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Sam Lebovic in his 2023 book State Of Silence revealed the prominent place of fictional novels in the development of espionage legislation at the turn of the 20C. In Britain, the emergence of the spy novel genre fed directly into the appetite of the public and legislators to lay the groundwork for the national security state. The United States followed suit via the creation of the Espionage Act in 1917, as concerns about German spies were inflamed around WW1. Protecting national interests from the dastardly deeds of foreign spies on American soil became an emerging key role for government. The FBI would  rise up under Director Hoover and reach its early apogee during the WW2 Nazi spy ring arrests in the US. The ever increasing power of the national security state and its many agencies throughout the 20C would see more state secrets kept from the people. This has created the deep distrust and proliferation of conspiracy theories in America today. Much of this is fed via fiction presented on TV, at cinemas, in books, and increasingly on social media platforms. Quite simply the general public has far greater access to entertainment than it does to any real facts when it comes to issues pertaining to national security. Fiction over facts: Political narrative’s meat in the sandwich.

“Sam Lebovic is a historian of U.S. politics, culture, civil liberties, and foreign relations. He is a professor at George Mason University, where his teaching and research focuses on the ways that democratic life and the public sphere have been shaped by capitalism and imperialism in the 20th century. He was educated at the University of Sydney and the University of Chicago and held postdoctoral fellowships at New York University and Rutgers.”

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The Fictions Come Thick & Fast in 21C America

Now, in the Trump years, we have witnessed an exponential ramping up of fiction presented as fact in the political sphere. The Republican Party, that GOP, has disappeared down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and peddles mistruths and lies on a daily basis. Taking a leaf out of Vladimir Putin’s Russian playbook Trump and his cronies mass produce distortions and downright lies to fill the echo chamber of American politics. Political narratives have always been prone to exaggeration and the demonisation of the other side but it has tipped over into batshit crazy in 2024. The vivid imaginations of an American public overfed on a diet of deep state flavoured entertainment has long left the tarmac of verifiable facts behind. If the polls are to be believed, then around half of the voting age public are willing to unleash another term of Trump in charge of the world’s superpower. It beggars belief that tens of millions of Americans can be so stupid, suckered in, or just plain disdainful of what is at stake. Everyone, it seems, wants to believe in their own version of reality. Civilisations crumble and fall when this kind of thing happens – history tells us this if you take the time to tune into the available storehouse of information.

“How has America slid into its current age of discord? Why has our trust in institutions collapsed, and why have our democratic norms unraveled?

All human societies experience recurrent waves of political crisis, such as the one we face today. My research team built a database of hundreds of societies across 10,000 years to try to find out what causes them. We examined dozens of variables, including population numbers, measures of well-being, forms of governance, and the frequency with which rulers are overthrown. We found that the precise mix of events that leads to crisis varies, but two drivers of instability loom large. The first is popular immiseration—when the economic fortunes of broad swaths of a population decline. The second, and more significant, is elite overproduction—when a society produces too many superrich and ultra-educated people, and not enough elite positions to satisfy their ambitions.”

man and woman sitting on a couch in front of a television
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Humans Love Fictions Over Facts According To Available Evidence

Human beings are prone to believing in stories. Our religions are all based on highly improbable narratives. Yuval Harari, the historian, calls it our predilection for fictions or something like that. The search for self-serving fictions has gone into hyperdrive of late. White men who have stood atop the western world’s hierarchical order are being whipped into a frenzy by right wing political narratives. Faced with growing multicultural demographics, within their previously ‘white bread’ countries, many do not want to share a seat at the table with their brown, black or otherwise pigmented brethren. Men, who have ruled the roost at home for decades and centuries, are chafing at their reduced patriarchal power, as well. Conservative groups are challenging the rise of women, the rise of people of colour, and the rise of respect for diversity on the basis of sexual preference. Christian affiliations which have championed whiteness over their lifetimes are crying victim now in the face of progress toward greater equity within our societies.  How the dominant white cohort can call upon the brown skinned semitic leader of an oppressed cult to be their brand is as illogical as their championing of a mob boss, sexual predator and convicted felon in Donald J Trump. Talk about twisted truths and misdirection’s! What would Jesus think of Trump? What would the messiah really think about the descendants of slavers claiming his brand  for their self-serving purposes? In historical terms there is no undeniable verification for the actual existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Fictions paper the walls of our pillars and great halls everywhere you care to look.

President Trump Postlaunch Remarks (NHQ202005300037)
President Trump Postlaunch Remarks (NHQ202005300037) by NASA HQ PHOTO is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Which Political Narrative Can Sell Its Version Of A Fictional Truth?

Is it a case of who can tell the biggest and best lie? Who can create the most popular narrative from the slew of fictions floating about our realms? Billionaires back Trump because he will block things like a wealth tax from being implemented – self-interest writ large. White folk want to shore up their place at the head of the queue. Some black folk want to be wealthy and white – like Clarence Thomas and will sell out their brothers and sisters to achieve that. Many white Christian Nationalists want to establish a religious state, where their version of religion places them atop the hierarchical order in America. They will happily persecute them LGBTQI folk to ensure that they have no voice in their country. We have seen what happens when regimes like the Nazi’s get into power. All those coloured people become undesirables and subject to the harsh arm of the law. It will be just like it was back in the good old days in the US of A. The slaver states, those red states, will have their renaissance of apartheid and lynchings.

Harby Village Show
Harby Village Show by Richard Croft is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Fiction Appeals To Folks Far More Than Dry Facts

This article is about – Fiction Over Facts: Political Narrative’s Meat In The Sandwich. A politician stands on the hustings spinning a tale, with which he or she hopes to ensnare your interest. Trump throws out a grab bag of stuff designed to hook your vote, in his rendition of this base political act it is ridiculously overt and conspicuous. Americans who vote for him don’t seem to mind that. The great American fear of a fair go for the disadvantaged  overwhelms any sense of being manipulated, it seems. There is an absence of a generosity of spirit among these denizens of the USA. Why is that I wonder? Why do these folk so fear the economic lifting up of those long held down by the unjust status quo? If America is such a great place why do so many Americans behave in this paranoid and selfish manner? The banner ad cry to Make America Great Again indicates a belief in a golden era of the past. History tells us that America was not so great for many African Americans or Native Americans. Progressives want a greater place at the table for those long disadvantaged. What is the problem with that? The right wing political narrative has always been that this will come out of the wealth of the white status quo. This is not necessarily so and is a politically motivated fear mongering strategy. Big business and its billionaires have been screwing the American people since records have been kept. They and their political proponents like to see the middle class and poor fighting over the scraps among themselves. Creating division along racial and other lines is always in the interest of the rich and powerful. It is an old story but one we all seem to fall for most of the time. The uber OTT polarising trend currently playing out may well push the great experiment over the edge. Billionaires with private armies is not merely the stuff of entertainment on our screens anymore. In a nation armed with some 600 million guns the fireworks display will be deadly. The US Supreme Court has bump stocked machine guns back into general circulation in a judicial move, which can only be seen as totally crazy.

person holding a sign - Fiction Over Facts: Political Narrative’s Meat In The Sandwich
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In America, you can’t get to the truth, as so much is classified and hidden away from public scrutiny but you can easily get a gun. What does that say about the nation? If you are a convicted felon in the US you cannot vote for the President, but you can stand for office and become the President. This alone tells you how the American justice and political systems are skewed in favour of the rich and powerful to the detriment of the ordinary citizen. No wonder so many Americans believe in outlandish fictions when the few available facts are so bent out of whack.

Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of America Matters: Pre-apocalyptic Posts & Essays in the Shadow of Trump.

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