Originally there were just a few sites, mainly satirical, that ran made up stories. The thinking was that if people believed tall tales it was their own fault for being idiots, or senile. Hillary Clinton did not adopt an alien baby, as once reported, but there are lots of people in old folks homes who read that she did and believed it, no matter how improbable. They, likely, debated late into the night if “Baby It” could be baptized.
Journalist and satirist H.L. Mencken, (1880-1956), observed that “Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.” He might have anticipated the present news hybrid that mixes truth and fiction so that neither is easily recognizable. Authors style this “creative non-fiction” and it’s taught in some of the nation’s finest universities.
The relationship between belief, human intellect, and will consumed Thomas Aquinas. That relationship has been simplified for his intellectual descendants in the West. We no longer need experts, epistemologists, analysts, or journalists because the greatest source of information on earth is, now, Twitter. Pity the poor writers who get paid by the word.
All human information fits in an iPhone or Android. As a result, knowledge has advanced exponentially since the first built-it-yourself Commodore computer debuted in the back of comic books. Sadly, understanding hasn’t kept pace. Social media, voracious for ad dollars, has contributed to the illusion of informational omnipotence by selecting the information each of us sees on the basis of how favorably it will be received. This stimulates the brain’s limbic system but, also, tends to reinforce individual prejudices and pre-existing beliefs.
The President-elect can be understood best in terms of dramatic television. Movies are still king but seeing one is like eating your whole candy bar all at once. With television you get to nibble the bar indefinitely. One of them could last four years if eaten in really small bites.
TV screenwriters, besides having the ability to generate spellbinding factual fiction, toy with the story so that, at the very moment when things can’t possibly get any worse, they do. After the story arc is graphically explicated, the motivational decision point is whether to make the moment stay that way, or get better. That’s where we are with Trump. The world is waiting to see if the episode ends with a slap or a kiss.