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Thursday, June 22, 2017

TRUMP, TRUMPER, TRUMPEST


 
Below is a very perceptive characterization by Gwenda Blair of Trump and his followers:

It is this combination – the hint of menace beneath the surface added to what appears to be an unpolished immediacy – that millions of listeners take as evidence of Trump’s authenticity and spontaneity. Indeed, the way he talks reminds them of the voice inside their own heads – a rich and sometimes dark stew of conversational snippets and memory scraps, random phrases and half-thoughts – and, by extension, it somehow seems as if they’re hearing the voice inside his head.


Twitter perfectly matches this state of affairs, what with ‘snippets and memory scraps, random phrases and half-thoughts’ being the main fare of so-called communication. It is perhaps not surprising that this mode of communication has become the mainstream news service as well, shaping public opinion in the slipstream of contemporary politics in Western democracies. That the proponents who provide the necessary machinations have become extremely rich in the process is also no accident. Trump, as a mere bit player, used his primitive, ruthless business instincts, combined with a jovial appearance, to play the game in any which way possible, exploiting every tax loophole there is. Dabbling in realty TV, golf courses, real estate and the female beauty industry landed him in a golden circle of like-minded entrepreneurs who define luxury as a golden toilet seat. With a hint of mild debauchery and good Calvinistic morals, the contradictions are many when subjected to rational analysis. The idea to elevate this game to the presidency of the USA is as outrageous as it is ludicrous. The idea that an amalgam of political mavericks, from Tea Party Republicans to KKK, could galvanize the American voters to put Trump into the Oval Office, was however not as daft as some would have predicted. Given that Trump’s verbiage was ideal for Twitter and other such moronic social media, the road to success was all but guaranteed. Ad hoc observation of the citizenry being glued to so-called smart phones and other such mobile devices, it is not too difficult to realize that a few clever algorithms could program a simple Pavlovian stimulus-response behaviour, especially tailored for American voters (see my previous blog on Mercer and Co.). Not that there was a choice anyway: Clinton was just a lesser evil, separated by two degrees. Only Putin perceived a wider gap and thus preferred a primitive businessman to a rabid politician, and thus contributed his two cents worth of cyber intervention, which now is taken as the one and only possibility to impeach Trump as a puppet on the string of Putin’s henchmen. To take the sting out of the investigation (Comey and Mueller – which is a joke in itself) Trump’s advisers will arrange for a few military strikes against the Russians in Syria, so as to prove Trump’s true Roman Christian patriotism in the face of a suspect Russian Byzantine Orthodox ideology. Putin will be even more confused – as seen in his recent interviews with Oliver Stone who as a supposed example of American rationalism demonstrates a poor grasp of Russian and world history.

Rational people operate by forming thoughts in their brains and then try to verbalize these thoughts as best as they can, given the operational restrictions that language has. In other words, the best minds are often those who match thought with language without losing any of the essential content. Irrational people, as the saying goes, speak before they think, uttering half-baked phrases, which the brain has difficulty with in actually interpreting as something that falls within the realm of reason and common sense. Such people do get hooked on very simplistic ideas that are then applied to all and sundry environments. Take for example the simple concept of ‘freedom’ and apply it to the world of business. It means, in Trump’s world, that a businessman ought to be ‘free’ of all encumbrances, dedicated only to the aim of turning a profit. Hence if a health insurance business were to be forced by government regulation to insure people with pre-existing health problems, then a basic ‘freedom’ is violated inasmuch you cannot turn a profit from insuring sick people who lack the resources to pay for their medical bills at private hospitals. ‘The freedom to bear arms’ is another brainless phrase, easily uttered, yet with devastating consequences when applied to non-sensical contexts. The freedom of keeping out unwanted guests from one’s private property, as much as from one’s own country, is another milestone – if not mill stone - in modern, archaic political discourse. By definition there cannot be ‘freedom’ to critique the proprietors and therefore protectors of freedom, especially if such critique or opposition involves rational thought expressed in scientific language. Climate change as a science project is to be dismissed as it infringes on the freedom to say otherwise, i.e. unthinking. Indeed it is most advisable to distrust all modes of deep thought as it invariably leads to Gordian knots that then need slashing with brute force. The question then arises why there are so many simple-minded people who vote for simple-minded people like Trump. While Blair’s quote seems to give the answer via ‘…the way he talks reminds them of the voice inside their own heads’ we note that this is not an answer as much as it is a restatement of the problem, namely that birds of a feather flock together. It is quite tempting to explain such a state of mind as pathology, worthy of entry into DSM-5. Not that Trump proved as yet as insane as some of his predecessors: leafing through The Great War for Civilization: the conquest of the Middle East, by Robert Fisk (2005) one is reminded again and again that the Bush dynasties, and Reagan before them, were certainly on par with DSM diagnoses, or as Guardian correspondent Johnston puts it for Trump:

It’s laughable when pundits try to distill a Trump doctrine from his word salad. His own words illuminate the undeveloped space between his ears.


Still, all we have to go by so far, as far as Trump is concerned, are his demented twitter messages but not much action yet. Sure he is continuing covert military operations all around the world, just like Obama did, but he has not yet started any new wars – that he is itching to start one with North-Korea may be on the cards however.

Maybe Trump will turn out to be a somewhat harmless, narcissistic gadfly, bent on entertaining his followers, doing shady business deals on the side … but what if his words (and those put in his mouth by his ghostwriters) are translated into action by maniacs hell-bent on self-destruction? The cabal surrounding Trump range from the demented to clever dicks and chicks, the latter who just see a great opportunity to feather their own beds, while the former, mainly military types, want to see how far their brinkmanship will take them.

There is an obvious analogy with the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (as told by Gibbon) whereby a long list of emperors (read ‘presidents’) become more and more unhinged (Nero and Caligula being outstanding examples) until the whole edifice crumbles in the dust of history. The only worry now is that the ‘dust’ will engulf the whole world and we will literally experience the end of history. Or else it could be a protracted decline – assuming that no nuclear war breaks out – by way of climate change deniers, heralding a gradual but accelerating descent into the hell of a global storm. In the meantime, the show must go on, babies must be born, lives lived, menial jobs to go to, money to be made, bubbles to be made of real estate, billionaires to be created, feudal states to be celebrated, slaves voting for their masters, climate refuges drowning in the oceans, esoteric science to be funded very well, escapist entertainment quadrupled (give the people bread and circus), fashionistas designing body bags, artists encrusting the latter with diamonds, the Internet bulging with fake news and bodies, sex robots looking for customers, people with good insurance cured of old age, a little love here and there, a sunny day after weeks of rain, a lonesome flower … all punctuated by ever more bizarre presidential and prime ministerial campaigns in Western countries while the Orient (China in particular) will remain true to its mysterious machinations, political and economical, but all the same gripped by the maelstrom that goes from Trump to Trumper and eventually to the Trumpest, creating instant history as a farce.