Friday, March 25, 2016

I stumbled across a five-year old essay on Donald Trump.

Some thoughts on Donald Trump...May, 2011

Now that Osama Bin Laden is dead, Donald Trump may be the world’s biggest asshole. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But I hate this guy. I have on many occasions made reference to my demographic insignificance, the fact that things I like are generally not commercially successful, and that the things I don’t like often are. My favorite types of music are jazz and bluegrass. Neither are big money makers. My least favorite music is cheesy R&B power ballads (Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, etc). Hugely successful. So, my white-hot, blinding detestation of Donald Trump may likewise leave me with few cohorts, but I know what I feel, and I really, truly hate this guy.

I have been aware of Donald Trump for many years now, and have hardly given him a second thought. My assessment of him has never been positive or negative per se, rather I have traditionally not had an opinion one way or another. I have always recognized his egotism as pathetic and laughable, and have generally regarded him as a cartoonish embodiment of a stereotypical American business tycoon, an entity that served as a sideshow bit player in the landscape of news and media in America. Donald Trump. Ha ha ha. Rich jerk with stupid hair. Who cares? Perhaps I am relatively alone on this point, but once he presumed to aspire to the presidency, I began to care. I began to hate Donald Trump’s guts.

I have previously referenced my demographic insignificance, but I can’t imagine that I am utterly alone in this. While Doc Watson doesn’t sell a mountain of records, he does sell a few, and likewise, I suspect that there are others who previously didn’t pay a second thought to Donald Trump who now recognize him as a smarmy, vile toad of a man; a boor, a rude, classless lout who chose to punk America in a vainglorious ruse to slake the thirst of his limitless ego without regard to the damage and disruption suffered by the nation that afforded him all of his success.

Then he launched his big lie about running for executive office and hitched his star to the tired out non-issue of Obama’s birth certificate in an attempt to discredit the president as the driving precept of his cardboard replica of a presidential bid. No new ideas, no forward thinking, no opinions on American 21st century challenges, just a cowardly sabotage of his president, all for the sake of a lie. He never intended to run this year, but was completely comfortable lying to me, to you, and to America. This exemplifies the contempt and dismissive attitude with which he regards the average American. We are a joke to him, an ignorant mass, a vast pool of fools that is there to be manipulated. He is a cynic and scoundrel of the highest order who views the American social and economic landscape as his combined playground and toilet.

Every step of the way on his bogus intimation of a presidential run was another opportunity for soothing his pathological need for self-aggrandizement. When Obama finally sighed, rolled his eyes and produced the birth certificate, Trump expressed his feeling of “honor” at having forced this hand. Well guess what? The few people in America left who didn’t already believe Obama to have been born in America at the time of the "big reveal" still don’t. They are the same deluded fools who believe Bin Laden either to be still alive or to have been dead for years. There is a part of the American population who either due to their racism, ignorance or addiction to Fox News prefer to exist in a bubble that deflects any common sense with regard to this president. The number of minds changed because of the presentation of the long form birth certificate is zero. So what was accomplished? Nothing but a further division of the already vast fissure in American society.

Donald Trump is an ineloquent, selfish jerk. He is also a liar and a coward, and knowing that a non-cartoon businessman like Mitt Romney or an informed statesman like Ron Paul would make a meal of him in the primary debates, he floated his phony presidential bid in a disgusting ploy to enhance his branding and to get a few more eyeballs on his excruciatingly unentertaining television show. Then he bailed out before he had to defend his legitimacy. To hell with this guy. I’d urge a boycott of his income properties and his television show, but what good would it do? I am, as I have said before, demographically insignificant.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What Every Trump Supporter Has in Common is Their Having Been Fooled

Donald Trump is ahead of us on a thing that PT Barnum figured out a century ago; that there is a sucker born every minute. HL Mencken was all over it too: "No one in this world, so far as I know - and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me - has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."

I am not suggesting that all of Donald Trump’s supporters are stupid. Many are, make no mistake about that. Many, many, many of them are. And not just good old folksy, C-student stupid either. I mean full-on ice cream cone to the forehead stupid. And while there is plenty of stupid in the Trump camp, it does not compose anywhere near the entirety of Trump’s following. What all Trump supporters do have in common, however, is that every one of them has been fooled. The more you support Trump, the more you have been fooled. If you more or less like what he says and might vote for him, you’ve been a little bit fooled. If you have four Trump signs, one in each of the four windows of your dismal apartment, you’ve been completely fooled.

And Donald Trump knows how to fool people. He has been connecting with the reality TV demographic for more than a decade now; he knows how big it is, how unfulfilled it is, how simple it prefers its truths, and how it aches to identify the architect of its frustration. Take terrorism, for instance.

Trump’s solution to foreign terrorism in the US is to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. This idea resonates with the Honey Boo Boo demographic, because most of the people who like this idea don’t fly internationally. The disruption involved in banning Muslims from entering the United States on airplanes would cripple entire airlines, disrupt commerce and pleasure trips to an unprecedented level, and cause phenomenal ill will across the world, all to a net result of zero. It would be a bold gesture, yes, but oftentimes, as in this case, boldness has stupidity as its concomitant. The idea of banning all Muslims from travel into the United States is breathtaking in its stupidity, and yet, it resonates.

