­tion the ve­rac­ity of th­ese events?

On day one, doc­tors came out to tell us not all the facts we needed to know but only those facts that suited a nar­ra­tive of re­cov­ery. This is in the tra­di­tion of dic­ta­tors and au­thor­i­tar­i­ans who fall ill—a host of doc­tors are drafted by a fren­zied polit­buro, but only those who can be trusted to as­sure the peo­ple the Supreme Leader will get bet­ter.

On day two, Trump chore­ographed the mo­tor­cade to nowhere, driv­ing around the hos­pi­tal and back so he could wave to his sup­port­ers. On one level, it was a Cadil­lac ver­sion of Je­sus rid­ing into Jerusalem on the back of a don­key. On an­other, it was a drive-by su­per­spread­ing in which many of Trump’s un­masked sup­port­ers shouted they would die for him. Be­cause they were so close and crowded, some of them prob­a­bly will. If day one was The Death of Stalin, day two was more Ch­er­nobyl, where a poor lone driver was asked to make the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice for the fa­ther­land.

Fi­nally, day three saw the emer­gence of the new Don­ald, more Don­ald-y than ever be­fore and with a steely de­ter­mi­na­tion to live and breathe heav­ily in a world in which all that’s hap­pened doesn’t mat­ter. A Don­ald now in some as­tral plane, glid­ing ef­fort­lessly in a zone of per­cep­tion where what he thinks and what is real are the same.

It’s as if, dur­ing those cru­cial three days when the pres­i­dent was hid­den away from us in the hos­pi­tal, he was wrestling with not only the virus but re­al­ity it­self. His wa­ger was that if he acted like he’d been cured, he would be. Or that, if still con­ta­gious, his con­ta­gion would only spread in a world he no longer in­hab­its, a pussy world where id­iots and lowlife losers scram­ble for cover and dou­ble over in pain. He, how­ever, would have trans­formed into a god-thing that no longer need worry about germs and pro­to­col and in­fec­tion and where the sheer power of the will razed old re­al­ity to the ground. The suit­able cul­tural ref­er­ence here would be Doc­tor Man­hat­tan from Watch­men, who, like Trump, is a huge and pe­cu­liarly col­ored guy who thinks he’s un­beat­able and is an in­cor­ri­gi­ble dick-swinger.

Like Doc­tor Man­hat­tan, Trump claims to see all time at once. He jus­ti­fied his loop out­side the hos­pi­tal by say­ing that if he hadn’t done it, the me­dia “would have [said] ‘Rude!’” So an ab­surd event was or­ga­nized in re­sponse to a re­ac­tion set in the fu­ture and for which there was no way of prov­ing whether it would have hap­pened or not.

This is what he does. He posits an aw­ful fu­ture and then ter­ri­fies us into ac­cept­ing his prophe­cies as real to jus­tify the ac­tions he needs to take to avoid that fu­ture. Hence the armed mili­tias get­ting ready to “su­per­vise” vot­ers and call out all the bal­lot-stuff­ing that hasn’t hap­pened; the sup­port­ers called on to vote twice to can­cel out the cor­rupt vot­ers who voted once; the round­ing up of de­struc­tive an­ar­chists be­fore they have a chance to com­mit an­ar­chy; the may­hem that will hap­pen from Novem­ber 4 on­ward and that can only be stopped by halt­ing time, and the elec­tion, on Novem­ber 3.

Trump, his sup­port­ers, and his GOP en­ablers have long been con­struct­ing this two-world sys­tem of re­al­ity in which they get to dic­tate who in­hab­its the one that’s valid (theirs) and who is to be cast out into the one that sucks (ev­ery­one else’s). Only peo­ple in the valid world can vote or take of­fice. Those in the other may vote, but their vote is not to be counted. In the valid one, empty chairs on the Supreme Court can be filled; in the one that sucks, they can­not. In the for­mer, you be­lieve in Trump and are a pa­triot. In the lat­ter, you dis­agree and are con­sid­ered a traitor.

All of Trump’s be­hav­ior has been de­voted to build­ing this king­dom on Earth. And we’ve all be­come fa­mil­iar with how his al­ter­na­tive facts stack to­gether to pro­tect it. It started with the claim that his in­au­gu­ra­tion crowd was the big­gest ever, an as­ser­tion that was an­noy­ingly un­der­mined by a three­fold en­emy—pub­lic tes­ti­mony, pho­tog­ra­phy, and arith­metic. The next three years were then de­voted to chip­ping away at the cred­i­bil­ity of those forces—de­mean­ing any­thing any­one said un­der oath, deny­ing any­thing caught on­cam­era, of­fer­ing dif­fer­ent num­bers from those cited—so that a near ma­jor­ity of peo­ple have now come to ac­cept ev­ery­thing he says. Some do it be­cause they’ve al­ways be­lieved him, many yield out of sheer ex­haus­tion.

Trump’s vi­ral ver­sion of the truth has in­fected re­al­ity for so many of us it can seem there’s no point try­ing to re­sist. Trump has won, ir­re­spec­tive of the elec­tion re­sult. If it’s de­clared for Bi­den, then the vote coun­ters, the com­men­ta­tors, the me­dia are all hoaxes. If the re­sult is de­fended in court, the lawyers are fake. If it’s up­held, the judges are impostors. Won’t it then be eas­ier to be­lieve that the elec­tion never hap­pened?

Look at him now, out­side on the White House lawn, prais­ing the mir­a­cle elixir that saved him. Life will be sweeter, he’s say­ing, if you be­lieve in me. And so he beck­ons us to come join him, and when we do, we’ll have crossed over into the Promised Land where noth­ing will trou­ble us, where we no longer have en­e­mies to deal with, where Trump af­ter Trump can look af­ter us. ■

OCT. 4: Trump’s mo­tor­cade drove past crowds out­side Wal­ter Reed med­i­cal cen­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.