Is Donald Trump the Most Honest Candidate Ever to Run For President?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Everyone:  I too recoil at the very idea this question poses.

However, because Trump is so transparent about his racism, bigotry, misogyny, self-absorption, cynicism, disrespect for the press, disrespect for all citizens (perhaps most especially his followers), indifference to  knowledge about policy, absence of curiosity about issues, disdain for charity (as a concrete practice and a spiritual attitude), fondness for the grotesque, hatred of process, willingness to commit war crimes, desire to flout law and custom, and so on, his candidacy cumulatively amounts to an eff-you to everything and everyone.  So much so that only people like him and people suffering from some kind of mental disorder or other generator of extreme irrationality it seems, will vote for him.

Of course, it would be easier if he would simply state, “I don’t care about anything or anyone, including myself.”  True, he boasts about possibly being the only person to run for the presidency and make money off it.  I think he means make money immediately, as Bill Clinton (for instance) has certainly cashed in. But he seems so reckless that even cynical profiteering seems beyond his interest and capability.  In a way, he’s an imitation grifter; he can’t really even get that right anymore.

It’s also true that he could be elected president.  That tells us much about the United States, about White Americans especially, and about the derangement caused (through no fault of Mr. Obama’s) by the election, twice, of Barack Obama–combined, of course, with willful ignorance, White Supremacy, bizarre White fantasies, and Whites’ own self-loathing. Can a nation that elected Barack Obama president turn around and elect Trump? Probably not, and of course I hope not, but you just never know about White Americans, and let’s face it, that’s whom we’re talking about.  The number of Asian Americans, Latino/a Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and citizens from other groups who will vote for Trump will hardly register in the data.  He is the candidate of disturbed and disturbing White America, or that section of White America that is so disturbed and disturbing.  That Fox News and other similar outlets assist Trump is all you need to know about them and their viewers, readers, listeners.  There’s simply no way to get around that.  By helping him, they, too, have dropped whatever scraps of pretense they held onto.

At any rate, Trump’s candidacy seems to say this: “I hate you all, I am the apotheosis of much that’s wrong with your country, and I dare you to vote for me anyway.  Did I mention I hate you?”

So, yes, even though Trump’s candidacy is all about dishonesty (he has probably set a record for lying–it’s not a close call), it is also about doing away with rhetoric that is in any way subtle, within bounds, and traditionally persuasive.  It’s as close to an “honest” punch in the face as it can get, and, not surprisingly, Trump  also “honestly” encourages violence at his rallies and in the streets. Can American handle this kind of “truth” about itself?  We’ll see.

Processing Trump

So how are allegedly rational citizens supposed to process Trump’s political language?  I mean aside from responding with disgust, alarm, and grave concern for the nation and just about everyone in it?

I do think it’s fair, especially after the last couple of weeks, to question his sanity because attributing his speech and behavior to cynicism, creating a persona, appealing to the base, etc., seems insufficient.  Within this news-cycle, he has suggested that President Obama is literally working with what Trumps calls “Islamists [ISIS],” revoked the Washington Post‘s credentials, wondered why the U.S. can’t block ISIS’s use of radios, and called again for a ban on immigration of people who are Muslim.

We may have reached the limits of analysis, so that everyone who is not part of the Trump cult should, although keeping eyes and ears tuned to the campaign, simply concentrate on making sure he is not elected.  That is, why analyze when there’s crucial work to be done?  Of course, we don’t necessarily have to choose between the two.

Would it profit us to approach Trump as the filthy, disturbing outcome of GOP speech, behavior, legislation, and foreign policy?  I don’t know.  He displays the xenophobia, fear-mongering, and willingness to wipe out due process that characterized Joseph McCarthy. He displays the vile racism of George Wallace, not to mention the slightly less subtle racist strategies and tactics of countless other Republicans–Reagan, Atwater, Rove, both Bushes, governors, senators, and representatives. He exudes the religious bigotry of Ted Cruz. He obviously has a disturbed view of women and a reactionary view of most issues affecting them–again, not all that different from other members of the GOP.  Power seems to have warped him badly, as it did Dick Cheney. Like Nixon, he’s obsessed with the press.

But we could also go in a different direction and assert that Trump is different from these GOP predecessors because he knows almost no limits to repellent political language, outrageous policy-suggestions, infantile insults to other politicians, and ghastly mockery of a disabled man. He also encourages violence at his rallies.

At the moment, I’m stuck somewhere between the two approaches.  Since Dixiecrat days, the GOP has been a party of racism and race-baiting, and its economic and foreign policies have been disastrous. That said, I do recall relatively decent GOP lawmakers who reached across the aisle to forge adequate if not excellent legislation, and at least Reagan and Bush I had some decorum. It would be easier to give the GOP a break if current GOP leaders would denounce him, and that might even be not just the proper thing to do, not just the best thing to do for the country, but also the smart political move.

