Adichie’s “danger of a single story” and the Rise of Post-Truth Trumplandia
In an effort to understand post-truth Trumplandia, this is one explanation:
Why coverage is so off: Journalists literally have no framework or training with how to deal with a president who denies basic reality.
However, this fails to confront that the rise of Trumplandia is but an extreme and logical extension of a mainstream media and political elite existing almost entirely on false narratives — the denial of basic reality.
The bootstrap and rising boat narratives, black-on-black crime, the pervasive threat of terrorism, the lazy poor, the welfare queen, and the relentless “kids today” mantra — these are all powerful as well as enduring claims but also provably false.
With Trump’s election, the post-truth reality now focuses on lamenting the plight of the white working class (also provably false) and masking racism and white supremacy as “alt-right.”
The media simply report that Source X makes Claim A — but never venture into the harder story that Source X is making a false Claim A — especially when false Claim A rings true within the Great American Myths that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie powerfully warns about:
I’m a storyteller. And I would like to tell you a few personal stories about what I like to call “the danger of the single story.”…
I come from a conventional, middle-class Nigerian family. My father was a professor. My mother was an administrator. And so we had, as was the norm, live-in domestic help, who would often come from nearby rural villages. So, the year I turned eight, we got a new house boy. His name was Fide. The only thing my mother told us about him was that his family was very poor. My mother sent yams and rice, and our old clothes, to his family. And when I didn’t finish my dinner, my mother would say, “Finish your food! Don’t you know? People like Fide’s family have nothing.” So I felt enormous pity for Fide’s family.
Then one Saturday, we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket made of dyed raffia that his brother had made. I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them.
Adichie artfully shares more examples in her talk, but her message from 2009 rings much more horrifying today in post-truth Trumplandia, where the elected leader of the free world can say damn near anything one minute, deny it the next, and remain safely cloaked in the lies that endure as the “one story” many in the U.S. believe despite ample evidence to the contrary.
The one story of black men as criminals that allows police to disproportionately execute those black men in the streets.
The one story of the lazy poor that allows political leaders to avoid their moral obligations to provide social services, including health care even for children.
The one story of objectified women that allows rape culture and the democratically elected leader of the free world to boast about his own cavalier behavior as a sexual predator.
And so: “Stories matter. Many stories matter,” Adichie concludes:
Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.
For Adichie, “now is the time” to confront post-truth Trumplandia, and the media are on notice:
Yet a day after the election, people spoke of the vitriol between Barack Obama and Donald Trump. No, the vitriol was Trump’s. Now is the time to burn false equivalencies forever. Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not “balanced” journalism; it is a fairy tale — and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one.
Post-truth Trumplandia is creeping toward yet another of the very ugliest stories of a people claiming to embrace life and liberty but denying basic reality instead.
The question before us is whether or not we have the capacity for changing that arc of history toward, as Adichie expresses, the possibility to “regain a kind of paradise.”
Now Is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie