Donald Trump and America’s online breakdown

This is what it’s like to experience true dissonance. There’s so much discordant noise that just making out each individual thing and tracking its journey through the news cycle requires enormous effort. It’s tough to get your bearings. Trump’s presidency currently poses a fundamental question for each person: Is this overall moment weird but ephemeral, maybe not so bad — or is it an emergency? Given the current level of uncertainty (does Trump really mean X?) and the sheer volume of incoming information (what will Trump do tomorrow?), each day demands your judgment. Is this normal? Is this normal? Is this normal?

These questions are exhausting. And sometimes they drift in a slightly more meta direction. There’s, for instance, a tide of previous apolitical, or softly political, people now sorting out where politics is OK (South Beach Wine and Food Festival) and where it is not (a Facebook group for Outlander fans). Parts of the left have become obsessed with enforcing the purest standard of resistance to Trump for their own party — how total can opposition be? That must be the standard. Parts of the conservative movement have devolved into an “anti-anti-Trump right” — consumed with attacking the left or clowning the media, and backing themselves into indirectly defending the president. As Jonathan V. Last recently wrote, “Trump is the thing. And focusing on the excesses of the anti-Trump forces means focusing on a meta-issue rather than the primary issue.”

Who can blame us, though?

We’re more than a year into doing politics all the time at general election saturation (that’s not normal), nervously waiting for a resolution that isn’t coming. Trying to find your way under the crush — to determine the truth amid the complexities of protocols, regulations, legislation, ideology, anonymous sources, conflicting reports, denials, public statements, his tweets — it’s too much. We can’t live like that!