Columnists, Here's That Rainy Day, Opinion

The rise of modern sophism in the Trump era

Update, March 6, 2017: The conclusion of this column has been updated to reflect a more recent draft of the version published in the March 2 issue.

In ancient Athens, there were two prominent schools of intellectual thought. Philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, made up one school characterized by a devotion to serving justice and seeking epistemic truth. The second school was that of the sophists, a group of rhetoricians known for manipulating public opinion through fallacious language and skepticism of facts. Simply put, sophists were exceptionally skilled at arguing and using any means necessary — even openly flouting the truth — to convince others of their correctness.

Donald Trump and his administration reside in a sophistic world. Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer’s frequent denunciation of the media destabilizes the public’s preexisting ideas of equity and justice, dizzying the American people with messages of racially-tinged urgency and blind nationalism. That is, after all, how President Trump found his way into the White House: he validated people’s fears and feelings without the slightest regard for actual truths.

What the Trump administration must soon realize is that what worked on the campaign trail does not fly in the White House. His voters are now expecting more guidance than charisma, and he is coming up empty-handed. President Trump’s keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference offered no substantial information on how he plans to rework NAFTA or drastically improve our national security. What the public heard was a slew of bizarre assertions and a reminder that, if you didn’t know already, things are still bad.

I had hoped that the tone of Trump’s presidency would shift under pressure to become less antagonistic and more informative, but the opposite has happened. While Trump’s tone during the address to Congress last night conveyed a calmer tone, his administration’s actions have shown otherwise. One of Trump’s advisers stated that the powers of the president should not be questioned. Steve Bannon has called the media the “opposition party.” Major news outlets were barred from attending a White House briefing last week. Trump will condemn federal judges before he utters one word against a murderous, foreign dictator.

President Trump promised to hand the democracy back to the people. The irony here, which I imagine is lost upon the President, is that by ignoring the facts—denying the legitimacy of climate research, falsifying crime and unemployment statistics and misrepresenting historical events—we only isolate ourselves from our own sensibilities, and the stabilizing systems that the world relies on to achieve peace.

Mackenzie Karbon is a sophomore majoring in jazz performance. Here’s That Rainy Day, runs the first Thursday of each month.

 

Featured photo courtesy Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

March 1, 2017

Reporters

Mackenzie Karbon


2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The rise of modern sophism in the Trump era”

  1. Kyle J says:

    Oh, the rich irony of the first comment fallaciously attacking the author’s credibility instead of offering a single counterpoint. Internet comments also exist in a sophistic world…

  2. Diane says:

    Stick to jazz, sweetheart. Your history needs some real work.

Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Darrell Langham, the redshirt junior receiver who caused an uproar among Miami Hurricanes fans the p ...

This news release just in from the University of Miami, another impressive class about to be inducte ...

The University of Miami men’s basketball team got a welcome dose of good news on Monday night. Verno ...

After a disheartening week of practice injury-wise following the University of Miami’s victory at Fl ...

University of Miami’s highly-touted freshman Lonnie Walker, who had surgery for a torn right meniscu ...

From a game simulating how whales navigate to a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, the U showcased some of ...

A new mobile game called Blues and Reds, now available worldwide, aims to help researchers study int ...

A major Lancet Commission report, a three-year project headed by UM’s Professor Felicia Knaul and co ...

With a $6.8 million NIH grant, the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies and FIU Robert Stempel Co ...

A summer 2017 excursion unlike any other united a group of University of Miami students and faculty ...

Darrell Langham has been a hero twice this season, but his path to prominence has been a long one. ...

The University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame has announced the Class of 2018 inductees for the 50th A ...

Senior diver Wally Layland was recognized for her standout performance at the SMU Classic with ACC C ...

University of Miami freshman Lonnie Walker IV was among 20 players named to the watch list for the 2 ...

The Miami Hurricanes will begin preparation for the 2018 season when fall practice commences Wed., O ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.