Politics & Policy

Believing Every Bad Thing About Trump Is as Harmful as Denying Every Bad Thing About Trump

(Reuters photo: Mike Segar)
If you’re concerned about Trump’s power, the best way to give him more is to destroy your own ability to credibly criticize him.

When it comes to Donald Trump, a lot of people hold one of two points of view: 1) Trump is going to save the world, don’t you dare tell me otherwise and 2) Donald Trump is going to destroy the world, and don’t you dare tell me otherwise, you racist.

First of all, let me say that I absolutely do understand concerns about Donald Trump. I understand why, for example, a Muslim person with family members in another country might be concerned that those family members might not be able to come here without renouncing their religion, and it bothers me to hear so many people dismiss these concerns without a shred of empathy.

As a woman myself, I understand why women are concerned, and I’ve had a hard time hearing so many people deny us the right to be upset about having to hear Donald Trump laughing and bragging about being able to take advantage of women because he’s powerful, because I know that we live in a world where powerful men routinely target and abuse powerless women — women whom they know cannot speak out because of that powerlessness.

Anyone in the media who has criticized Trump knows that doing so means you can expect to be met with a Twitter-feed full of his supporters, intent on twisting both your words and Trump’s actions into an often verbally abusive pretzel in order to fit their narrative: Their candidate is perfect, all criticism of him is due to lies and media bias, and any evidence to the contrary is not worth considering. Finding the truth is not as important as defending Donald Trump at all costs.

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It’s disturbing, frustrating, and awful to see happening. Since the election, though, I’ve noticed how many people on the other side have taken on the same attitude, with some even going so far as to make up stories about hate crimes being committed in Trump’s name. No doubt, the people who concoct these stories are trying to stop a man that they just as firmly believe is going to destroy the country as his supporters believe he’s going to save it, but they don’t seem to understand that they’re not helping themselves or anyone else by, say, just flat-out making up a story about getting your hijab ripped off in a Trump-inspired attack, as a young woman from the University of Louisiana recently did. The same goes for falsely claiming that students at the University of Illinois were posting blackface selfies in honor of Trump’s victory, as Shaun King recently did. Ditto to posting a photo of conservatives marching with Christian flags and claiming that it was a photo of a KKK-sponsored event. (If you’re unfamiliar with these stories, Elizabeth Nolan Brown gives a pretty comprehensive list in her column on the issue for Reason.)

Yes, the people concocting these kinds of stories make up a very small minority of Trump’s detractors — but the thing is, a much larger number of them have been swiftly accepting and sharing these stories as facts, evidence that there is a massive wave of Trump-inspired hate crimes sweeping the country, long before anyone could know whether or not they were true.

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The reality is, blindly believing any story you hear about Trump inspiring hate crimes, without considering the possibility that it might be fake, makes you no better than a Trump supporter refusing to consider that a negative story about Trump might be anything but the product of a mass-media-establishment conspiracy designed to take him down. It makes you no better than the people on Pepe the Frog Twitter who will attack you and your family if you dare to criticize him. And, like the boy who cried wolf, you’re weakening your argument for every time he or even one of his supporters does do or say something legitimately awful. If you’re concerned about Trump’s power, the best way to give him more is to destroy your own credibility to criticize him.

On both sides, so many people have turned their view of Donald Trump into an identity in itself: either as a “Trump Supporter,” so committed to praising and defending him that you won’t even consider that some critics might have a point, or as a “Stop Trump” warrior, so committed to the idea that the man is the next Hitler that you’ll accept any and all negative claims about him without ever considering that some of them might be false.

#related#The prevalence of this dichotomy is dangerous. Much like blind loyalty, blind hatred also keeps people from being able to see truth. Both cause people to skip the step where they assess the reality of a situation before forming an opinion, because they’ve decided ahead of time what that opinion will be, and they have no interest in considering otherwise. This kind of attitude keeps people from having informed, honest, fair conversations, the kind of conversations that are necessary in keeping a government accountable to the people it serves. If the conversation surrounding Donald Trump becomes nothing more than two sparring sides committed to lifting him up or taking him down, then it becomes impossible for either side to be taken seriously. I understand the passion surrounding the issue. After all, the future of our country is a very important thing — and it is because it is so important that people must be careful not to allow their passion to destroy their credibility to discuss it.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online


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