On Bullshit

a-burial-at-ornansOne week from the election, disagreement as political argument has taken a very wide arc around the truth:

Why should we remain beholden to facts? They are, as etymology tells us, not some sort of raw material that we simply find, but rather are the sort of thing that must be actively made — or, to use the Latin past participle, factum. Propagandists, whether Jesuit, Bolshevik, or Rovean, are those people who understand that facts, or at least social facts, are the result of human activity, in part the activity of inserting new ways of thinking and talking into the public realm — and that when this is done effectively, the public, sometimes, can come to a new understanding of the truth.
This, again, is not what Trump is doing. He is a mere bullshitter, and what comes out of his mouth has more to do with pathologies of personality than with any real vision of how the world, or America, ought to be brought into line with some super-empirical truth to which he alone has access.

Trumpism is, however, being helped along by master propagandists who understand very well that, by treating facts as something to be actively made, one may eventually change the way truth is understood. (Let us not, here, consider the specter of social constructionism, of whether changing the way truth is understood is the same thing as “creating a new truth.”) The activists of the so-called alt-right have been working for years to change public discourse through a concerted campaign of internet trolling. Their goal has been the creation of “meme magic,” that moment when an idea that they have promoted online makes the leap from virtuality to reality.

Also, ensorcelled. Image: A Burial at Ornans, by Gustave Courbet, 1851