The word “coup” is being thrown about in American liberal media today, not because US liberals suddenly became uncomfortable with the fact that their nation constantly stages coups and topples governments around the world as a matter of routine policy, but because they are all talking about (you guessed it) Donald Trump.
To be clear, none of the high-powered influencers who have been promoting the use of this word actually believe there is any possibility that Donald Trump will somehow remain in office after January of next year when he loses his legal appeals against the official results of the election, which would be the thing that a coup is. There is no means or institutional support through which the sitting president could accomplish such a thing. This is not a coup, it’s a glorified temper tantrum. Trump will leave office at the appointed time.
The establishment narrative managers are not terrifying their audiences with this word because they believe there is any danger of a coup actually happening. They are doing it because it’s their last chance to use Trump to psychologically abuse their audiences for clicks.
Last year the Pacific Standard published a report on “Trump Anxiety Disorder” or “Trump Hypersensitive Unexplained Disorder,” which it describes as follows:
As the possibility of a Hillary Clinton victory began to slip away — and the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency became more and more certain — the contours of the new age of American anxiety began to take shape. In a 2017 column, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank described this phenomenon as “Trump Hypertensive Unexplained Disorder”: Overeating. Headaches. Fainting. Irregular heartbeat. Chronic neck pain. Depression. Irritable bowel syndrome. Tightness in the chest. Shortness of breath. Teeth grinding. Stomach ulcer. Indigestion. Shingles. Eye twitching. Nausea. Irritability. High blood sugar. Tinnitus. Reduced immunity. Racing pulse. Shaking limbs. Hair loss. Acid reflux. Deteriorating vision. Stroke. Heart attack. It was a veritable organ recital.
Two years later, the physiological effects of the Trump administration aren’t going away. A growing body of research has tracked the detrimental impacts of Trump-related stress on broad segments of the American population, from young adults to women, to racial and LGBT communities.
The results aren’t good.
“Trump Anxiety Disorder” has continued to feature in mass media stories to this day, right up until shortly before the election. The narrative has been that Trump is so horrible that he is somehow causing liberals to have psychological breakdowns with his awfulness.
What gets overlooked in these analyses, as is so often the case with human perception in general, is the means by which people are taking in the information that is making them so anxious — in this case the news media.
It is not Trump himself who’s been making people feel terrified of a tyrannical Russian agent ending democracy in America and ruling with an iron fist, it is years of shrieking, hysterical coverage about Trump from the mass media.
Without all the deranged and persistent fearmongering, driven by a disdain for Trump’s unrefined narrative management style and an insatiable hunger for ratings and clicks, it would never have occurred to Americans that they should be more terrified of this president than of any other shitty Reaganite Republican. The Russian collusion narrative which dominated most of Trump’s presidency turned out to be essentially nothing. The concentration camps, millions of deportations and armed militias driving non-whites out of the country that we were promised never came; he never even came anywhere close to Obama’s deportation numbers and his support from minorities actually went up. He hasn’t been any more warlike than his predecessors overall, and by some measures arguably less so. Most Americans actually reported that their lives had improved over Trump’s term before the pandemic hit.
If people had just been given raw information about Trump’s presidency, they would have seen a lot of bad things, but things that are bad in the same way all the horrible aspects of the most destructive government on earth are bad. They wouldn’t have known to be horrified and anxious and have headaches and irritable bowel syndrome. They would have handled themselves in about the same way they always handled themselves during the administration of a president they didn’t like.
Instead, they were psychologically terrorized. Made frightened, sick and traumatized by mass media pundits who only care about ratings and clicks, as was made clear when CBS chief Les Moonves famously said that Trump is bad for America but great for CBS. Dragged through years of Russia hysteria and Trump hysteria with any excuse to spin Trump’s presidency as a remarkable departure from norms, when in reality it was anything but. It was a fairly conventional Republican presidency.
In reality, though most of them probably did not realize it, this is what Americans were actually voting against when they turned out in record numbers to cast their votes. Not against Trump, but against this continued psychological abuse they’ve been suffering both directly and indirectly from the mass media. Against being bashed in the face by shrieking, hysterical bullshit that hurts their bodies and makes them feel crazy, and against the unpleasantness of having to interact with stressed-out compatriots who haven’t been putting up well with the abuse.
It wasn’t a “Get him out” vote, it was a “Make it stop” vote.
Meanwhile, another pernicious effect of making Trump seem uniquely horrible has been retroactively making his predecessors seem nice by comparison, which is why George W Bush now enjoys majority support among Democrats after years of unpopularity. Their depravity is hidden behind a media-generated wall labeled “NOT TRUMP”. And when Biden steps into office, his depravity will be hidden from view in the same way, neutering all mainstream opposition to his most deadly and dangerous actions.