What would Orwell do?  Probably he would attack Trump with his writing and view him as a fascist, and Orwell knew a thing or two about fascists. In the process, he might continue to parse Trump’s political language. But for whom should we parse the language?  I doubt if Orwell or anyone could, by analyzing Trump’s speech,  convince Trumpsters not to support the man.  I plan to spend a lot more time trying to make sure Trump doesn’t become president (writing that part of the sentence makes me a little sick: “Trump . . . president”) than thinking about the phenomenon or studying the language.

George Will and the “Logic” That Put the GOP in A Fix

“Fix” in this case means a broken state, one that begs to be fixed.

On FOX’s Sunday chat-show hosted by Chris Wallace, George Will opined that “fear” and “incredulity” prevented the GOP higher-ups from confronting and trying to stop Donald Trump’s climb to the nomination.  Whatever!

Will then climbed aboard the old Reaganesque hobby-nag, asserting that citizens who voted for Democratic candidates consisted chiefly of people who worked for “the government,” AFSCME union-members (federal, state, county, and municipal workers), teachers, and others who belonged to “a dependent class.”  Message: “gubment” (Reagan’s folksy pronunciation) is bad, the people who work in one of its capacities are lesser than those who don’t, one should recoil from them and gubment, and people who vote GOP are, one infers, “independent.”  Second message: But enough about the sociopath Trump: what about those bad citizens who don’t prefer him?

And now Will and other GOP geezers fear or deny the rise of a fatuous, hateful lard-ass who has been catapulted over the political wall, like the cow in Mony Python and the Holy Grail, by hateful, blind “anti-government” enthusiasm. Here is your Reaganism.  Here is your Reaganism on the Trump-drug.

Note that in the world of this logic, teachers, fire-fighters, food-inspectors, soldiers, spies, garbage-workers, the police, and so on are to be sniffed at imperiously as horseman Will passes by, insensible to the city-worker who will sweep up the horse-shit.  Whereas someone who works for the defense industry or FOX News is just flat-out better.  How? Well, they just are.

In Will’s dream-sequence, most of the better people are White, of course–hence his career-long dismissal of Blacks’ problems in the U.S. as their fault and hence Trump’s nihilistic comfort with KKK sentiments.

Shall we point out the obvious? The Constitution, created by all those sagacious  White founders, many of whom went on to join the dependent class, established a (wait for it) government. —So that by the time Reagan’s con to continue to seduce White folks, especially in the Dixiecrat South, mutates into Trumpery, it is, like a terrible virus, a form of reckless, accidental anarchy, anarchy not springing from some considered ideology or wise distrust of authority, but anarchy infatuated with authoritarianism. So that mere McConnell is loosed upon the Senate, refusing to allow the hateful government (of which he is a part, oops) to do, at least, what the Constitution says: review a SCOTUS nomination.

In his pretentious prose and pose, for the better part of four decades, George Will helped to create Donald Trump’s rise, even though the Rovian Tea Party is the more recent puff of meth that riled and roiled the racist, anti-knowledge mob.  Thank you, George. Thanks so much. I do fear the consequences of a  Trump presidency, as I appear to be somewhat sentient this morning.  I do not find Trump’s rise incredible (in the old sense of the word), however.  It looks more like inevitable.

 

Can a “Horse’s Ass” Surprise?

by O.

There is behavior we in the U.S. sometimes characterize colloquially as that of “a horse’s ass.”  Perhaps in England “wanker” might be the term–different denotation, similar connotation.

Of course, who has not behaved like “a horse’s ass” sometimes?  Very few.  We depend upon friends and family to let us know when we’ve strayed into that pasture, so to speak.

But when someone’s behavior is pretty much constantly boorish and unyielding, they become to us, permanently, a horse’s ass.  When they gallop toward us, we try to escape.

Sites of enormous market-places like New York often cultivate and reward the behavior of horse’s asses. Why wouldn’t they?

In some instances, a horse’s ass becomes popular–wildly popular, a celebrity. That’s when you may be forgiven for thinking you’ve over-estimated the general public–again.

In some highly improbably circumstances, a horse’s ass may run for president of the United States, with some success along the way, attracting legions of imbalanced, knowledge-eschewing followers.  Herds of horse’s asses.  Crass insults stir the herds. So do racism, thuggish behavior, and content-free bluster. That’s when you may be forgiven for worrying that a catastrophe may be taking shape. You don’t want to panic as you observe the spectacle, but you don’t want to ignore the spectacle either, given your knowledge, and perhaps experience, of demagogues who reached power.