The loyal Trumpster will stand arms akimbo with shaking head and muttering, “Whatever it takes, man, whatever it takes.” This despite the fact that more people are killed by armed toddlers in America than are killed by foreign terrorists. This wildly disproportionate and illogical approach is attractive precisely because of its boldness. Its implausibility is born of inexperience with international travel and an understanding of how the United States fits into it. Wholly apart from the financial, political and family disruptions, assuming such a program could be implemented, what would be the verification methodology? Where does it take place? Would there have to be a new global norm for passports? Would they all need to be recalled and stamped with the individual’s faith now? Or does the interrogation happen at the airport?

“Mister Mohammed, are you Muslim?”
“No ma’am, I am Zoroastrian.”
“Um, quick, what’s the Avesta?”
“It is the chief Zoroastrian text.”
“Right this way, sir…”

Let’s be serious. Anyone who was trying to get in by ducking the ban could claim to be Bahá'í. Might you encounter a discussion with an Alawite as to whether the syncretistic aspects of the Alawites places them outside Mr. Trump’s definition of what a Muslim is? Who is going to arbitrate all of these theosophical quibbles? Who is going to determine that so-and-so is or isn’t a practicing Mandaeist? There are a fair number of Yarsanists and Samaritans in the Middle East, as well as pockets of Shabakists, Ishikists, Ali-Illahists. How do you tell a sunny Christian from a Sunni Muslim? Okay, I’m being ridiculous, but you get my point.

This all makes sense to Trump’s television audience though, because if you reduce it to the rubric of “Ban All Muslims,” it takes on a simplistic, feel-good sense of having made a bold step after all of this mealy-mouthed pussyfooting we’ve been doing. It quickly identifies itself as a stupid idea once you even begin to think about it, but that’s the other side of the coin Trump traffics in; the seeming fact that it doesn’t quite sound stupid until you actually do begin to think about it. The trick then becomes to keep people from thinking about it.

Give people an idea, a big, stupid idea, and then quickly move on to the next big, stupid idea. Like the wall. Which sounds good to some people. Again, until you actually start to think about it. And once you do, you quickly realize that it is as stupid as the idea of trying to identify one and a half billion people as being ineligible for air travel to the US. With immigration currently at sum zero, it is something of a solution without a problem. Add in the mass deportation component, and people like the idea even better. The reality of a crumbling farm industry alongside parents being ripped away from their children and loaded onto railcars is part of the not-thinking-it-through that Trump is counting on. Again, the trick is to sum up the big, stupid idea in three words, and then move on to the next big, stupid idea. Ban all Muslims. Build the wall. Deport the illegals.

Trump’s trick of getting people not to think works because it’s easy and it can feel good in the moment if you are sufficiently angry and resentful. A powerful personality has identified the enemy and boldly pledged that he would do something to vanquish it. Something big, something bold. And they have faith that he can and will, because they’ve seen him perform forcefully in boardrooms. 

Episodes of “The Apprentice” have availed them fly-on-the-wall status, and they saw firsthand the prowess of a powerful leader. Of course it’s just a silly cardboard replica, a Potemkin village of an office environment with no actual consequences in the downside and a sudden and unrealistic return on the upside. No one learns a thing from it, and the only winner, as always, is Trump himself. But this is the lazy thinking of Trump’s audience: the desire for easily identified heroes and villains, for predictable justice in terms of consequence and rewards.

It is easy, binary thinking. People need either to be fired or hired. Not developed, managed or educated. Countries need to be thought of as either good or bad and deserving of either subsidy or invasion, and not much else in between. Through his rhetoric, Trump has instructed his slack-jawed, doe-eyed, zombie-like followers to appeal to their basest instincts for guidance rather than any long-codified core ethics and morality.

As rooted a thing as civic education, sports environments and academics are, those places where most Americans learned how to get along and work in teams, it can all fall to dust in an instant with the right appeal to fear and resentment. Trump understands all of this. He is exploiting it, and it is irresponsible and I think highly detestable of him. Just because you can do a thing doesn’t always mean you should, and in this case I believe he shouldn’t have, and that he has orchestrated all of this is to his great shame. He has reawakened a sleeping giant of racism and hatred that was on its way to across-the-board social unacceptability.

The real damage is that Trump has fooled a lot of people into thinking that it’s okay to be judgmental, prejudiced, unforgiving, violent and cruel. And it’s not. Trump is wrong, and his followers have been fooled. The other piece of bad news is that when this has passed, with Trump not being president, he is going to betray every single one of his supporters and return to business as usual. And where will they go then?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Trump's Poly Sci 101 Machiavelli Lesson

Trump’s decision to exploit the misery that he pretends to know how to assuage speaks to his depraved level of indifference to the health of the nation, and now quite literally to the health of the supporters and protesters who attend his rallies. The methods he is employing are classic, textbook, and frankly, a little hackneyed. They represent the techniques you find in Machiavelli’s The Prince, and you can hear them echoed almost literally in any State University freshman political science class.

