By John Rolfe / Red Hook, N.Y.
It appears that Donald Trump’s ironically named “Truth Social” app is already foundering on the rocks of technical glitches, administrative snafus, legal issues, shrinking consumer interest and dwindling investor enthusiasm. Even Trump and his family are rarely using the social media platform that was intended to give him the megaphone that Twitter and Facebook took away when they banned him.
A Trump enterprise failing? Gee, what a shock.
I don’t have the time or the stomach to wade into the Truth Social sewer of crackpot conspiracy theories, cheap insults and ugly unfounded allegations about anyone and anything that does not align with the Trumpian view. Truth Social is the ultimate echo chamber for the former President’s spiral-eyed followers, to whom actual truth and reality itself are like holy water and sunlight to vampires.
Challenging Twitter and Facebook for social media supremacy seemed like a tall but predictably grandiose order. Even so, I thought Truth Social would at least establish itself and survive, given Trump’s millions of fans and sympathizers. All it needed was a little competence, but competence is not Trump’s strong suit, and in former Congressman Devin Nunes he appears to have enlisted a CEO who is equally overmatched. It hasn’t helped that a little more than a month after its launch, Truth Social has already seen its chief tech officer and head of product development quit.
During the last 40-some years, The Donald has infamously laid waste to casinos, an airline, a university, a “charitable” foundation, and an assortment of branded products including steaks, mattresses, perfume, eyewear, and a personal blog. He is reportedly on the hook for upwards of a billion dollars of loans. Yet he has maintained the illusion of being a great businessman, so much so that many who voted for him expected him to bring that quality to his management of America.
In many ways, Trump is the quintessential American “success story” and leader for a nation besotted by illusion (movies, video games, virtual reality gizmos, scripted “reality” shows, etc.). He is our greatest hyperbolic facade, and his longtime claim of being a master dealmaker is a sham unless you believe the Art of the Deal hinges on coercion and not the ability to skillfully make both sides feel like they got what they wanted from a negotiation.
Consider Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine as “savvy” and “genius” and an approach that the U.S. should use on its southern border to staunch the flow of migrants from Mexico and Central America. Or Trump’s “perfect” phone conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky in April 2019 during which Trump threatened to withhold military aid unless Ukraine’s president investigated the Biden family’s business dealings in that country.
Everything about Trump reeks of someone who has been given everything his entire life. He shows no sign of interest in learning. He merely declares himself an expert in every subject presented to him, then blames others for the predictable results after he acts on his so-called expertise. He also seems impervious to any consequences.
Can you imagine living like that? Would you want to if you could?
I’ll concede that Trump has a genius for intimidation, making people grovel in his wake and accept whatever he says as truth, raising vast sums of money (it’s hard to go wrong in commercial real estate) by simply attaching his name to things, and, most of all, avoiding accountability and responsibility for even his most brazen acts.
To paraphrase the old saying, everything you read, see or hear in traditional or social media is true except that of which you have firsthand knowledge. This makes Truth Social yet another breeding ground for dangerous delusion. Whether the app succeeds or not hardly matters. There are more than enough outlets to keep Trump’s message flowing to those who are eager for it.
Trump, the GOP and their followers dwell in an intoxicating feedback loop: the seductive power of wishful thinking. They demonstrate the fragility of trusting others for reliable information about things we cannot “know” for ourselves, such as how viruses behave or the climate functions or votes are counted or anything that challenges, threatens, or merely inconveniences us.
Trump is Exhibit A of the false security of always believing what you want to believe, facts be damned. This makes him yet another perilous figure in a world that has become a battleground over who controls our perception of reality. We are witnessing, in this country and abroad in places like Russia, what George Orwell described in his novel 1984: the power of lies to make you question everything, even what you’ve seen with your own eyes or even lived.
Anyone who listened to Trump with a clear mind in the days before Jan. 6 and on that dark day itself heard an incitement to violent rebellion. Yet he and his allies have convinced millions of Americans that what transpired was largely peaceful and merely legitimate political discourse that is being unjustly prosecuted. If the parties were reversed, you can be reasonably sure Trump and Republicans would be calling for the death penalty for those involved in the attempted coup.
Anxiety is growing about efforts to bring Trump to justice on a number of matters. The three-year-long tax fraud investigation of The Trump Organization has stalled under the leadership of the new District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, leading to the protests and resignations of veteran prosecutor-investigators Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, who insist there is ample evidence that crimes were committed. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is either wisely waiting until he has an airtight case to pursue against Trump for the former president’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection or Garland is dragging his feet until the midterm elections in November when all of this will likely blow over.
It’s widely expected that the GOP will win the House and Senate, and all inquiries into Trump’s nefarious activities such as election interference will cease. If that happens, truth (the real thing) in America will be mortally wounded. There could not be a more fitting murderer than Donald J. Trump.
John Rolfe is a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated for Kids, a longtime columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network, and author of The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life. His school bus drivin’ blog “Hellions, Mayhem and Brake Failure” is parked on his website Celestialchuckle.com (https://celestialchuckle.com) with the meter running.