Bill O’Reilly continues to deny the allegations of sexual harassment that led to his being fired today from Fox News. What else could we expect? O’Reilly, like one of his top fans, Donald Trump just cannot admit being wrong and when that existential vulnerability goes that deep, one just cannot say, “Oops” as did Texas Governor Rick Perry during a Presidential debate in 2012 when he could not remember the third of three points he was making. It is hard to say the words, “I am wrong” when one perceives himself in the depths of his heart as without error, a point of view which then empowers him to have a certainty about how he views the whole of his life. But this “perfection” that he has convinced himself that he has is only a reaction to some “stuff” that reveals less than perfection that inevitably finds expression in speech and behavior.
Donald Trump felt the pulse of this nation and milked it to win election to the Presidency, knowing that there were enough people in his party would find his affirmation of their certainty strong enough to overlook his egregious moral and ethical flaws. O’Reilly has been their pied piper for years and they finally found a Presidential candidate whose skewing of reality was amenable to theirs, mirroring what O’Reilly had been offering them for two decades.
What is most interesting and troubling about this entire drama that we are mired in is that those whose need for certainty will not, and in a certain sense, cannot admit fault in their view of the world. O’Reilly’s support did not waver as this descent into the rabbit hole unfolded and it will not diminish now. Likewise, Trump’s support continues to be strong with certain Republicans even as his lunacy increasingly puts our country and the world in grave peril.
This brings me back to a favorite refrain, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Trump, and O’Reilly, appealed to people who do not doubt their thinking, at least when it pertains to basic premises. They are the “True Believers” that Eric Hoffer wrote about fifty years ago and “true believers” cannot be dissuaded because the emotional investment they have in their view of the world is too intense. The irony is that letting that certainty be challenged would then bring an opportunity for faith to the table, but many of the Republicans who are ardent “believers” cannot tolerate any breach to their certainty. They cannot admit they are wrong and often rely on bromides like, “Well, the Lord is leading me” and “The Lord has raised him (Trump) up” and cannot acknowledge that perhaps it wasn’t the Lord as much as their ego.