Ah, but what if? What if a few weeks before the nomination were settled or the election took place, a certain horse’s ass announced that it’s all been a joke.  What if he said, if not in so many words, “I just wanted to show how easy it is to be a politician. I wanted to show you how gullible you are.  Hitler’s rise to power doesn’t seem so strange now, does it? You people need to grow up, study history, apply the logic your human brain is capable of, and check your stupid, harmful racism. Incidentally, and now I’m speaking to working people, veterans, and members of the military, what on Earth made you think that a billionaire horse’s ass would have any interest whatsoever in pursuing policies that would help you?  Why wouldn’t a cynical clown–the role I’ve been playing–want to widen the wealth-gap further, send you to war for less than nothing, and eviscerate regulations that help you?  You really are losers. You make me sick, and you make this country sick.”

A Supreme Horse’s Ass doing such a thing and saying such things? Beyond improbable. But, on the other hand, it would be the one moderately noble thing the horse’s ass would be remembered for, and so it might appeal to the horse’s ass, and it would certainly light up social media and serve as a lesson to many about much.

 

 

The Global Majority

“The Global Majority” =  shibboleth.

When a colleague on the Faculty Senate at the University of Puget Sound recently tried to insert “the global majority” into the minutes, she claimed that she was doing so only to vary the usage in the minutes.  I suppose she felt that “under-served minorities” or similar expressions were repetitive.  Like school marms who instructed me to vary my terms for the sake of variety lest my reader become numbed, this colleague purported to be introducing a stylish new construction simply to avoid repetition.  Perhaps.  Perhaps she was as well brandishing a new catch-phrase.

We are all susceptible to catchy new phrases, so we should take care to avoid shibboleths.  My colleague, an alleged post-modernist with a marked taste for fashionable dogmatics and  political casuistry, latched on to “the global majority” to vary discourse, I have no doubt.  She also aimed to deploy verbiage that signaled her identification with a contingent.  That is what I mean by “shibboleth:”  expressions that signify membership or participation in some cadre [whatever else they may do to vary documents or to keep conversation lively].

If you would be more critical and thoughtful than my fellow senator — and how could you help bur be more mindful and examining that she? — please analyze the catch-phrase that has caught the imagination of my colleague.

First, the definite article gives away the shallowness of the catch-phrase.  One constructs this or that global majority from a myriad of majorities one might select.  THE global majority you select you thereby single out from the groupings > 50% of the population of the Earth.  By speaking of THE global majority, then, you permit or entice the unwary — like my colleague, perhaps — to miss the selectivity involved.

Second. any majority you select you create with reference to one or more minorities.  In the  instance of “the global majority,” you get caught up in the phrase to invidiously comment on some minorities or minority who have more power than numbers.  Inveighing against elites and embracing downtrodden masses is a popular, populist tactic that deftly elides many or all of the differences among your chosen majority even as you treat the elite you have created as undifferentiated.

Third, “global” makes your “them bad, us good” glibness seem cosmopolitan and intellectual.

For the foregoing three reasons [if no others], “the global majority” signals the savvy reader or listener that wordplay is substituting for thought.  If you doubt that, read recent entries at http://mediadiversified.org/2014/01/23/ethnic-minority-no-global-majority/.  I maintain that the missteps of each entry at that URL are not merely mistakes to which we each and all are liable but also foolishness to which shibboleths drive us.

Jude Wanga goes first:

“There are [sic] a great deal of acronyms and labels used by society to address and refer to people who are not white. There are reasons to be hesitant to use all and any of these labels in particular instances.

” ‘Ethnic minority’ is a term usually used to mean “not white”, but there are also white ethnicities that it is applied to, such as traveller communities. This betrays the wilful [sic] ignorance of the media or other users in applying inaccurate blanket terms. The updated version, ‘minority ethnic,’ is also problematic. As a homogenous group, ‘minority ethnics’ are not a minority at all, they are the largest demographic in the world in terms of population. It possibly reflects the domination of the white media that these terms are used despite their logical failings.

“Similarly BME (Black & Minority Ethnic) and BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic) are problematic. They single out some groups but lead to an othering of other groups, such as Latinos. Technically, white people can fall under both these terms, such as ‘minority ethnic’ (which is ambiguous), or White Latino, leading to further confusion. It also elevates certain minority groups above others by placing their groups in the acronym, and excluding others.

“This leaves ‘people of colour’ as the sole collective term for people who do not benefit from white supremacy, without placing whiteness as the default as the term ‘non-white’ does. People of colour is not without its downsides, with some people of mixed racial heritage feeling excluded by the term. It also focuses on skin colour, which doesn’t address other ethnic discriminations. However, it cannot be denied that skin colour is important, and so of all the available terms, this is the one that I feel is least problematic, and the one I identify with the most.”

