The Scariest Thing About Trump’s Presidency Is How Little Has Actually Changed

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readOct 9, 2017

Question: What would be even scarier than Donald Trump winning the election, immediately rounding up and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, banning all Muslims from entering the country, secretly colluding with the Russian government against the interests of the United States, covertly scheming to turn America into a white ethnostate, and the realization of every other warning that his political opponents issued about what would happen should he ever become president?

Answer: If nothing changed at all.

If Trump had turned out to be the dangerously incompetent/mentally unstable/secret Kremlin agent/closet Nazi that mainstream liberals warned he would be, and done all the scary things he’d campaigned on doing, then Americans could rest comfortably in the knowledge that he can only be awful for four years and then replaced by someone who could work to undo the damage he’d done. But as Michael Brendan Dougherty rightly points out in an article for the mainstream conservative publication National Review, what has actually happened is a continuation of the same policies and behavior we saw under Obama. After all the fuss, fretting and fearmongering, it turns out that America is like the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? — everything’s made up, and your votes don’t matter.

Dougherty’s essay is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because he’s one of the first major voices in mainstream American discourse to extend his head above the canopy of frenzied partisan hyperbole and say what ordinary people have been noticing more and more: Trump didn’t really change things. Dougherty describes how the panic surrounding the incoming administration was so severe it even had him contemplating expatriation… but then he had a look around at what was actually happening underneath all the hand-wringing media narratives. America’s foreign policy has remained the same as it was under Obama, conservatives are trying and failing to repeal Obamacare just as they were under Obama, Guantanamo Bay is still open, globalization and automation are taking over, and, just as with Obama, all the changes Trump promised have not been delivered. Nothing has changed but the narratives overlaying the actual events.

Because of his different worldview, Dougherty draws different conclusions from this raw information than I do. While I would say it’s pretty obvious that elected officials haven’t changed anything because there is an unelected power establishment in place to whom those elected officials are subordinate, Dougherty doesn’t go so far and instead paints a picture of a nation sputtering out of inspiration like The Simpsons after its first eight seasons, stuck in a rut and hopelessly out of ideas. I encourage readers to take a look at his essay and draw their own conclusions.

Have you ever known someone who keeps repeating the same dysfunctional patterns in their lives over and over again, but every few years comes up with some new “epiphany” or way of re-framing their fuckups to make it look like they’ve turned over a over new leaf in some way? Nothing changes about their behavior — the only thing that changes is their stories about their behavior.

That’s basically America. The US did not change in 2016, and it has not changed in 2017; all that has changed is the stories that are being told. America’s partisan echo chambers are now so robust that you can have two completely contradictory messages running side-by-side throughout the mainstream media in the same country without having either of them derailed by cognitive dissonance. A socialist Democrat destroyed America for eight years and was replaced by a freedom-loving Man of God who’s going to Make America Great Again, and America was thriving under a great president for eight years before being replaced by a dangerously incompetent/mentally unstable/secret Kremlin agent/closet Nazi. These two narratives run unimpeded without trouble because mainstream Americans generally only plug into one and isolate themselves from the other.

This is why I keep stressing how important it is to ignore the media narratives and, like Michael Brendan Dougherty, look at the raw facts of what’s actually happening. Whenever you’re dealing with a manipulator your best bet is to ignore their stories about what’s happening and look as objectively as possible at their actual behavior instead — ignore what they say and watch what they do. The unelected power establishment that has loosely centralized itself in the United States utilizes the most adept social manipulation system that I have ever encountered, but if you brush aside the stories you’ll see a very different picture than the one you’re being told to see. Speaking for myself, what’s seen is far more frightening than any of the narratives being sold to me by CNN or MSNBC.

This is the very best advice I could give anyone who’s trying to piece together an intelligent worldview in an information age that is saturated in establishment propaganda: ignore the stories and watch events. Ignore the rude tweets, the Russia hysteria, the partisan feuds, the wedge politics etc., and look instead at who gets richer, who gets poorer, what actually happens to all the money, how that money influences politics, the legislation that actually gets passed, the military budget which continually expands, the military interventionism which marches on unimpeded, the surveillance network which continues to encircle the globe with an ever-tightening fist, the governments which fall into alignment with America and what happens to the governments that don’t, etc. This will tell you everything you need to know about what’s really happening in your world, who your real enemies are, and what humanity is really up against.

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