Competing Narratives

I wrote before how the word that has emerged to describe Trump’s early days is “chaos.”  But that’s only half the story.  The other half is the administration’s description of itself, which is “action.”  Among right-wing news sites it’s easy to see that word used again and again.  Almost as if there was collusion.  For the record, I don’t think there was.  Trump is such a deft manipulator that he can choose the right word to reflect what he wants, and it spreads on its own.  His opponents are getting better at playing his game.

If you’re paying attention, you should notice that these words aren’t opposites.  They aren’t even particularly related.  And they’re not mutually exclusive.  Trump’s narrative is that these first days are ones of action.  Sure, they’re making some mistakes, but that’s only in the interest of moving so quickly to protect America.  Trump’s detractors are saying that things are so chaotic because the president and his team don’t know what they’re doing.  If there are any benefits it’s going to be entirely by accident.  So which is it?

The truth is that both and neither are true.  The idea here isn’t to accurately reflect reality on either side.  It’s to push the story that each side wants seen.  If you support or oppose Trump, it’s easy to get locked into believing that your particular narrative is the accurate one, and that the other side is deluded.  I can’t see any way around this particular dilemma, short of ignoring the world entirely.  It isn’t just that there are only two stories to choose from.  It’s the neither side particularly wants to work with the other side.  We like having our own views validated.  We certainly don’t want to change our minds to match our opponents.  I am no different.  All the news sources I consume portray Trump in an entirely negative light.  I have to go out of my way to find anything that says anything different, and when I do, I find that I tend to forget about them very quickly.  This is just the way the human mind works.

So if we can’t solve this dilemma, what can we expect?  Well, one of these narratives will become the dominant one.  If recent history is any indication, it will barely win.  My money would normally be on Trump.  He’s such a deft manipulator of language and expectations that, one on one, I don’t think anyone could out-manipulate him.  But it isn’t one on one.  And there are an awful lot of people opposing him.  Unless Trump can rally a great deal of like-minded people to his cause, then he’ll lose just on simple numbers.  If I’m right, expect his approval ratings to continue to drop.  I expect to see records shattered into how much the US disapproves of him.

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One comment

  1. Interesting as always – I do go out of my way to turn on fox during episodes like the ban hold – and yes the narrative is about action and safety and blah blah but no mention of green card holders or vetted asylum seekers. So I agree – its silo building.
    But to your point about numbers game – I see more people motivated to get off their butts and write/call/email their congressman far more now than probably since the 60’s & 70’s.

    Liked by 1 person

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