The strangest, most troubling side effect of Trump World™ is his ability to gas light us all, to make those with intellectually based skills seem bonk. He’s ripped the rug from the credibility of thinking.
This is, obviously, a classic tool of fascism that comes in response to liberalism. This has been observed again and again in relationship to Trump – and it’s taking a surprising new turn: challenging cultural critics, those whose role is to tell you if something is good or bad, to critically assess something in relationship to the history of whatever they are critiquing.
Take movies, an industry where criticism thrives and has enabled a booming economy that sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic rest empires upon. So what happens when a bad movie gets shat on by critics in Trump’s America? The film and filmmakers attempt to delegitimize the act of critiquing, casting it as a byproduct of intellectualism, that audiences – Not critics! – should use their own brains to decide on if a movie is worth watching.
Vox points out that this is happening with the sanctified turd that is John Travolta’s Gotti: the movie is asking moviegoers to no longer trust “troll[s] behind a keyboard,” conjuring a Fake News™ attitude toward critique.
People like believing conspiracy theories because they seem to make sense of a confusing world and they’re impervious to attempts to refute them. And there are lots of conspiracy theories about film critics, the most popular being that we’re paid by Disney, which owns Marvel Studios, to give negative reviews to DC films.
Gotti is playing right into an idea that some people already believe, though the ad doesn’t bother to suggest any plausible reason critics would bother to “put out a hit” on a film so small most people didn’t see it.
As the article notes, stars have repeatedly called out critics in the digital age, urging audiences to “see for themselves,” that there is simply a disconnect between audiences and critics, that there is a vendetta out against the creation and creators versus the creation simply sucking.
Sound familiar? This is a tool to build distrust, a tactic that our rotten fruit king loves to use on us.
It doesn’t end with films either: restauranteurs are turning against food critics too. Take a look at the battle between David Chang and Jonathan Gold. Chang explains, via Eater.
It’s simultaneously a positive review and a negative review. I think there’s a lot of inside baseball in there, which I won’t go into, but this is the world we live in right now. It’s hard to be objective with something, especially when there’s relationships involved…What bothered me, if I could pick a bone, is that he didn’t talk about how awesome our staff is, our wine program, and our service. Maybe he didn’t like it, but that’s where I’d disagree. I think we’ve got great service and ambiance, all this stuff that everyone works so hard on. Maybe it got edited out, but I feel really good about that stuff.
This is less severe, sure, but Chang also said that the review is “some Da Vinci Code stuff,” that it is a conspiracy. He too is aligning critique with Fake News™.
This is a new form of madness – and is clearly a runoff of Trump calling everyone to question everything, to go mad, to reject experts from the arts to the sciences, to get us to fall into some sort of pseudoscientific religious magic to steer the future. How terrible does that sound? Just as terrible as imagining David Lynch actually supporting Donald Trump: it’s not support but a matter of reworking the system for the worse.
In some ways, this is good. See things for yourself! But where this gets tricky and disgusting is when legitimate intellectual observers – i.e., scientists – have their work, their facts, tossed away. Just look at the work of climate scientists: they are constantly being pinned as Fake News™ simply because people don’t want to look further than what they see, choosing skepticism over reading the writing (and the work) on the wall.
Perhaps there will be a break for the better or perhaps the worse. Either way, this is something to keep an ear out for: casting experts as invalid, attempting to call into question the credibility of intellect. It starts with critics – and ends with scientists.