In the 1890s, Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov was researching salivation in dogs in response to being fed. He discovered something remarkable about the human brain in the process.
He inserted a small test tube into the cheek of each dog to measure saliva when the dogs were fed (with a powder made from meat).
Pavlov predicted the dogs would salivate in response to the food placed in front of them, but he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever they heard the footsteps of his assistant who was bringing them the food.
Pavlov used a metronome in his breakthrough experiment. By itself, the metronome clicking did not make the dogs salivate.
Next, Pavlov began the conditioning procedure, whereby the clicking metronome was introduced just before he gave food to his dogs. After a number of repeats (trials) of this procedure he presented the metronome on its own.
As you might expect, the sound of the clicking metronome on its own now caused an increase in salivation.
Donald Trump gets Democrats hysterical with just about anything he tweets. It’s a classic Pavlovian response and Trump plays his opponents like a well-tuned fiddle. He doesn’t even have to say anything necessarily controversial. Whatever he tweets, his opponents see 1) racism, 2) fascism, 3) white supremacy, or 4) his enabling one or more of the previous. Trump tweets, Dems salivate. It’s classic.
He knows exactly which buttons to push, which subjects are liable to turn liberals into sputtering, spitting, stammering piles of gelatinous goo.
In so doing, the president reveals just how unhinged his political opponents are.
Of course, in the process, Trump divides the country, angers minorities, and brings the presidency to the level of the gutter — all the while being cheered on by mindless partisans who cry out, “Give it to ’em again!”
The damage to the office, the damage to our politics, doesn’t matter because Trump is “standing up” for America/Republicans/conservatives.
In that way, Trump has his supporters giving a Pavlovian response as well.
Trump’s latest outrage is typical. And he didn’t even have to say anything to get his opponents salivating.
Trump shared a tweet and video from conservative comedian Terrence Williams that claimed without evidence that former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — Trump’s 2016 presidential election rival — were responsible for Epstein’s death. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and Attorney General Bill Barr said Epstein died in an “apparent suicide” while in federal custody.
As a result of Trump’s retweet, the video received more than 3 million views on Twitter by Sunday morning — more than triple Williams’ most recent videos. Both Trump and Bill Clinton were friendly with Epstein in previous decades, but Trump seized on the conspiracy theory Saturday in his latest dig at the Clintons. The tweet also falsely claimed that Epstein died while on suicide watch, even though Epstein had been taken off of suicide watch before his death.
The response from Democrats was over the top. Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said, “This is another example of our president using this position of public trust to attack his political enemies with unfounded conspiracy theories.”
Another presidential candidate, Cory Booker, was even more unhinged, saying, “This is just more recklessness. What he is doing is dangerous. He is giving life to not just conspiracy theories but really whipping people up into anger and worse against different people in this country.”
“Whipping people up” against the Clintons is “dangerous”? Maybe for the Clintons, but for the country? Not so much.
Trump has been promoting various wild, wacky, bizarre conspiracy theories since he began to run for president, according to Seth Meyers:
Meyers noted how Trump had previously promoted the racist birther conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and how he has also claimed without evidence since taking office that millions of undocumented immigrants are voting illegally in U.S. elections.
“Donald Trump has changed many things in his life, but there are a few constants,” Meyers said. “He’s always been a racist, he’s always been a con artist, and he’s always been a conspiracy theorist.”
The list of conspiracies Trump has promoted over the years is staggering. The real question is, does Trump really, really believe in them himself? Or is he just trolling his political opponents?
The FBI, that noted non-partisan, wholly professional investigative agency of the federal government — that never plays politics with investigations ever — was none too pleased with Trump’s promoting the theory that Epstein was a victim of “Arkancide.”
FBI personnel are furious that President Donald Trump retweeted to his 63 million Twitter followers a baseless conspiracy theory suggesting that former President Bill Clinton was involved in the death of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Angel Ureña, Clinton’s spokesperson, responded to the tweet, posted by the right-wing comedian Terrence Williams, on Twitter, writing: “Ridiculous, and of course not true — and Donald Trump knows it. Has he triggered the 25th Amendment yet?”
Talk of the 25th Amendment is premature — unless Trump actually believes any of the nutty conspiracy theories he’s spouting.
Trump is redefining the political rules as he goes along. It’s not all bad, of course. Change can be beneficial. But when a president deliberately undermines the dignity and prestige of his office by descending into the right-wing paranoid fever swamps — done to both entertain himself and advance his political career — decent people are rightly horrified.