This article starts with some homework. I want you to watch this video:
If you have been a devoted reader of my Buddhism pieces, you have already seen this, so don’t give the punchline away to the rest of the class.
Most all of you seeing this naively — not aware of what is going to happen — will have seen the little basketball exercise, and very few of you will have seen the moonwalking bear. Hell, I know what is happening and without consciously doing the Zen thing I still get sucked in. The point is that perception is altered by our thinking. One of the goals of Buddhist meditation is to make us aware of this — not stop it, because we can’t, that’s the way we’re built, but to be aware of it.
The furor about the Trump presidency has gotten to the point that people are literally (and I don’t mean figuratively literally, I mean literally literally) seeing and hearing things that aren’t there, just as in the video.
The truly glaring example this week was the succession of articles about Trump “lying” about a terrorist attack in Sweden. It’s been widely reported, even on the one paragon of truth in American politics, PJ Media.
There’s only one problem.
It didn’t happen.
Oddly, to most of the press, that doesn’t even seem to matter.
Let’s go to the tape: Here are Trump’s actual words at the Florida appearance.
Here’s the actual transcript:
You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.
Trump didn’t say anything about a terror attack in Sweden.
He mentioned “last night,” referring to a report on Tucker Carlson’s show the night before, but all he actually said about Sweden? “They’re having problems.”
Now, let’s look at what was reported:
Here’s a quote from the story:
Former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted: ‘Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.’
Here’s Huffing Post:
And amusingly, their subtitle:
“It didn’t happen.”
And lead paragraph:
President Donald Trump falsely suggested at a Florida rally Saturday that Sweden had suffered a terror attack the previous night.
Then life got even funnier, as HBO and the Daily Beast unintentionally played the old kids’ game “Telephone”: John Oliver aired a segment mocking what he thought he heard Trump say, and the Beast wrote up what they heard Oliver say:
Now, I certainly am not claiming that Trump was a paragon of clarity — which he hardly ever is, once he gets rolling — but these, and dozens of other pieces, flat-out say Trump made up a “terror attack.”
Huffing Post at least tried to make up an excuse by saying Trump later referred to real terror attacks elsewhere in Europe, so he must have been referring to an attack in Sweden, too. Well, it’s worth mentioning that Trump didn’t specifically do that, either. He named a couple of cities that have had terror attacks recently, but trust me, the Brussels bombing is not the only worrisome thing happening in Brussels, and the attacks in Nice and Paris aren’t the only worrisome things happening in France.
This might sound like nitpicking, but it’s not at all. Know why? Because the problems happening all over the world aren’t just specific terror attacks … take Sweden, for example.
It’s easy to dismiss this as another example of “fake news,” the phrase that went from novel to cliché in about 22 minutes, but that’s not what happened here. This was an entirely different phenomenon: people’s perceptions are actually being altered, first by their attitudes toward Trump, and then by the reinforcement from various outlets that share their attitudes toward Trump.
The media is in a trance. They are concentrating on seeing “Trump the idiot” or “Trump the liar,” and no one sees the dancing bear. Anyone concerned with understanding what’s actually going on needs to be aware of this.
Some — a lot — of what’s being reported is just not true. It didn’t happen.