Donald Trump is a cult leader with a following of millions. In the minds of cult followers, their leader, by definition, can do no wrong — all his actions are automatically right. The leader has a prophetic vison and a direct line to the divine. They are not bound by the rules and laws that lesser people have to follow. Jim Jones, David Koresh and Donald Trump all fit this description — in the opinion of their followers.
Trump’s following is vastly greater than Jones or Koresh, partly because he is a US president but also because social media and the artificial intelligence (AI) that backs it has vastly magnified his powers, possibly beyond the point that even he realizes. For Trump’s disciples, social media filters out any contrary news about their chosen one and feeds them undiluted negativity about his opponents. Trump’s devoted followers exist in a bubble where Democrats are flesh-eating pedophiles or Marxist revolutionaries, and where Trump has been chosen by God to save America.
360° Context: The 2020 US Election Explained
For the evangelicals, Trump has been sent to fulfill the prophecies of Revelation and usher in the end times. No amount of fact-checking or reality will penetrate. For his followers, Trump is always right, incapable of doing wrong and uniquely gifted to lead them to the promised land. Those who do not understand this are either souls waiting to be saved or, more likely, those that have chosen Satan and the path to hell. Any potential pro-Trump opinion or even nascent tendency is picked up by social media algorithms and magnified and echoed back to the individual over and over, sucking them into a rabbit hole of Trumpian fantasy.
Trump may be a fraud and a con man, but he has seized the leadership of this cult. His leadership, which in earlier years would have been mocked as an embarrassment, is instead viewed as messianic by his cult. This superhuman power enables him to command his followers to disbelieve anything in the “fake news media,” defy law and ignore social norms. He has already threatened disorder if he loses the election. America is a tinderbox of racial tension, social discord, dramatic inequality, a deadly pandemic and economic collapse. Like Jones and Koresh, Trump has the capability to precipitate disaster, but on a far greater scale.
The force multiplier behind this cult is the AI run by Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and all the other social media giants. The super-computers which run the AI algorithms discern our likes, emotions, prejudices, tastes, political views and sexuality. The databases they collect are huge, and the AI profile of each of us detailed and perceptive. These computers are always on, always connected, and the algorithms employed are far more powerful than we realize. They overwhelm the human ability to filter the stream of self-reinforcing messages and subtle exploitation of our subconscious, wherever you fall on the political spectrum. The continuous social media feed that surrounds each of us in a bubble of “reality” is in fact highly subjective, tailored individually and continually reinforces our own beliefs and prejudices. Cult members exist in an individually crafted matrix. The singularity may have already arrived.
The singularity is the point in the future when AI overtakes human intelligence and becomes self-replicating. This was thought to signal the rise of the machines and an existential threat to human existence — think of Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator.” Stephen Hawking warned that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
The AI revolution has enabled both the Trump cult and its opponents to flourish to the point where society has fragmented into warring factions who believe the others are out to destroy them. Instead of the machines fighting us, the machines have devised a way to make us fight each other, and the November election is shaping up to be a key battle.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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