Calvin and Hobbes is probably my favorite comic of all time. While at its most basic level, it’s just a funny strip about the adventures of a rebellious, hyper-imaginative child and his stuffed tiger, it quite often becomes surprisingly relevant in our political and social discourse. The latest example of this happened a few days ago, when I saw this strip on Twitter:
This was a day before President Trump, in the latest of his patented early-morning tweetstorms, leveled one of his most volatile accusations yet: that then-President Obama had been illegally wiretapping him in Trump Tower when Trump was still campaigning.
Twitter is a powerful tool, when one has as much influence and social capital as Trump does on the network. They only need seconds to make a claim like Trump’s, no matter how powerful. And a sizable faction is likely to believe it no matter what. Context or nuance is hard to fully provide in 140 characters, as is evidence. This makes Twitter the perfect vehicle for accusations as explosive as Trump’s to carry weight.
And what is actually likely to happen as a result of Trump’s allegations of wiretapping? It is stunning how so many are able to take him at his word despite his extensive history of making bold claims and providing no evidence in support of them. It almost doesn’t seem like Trump himself even understands the gravity of the situation and the allegations he’s bringing forward against a former president.
But at a certain level, it hardly even matters how many people believe Trump or not. It’s just further evidence of how the Trump administration has cast aside the notion that truth or credibility is in any way meaningful. We have been told to treat negative opinion polls (only the negative ones, not the ones favorable to Trump) as “fake news”, and we have been introduced to the idea of “alternative facts”, which are really just non-existent alternative realities. Accusing Obama of illegally spying on him is just the latest attempt by Trump to deflect attention away from his own controversies, while at the same time furthering our distrust in politicians, the media, and so forth. It’s basically impossible to take seriously or do anything about Trump’s allegations of wiretapping when Trump himself spouts these types of accusations with almost careless regularity. If Trump doesn’t fully realize what he’s doing, and doesn’t offer anything to support his claims, we can simply try to disregard and ignore them. But Trump has managed to discredit numerous legitimate news organizations, and his die-hard supporters have bought into his narrative. People will still believe him, despite all evidence to the contrary, and for these people, Trump is the only person they can believe.