Jon Schwarz at The Intercept recounts a comic-tragic story about how he, as a joke, started tweeting on July 15 about how he and his friends in the media destroyed Trump ballots and found that people actually believed him. He then started escalating the absurdity of the claims but even as it reached stratospheric heights, claiming that the FBI and CIA were in on it and that the demand to destroy the ballots was in the US Constitution and was part of the Ten Commandments, they continued to think it was real and he received multiple death threats.
While the experience was funny at first, it also brought a sense of sadness that people would believe almost anything that their tribal loyalty expected of them.
I don’t have words to describe the happiness and psychological relief this brought me. Only around tweet No. 50 did I comprehend how mentally oppressive I’ve come to find it to live in a country in which about a quarter of the other people are, for all intents and purposes, members of a cult.
What made the whole thing especially rewarding was using their own modus operandi against them. As a journalist, I’m constantly anxious about making sure every sentence, every word, is accurate. Now I was acting as Trump and his minions do — free to say anything, no matter how asinine or ridiculous, with no basis in observable fact and with no sense of responsibility toward others. The only thing that mattered was my own needs from second to second, and it felt fantastic.
But I simultaneously began to experience a growing sense of psychological gloom. Partly it was the sorrow and loneliness emanating from the Trumpist tweets. The throughline through all of them was a sincere fury from people about their lives, directed at imaginary causes. Clearly most of them had no one trustworthy with whom they could talk through their problems and possible solutions. Instead, they only had the inhuman online community of their fellow rage-heads.
What was worse, though, was the overwhelming sense that this was just a more intense version of the human condition — that our brains simply aren’t designed to comprehend the world around us. Instead, their main priority is keeping us part of the tribe. Absolutely anything can be ignored if awareness of it might exile us from our little group, and all actions up to and including violence are justified to prevent us from becoming aware of facts that contradict our belief system.
So if you’d like to learn about how James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers that “The True citizen must deftroy all Trump ballots” (No. 52) or the retired anesthesiologist who held the lives of thousands of patients in his hands over decades and now is enraged that the Justice Department hasn’t thrown me in jail (No. 63), the clock is ticking. Start here and read down, and down, and down.
He has decided to delete that twitter thread in a few days but before he does, you can read them here.