The politics of fear that we see in Northern Ireland is much worse in the United States

I watched Donald Trump’s presidential nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention and it was unlike any other I have ever seen.

By Michael Palmer
Wednesday, 2nd September 2020, 2:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd September 2020, 2:15 pm
Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

It was delivered outside the White House with eagle-headed American flags orderly lined up as a backdrop along a raised platform to which Trump descended from a fairytale-style stairway accompanied by Melania and patriotic US music.

It was then followed by fireworks that lit up the night sky and opera singing that rallied the enthused crowd with little-to-no social distancing being adhered to and scant wearing of face coverings during the current, global coronavirus pandemic.

This was clearly a ceremony intended to impress and inspire confidence in American voters to vote for the candidate that makes you feel the best about yourself — a psychological tactic used in sales.

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However, underpinning the pomp was the pompous — a boisterous Trump telling a nodding audience that over nine million jobs have been created over the past three months despite 22 million jobs being lost before.

Trump misleadingly claiming Biden “wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country [USA]” despite Biden saying he would only do this if scientists recommended it.

Trump boasts the US will “have a safe and effective vaccine this year” that “will crush the virus [Covid-19].”

And Trump also claims “China supports Joe Biden and it desperately wants him to win.”

It’s of no coincidence that these themes of Trump’s speech are the parts that I remember as Trump had mentioned ‘Jobs’ nearly 20 times; ‘Biden’ over 40 times; and ‘China’ 16 times.

Trump’s strategy is built upon repetition to enforce and reinforce — whether imagined or not, or exaggerated or not — bad things that will happen if you do not vote for him.

In fairness to Trump, Biden similarly engages in such scare tactics by claiming Trump is “rooting for violence” in an attempt to drive fear for political gain and that the US will be “safer when he is no longer in office”, despite Trump claiming he would like to see law and order and a cessation of violence.

The politics of fear that we often see in Northern Ireland is played out in the USA to a much more sensational degree.

US political communication is often not in facts but rather memes (ideas that pass from person-to-person) that ceaselessly replicate and spread much like a virus that when unchecked outside their support group, become as good as fact to their believers.

The media that Trump often discredits are one of the few safeguards against such distortions, as journalists will fact-check a candidate’s statements in a world where we are distracted in our pursuit of happiness, which in politics, means supporting the guy who makes you feel good.

Emotion will determine who wins the US Presidency in 2020 in a contagious war of memes in our information world.

Michael Palmer, Ulster Unionist member, Newtownards

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