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Trumpism, Propaganda, and the Fog of Truth


Still trying to figure out just who was cheering at Trump’s visit to the CIA? The answer is: it’s murky. Like at his press conference, there were supporters brought in—apparently with the expectation of Pompeo’s swearing-in ceremony—but, well…

Authorities are also pushing back against the perception that the CIA workforce was cheering for the president. They say the first three rows in front of the president were largely made up of supporters of Mr. Trump’s campaign.

An official with knowledge of the make-up of the crowd says that there were about 40 people who’d been invited by the Trump, Mike Pence and Rep. Mike Pompeo teams. The Trump team expected Rep. Pompeo, R-Kansas, to be sworn in during the event as the next CIA director, but the vote to confirm him was delayed on Friday by Senate Democrats. Also sitting in the first several rows in front of the president was the CIA’s senior leadership, which was not cheering the remarks.

Officials acknowledge that Mr. Trump does have his supporters within the CIA workforce, many of whom were interspersed among the rank and file standing off to the president’s right.

There were about 400 members of the workforce who RSVP’d for the event out of thousands who received an invitation in their email late last week. Officials dismiss White House claims that there were people waiting to get into the event.

Intelligence sources say many in the workforce were stunned and at times offended by the president’s tone which seemed to evolve into a version of speeches he’d used on the campaign trail.

This fuzziness isn’t a bug. It’s not a ‘failure’ of the propaganda technique. It’s a feature. Consider how authoritarian and hybrid regimes have learned to deal with election observers. Election observers, it turns out, can be dangerous: if they send a clear, consensus signal that the process was corrupt. So how can you muddy the signal? Get election observers who will declare the proceedings free and fair. It isn’t so much that they’re credible, but to sow doubt and uncertainty.

My advice: don’t get hung up on the how many people were ‘really’ cheering or, for that matter, whether 150k or 200k people showed up to watch Trump’s American Carnage. The nuances of the truth aren’t that important. They’re something of a trap. What matter is the fact that our President and his administration are trying to deceive us.

By the way, if you haven’t read the Times story on Trump’s “Rocky First Weekend” then you should. The account of Trump is… textbook.


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