He follows the recommendation of “native troops” being the most desirable (read that as disaffected whites), far better than a mixed army, or one coopted on loan from other sympathetic kingdoms (read that as the Republican establishment). The hardcore Trump people are Trump people alone, and indeed in calculated obeisance to their leader’s rhetoric, are being transformed into a mobile army as much as they are a political support group. Fistfights are common, encouraged from the podium, and are now viewed by Trump supporters and the ghoul media as a requisite feature of a Trump rally.

What would a hockey game be without the fights? It is now an expected part of these events, and will remain so from now forward. If at this point you attend a Trump rally and there aren’t a few ejections for you to scream and swear in the direction of, you’d feel like you got ripped off. If there’s a fight, so much the better, and imagine, just imagine if you got to tell people you were at the one where the guy got killed.

Other pure Machiavelli is to articulate very few and very large themes, and keep them in the people’s minds throughout The Prince’s command of them. These themes are grand in scope and are not spoken of in detail, and are not essential to be acted upon at any time, yet they must be maintained as ideas.

There are provisions also for managing mass disillusionment once this kind of promissory governing style becomes unconvincing, but as Trump’s bluff hasn’t yet been called and potentially wouldn’t be until the third or so year of a presidency, if he sticks to the book, he’ll force his faithful to find their faith again, or at least act as if they do. Your heart won’t matter as much as your obedience will. Deceit, brutality and betrayal are not only in the toolbox, they are all enthusiastically recommended.

It has taken a great deal of courage on the part of Trump supporters to finally give in to their long-held beliefs rather than suppress them in the name of social unacceptability. I am serious when I say that. They possess a very real sense of resentment of large groups of people whom they perceive as having a common characteristic that works to the detriment of their own reality, and of the general reality of the country they love. They have stifled this disdain for a long time because they understood that it was not civilized to do otherwise.

Trump has told them being civilized is not the way to look at that social pressure. He advises instead it be characterized as “political correctness” and that now rather than a virtue, it was a thing to be rejected and even vilified. With Trump’s wind at their backs they stand and deliver, unapologetic of their racism, bigotry, antipathy and hatred. It is like a group of cockroaches in a tenement kitchen whose leader has told them they don’t have to scatter when the kitchen light comes on anymore.

It has taken some courage for them to step out into the light with their darkness, and they are still suspicious of the new world Trump has given them, but they love it, and they are ready at a moment’s notice to defend it violently. They feel this hatred at the bogeyman in their hearts and when their leader says it’s okay to express it with fists and rage it is game on. The saddest part of this whole spectacle is that when Trump goes away, which I honestly think he will, he’s not going to take them with him. He’s going to do business as usual and find some other way to stroke his limitless ego, but this ethnocentric, xenophobic and quick to violence strain into which he has single-handedly breathed a newfound sense of personal credibility will remain, and it will be seeking a new sync for its energy.

Blaming the poor, immigrants, other races and religions and maintaining second-class citizenship for women has always been an integral part of many modern Americans’ personal codification. It is sad, but it is true. In addition to these deep-seated prejudices, however, in most parts of the country there has always been an understanding that this kind of talk in social circles and this kind of  attitude informing public policy were both bad ideas. Whereas bigotry, xenophobia and racism lite were once upon a time a lot of people's dirty little secret, for many, Trump has released that Kraken.

This now almost nostalgic unspoken social pressure created a cognitive dissonance in a lot of people, and as such had a prayer of initiating internal dialog on the matter.  That erstwhile dynamic of there being an understanding that prejudice by law and by creed had been rejected by society probably changed some minds to a more progressive disposition, as it is well known that the way someone reshapes their viewpoint on a subject is by coming to it themselves. Browbeating rarely gets you anywhere past the brow. Still, brows are beaten, and that is what a failing Trump presidency would require. The authoritarian streak of his concept of governance is, to his credit, being laid out frankly and without circumspection or apology in this primary season.

Another Machiavellian old faithful is to create unrest as a pretext for quelling it. According to the Chicago Police and according to the University Police, last night’s event was not cancelled on their recommendation. It was purely a call from the Trump campaign. The cancellation was made via a terse, two-sentence announcement from the podium, and that was it. Witnesses to the event and video documentation indicate that the unruliness only began after the cancellation announcement. Any professional events management company would have their best talker take the podium to try and manage hostilities and initiate calm. It may be an already circulating conspiracy theory, but it strikes me that the Trump campaign favors newsworthy events, and here was a beauty that might have been avoidable. Did they orchestrate the fracas? In a word, yes.

I am inspired to reread The Prince, though I no longer have it. I must, and I shall order it soon. Between November 11th and January 20th, if worse comes to worst, we all should read it, just so as to know what to expect.