Freddy Gray

Why are people taking Trump’s disinfectant comments seriously?

Why are people taking Trump's disinfectant comments seriously?
Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Every time you think Donald Trump has lost his talent for making people’s heads explode, he somehow excels himself. His latest? Telling Americans that injecting disinfectant and shining UV light could cure Covid-19 patients. You’ll have seen the clip already, everybody has, but it is worth watching again:

This was a Trumpian masterpiece. I particularly enjoyed the way he turned to the experts for validation, while his mouth trotted out the peculiar ideas. And I find it hilarious, even though I know we are all supposed to be horrified that the US Commander-in-Chief, the leader of the free world, can sound quite so bonkers and incoherent. People might now die, the pundits gravely inform us, from stabbing disinfectant into their veins because they believe every word that comes out of the President’s mouth. What the pundits really mean: Trump fans are gullible, poor and idiotic.

Editorial teams across America will now be scouring the local news networks for stories of dumb MAGA-heads killing themselves by following Trump’s medical ‘advice’ — even though it wasn’t really advice — more a discursive spiel. Maybe they’ll get lucky. There are crazy people out there.

But this brings us back to that old journalistic chestnut about taking ‘seriously, not literally’. In 2016, Salena Zito pointed out that Trump’s supporters took him seriously, not literally — while his enemies and the media did the opposite. It was a brilliant insight at the time, but perhaps missed the truth by an inch. Trump voters don’t necessarily even take Trump all that seriously — he’s just a brilliant and highly amusing weapon for irritating the elites they despise. The crazier he is, the crazier they go. It works every time.

So while CNN anchors will have spasms of apoplexy at the thought that the poorly educated might start injecting themselves with disinfectant, most Trump fans will just laugh. They know that Trump’s medical insights are not meant to be taken seriously or literally.

They also know that it may just take something mad-sounding to answer this awful virus. Trump does have an uncanny habit of being right, albeit often in a very roundabout way. We shall see. They do say that sunlight is the best disinfectant.