Alpha.  Among the acronyms or labels for people whom I do not count as white, I favor “people whom I choose not to count or to group as white.”  Whatever “society” does, I can take responsibility for sets that I create.  Skip the acronyms and the labels and articulate what you are doing.

Beta.  “There are reasons to be hesitant to use all and any of these labels in particular instances.”  Although context matters, if one is classing or grouping, one may always say that such is what one is doing.  Perhaps one might skip the initials and the slogans and state what one is doing.

Gamma.  Never under-estimate the ignorance of and in society, including of and in mass mediated communicators.  I never presume that such ignorance is willed or willful, any more than I assume that those who philosophize about monikers or abbreviations are willfully asserting audience research that they have not and never could do.

Delta.  Alternatives to “people of colour” abound if one gets out of the business of shorthand, slogans, and shibboleths. Ms. Wanga might elect not to play any rigged game and instead to say what she means.  “The Global Majority” and similar jibber-jabber does not specify Ms. Wanga’s thinking or meaning but may hide the degree to which my senatorial colleague is not thinking and is not interested in conveying meaning, only membership.

Point Delta above likewise should counsel Lee Pinkerton, the second commenter, to avoid acronyms and shorthand altogether.  It does not.

“B.M.E. is the current politically correct term to describe us Black folks, and anyone who isn’t white and English. Personally I don’t like the term as you’re reducing all these diverse races and cultures down to three letters that sounds like a disease like CJD, or B.S.E.

“Also the term ‘minority’ suggests weakness and powerlessness, when in fact non-white people are the global majority.  If we can see ourselves that way perhaps we would feel less like victims. I prefer the term Black.  It is a political term (hence the use of capital ‘B’) intended to unify that mixed group that white people throughout hundreds of years of slavery, imperialism, and colonialism have tried to divide and conquer.

“However some feel its disrespectful to describe a race as a colour. Chinese people do not describe themselves as ‘yellow’, nor Native Americans as ‘Redskins’. Some argue we should  identify by our country of origin.  So African-Caribbean?  But some Black people argue that we shouldn’t celebrate our Caribbean ancestry as it was just a historical accident that we happened to end up there, rather than America or Brazil or some other slave port.

“There are those that argue that everyone in the African diaspora (including the Caribbean descendents of slaves) should describe themselves as African. But this too is problematic.  How can I put myself in the same category as someone who was born and raised on the continent when I have a European name and can speak no African language and have no direct knowledge of any indigenous culture, and am not even sure what part of Africa my ancestors were taken from?

“Also African separates us from our Asian brothers and sisters in the struggle.

“So the ideal term is one that is all inclusive. It should not cling to any artificially imposed political boundary, or any other category that might be seen as divisive, as what we are trying to create here is unity.

“People of Colour works, but that also encourages another three letter acronym (POC).

“How about Melanated Peoples? – that includes Africa, the Caribbean and Asia and is certainly inclusive and a unifying concept, that puts us firmly in the global majority.”

Mr. Pinkerton might watch the movie “WarGames,” in which a computer learns that for Tic-Tac-Toe as for Global Thermonuclear War, the best move is not to play the game.  Mr. Pinkerton, skip the acronyms and the labels and say what you are mean.

Joy Goh Mah, the third commenter, would profit as well from getting out of a political con game.

“Out of all the terms I could use as a signifier of my racial identity, there is none that I embrace as wholeheartedly as the term ‘woman (or person) of colour’.

“Very often though, I see newspapers and academic journals using “ethnic minorities” or “BAME” (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). The problem is, any terminology that uses the word ‘minority’ seems rather amusing, considering the fact that people of colour are the global majority. Of course, many would argue that these terms only apply in a British or North American context, where white people make up the majority population. Yet, this takes a very simplistic view of race relations, suggesting that discrimination only happens because we are a minority, and erases the fact that, even in countries where people of colour are the majority, white supremacy and its effects are still very much present.

“Interestingly, there was a time when I rejected the use of a blanket term to describe non-white people, seeing it as an implication of our being a homogenous group, defined by whiteness, or rather, our lack of it. However, through a discussion with Samantha Asumadu (founder of Media Diversified) some time ago, I came to appreciate the term ‘people of colour‘ as a mark of solidarity, an acknowledgement of shared oppression, and a call for unity against white supremacy. I am a woman of colour, and I stand proudly with my sisters and brothers of colour as we fight to end racial oppression.”

      

Could she make her addiction to shibboleth clearer?  She and the prior two spokespersons at http://mediadiversified.org/2014/01/23/ethnic-minority-no-global-majority/ revel in pseudo-philosophical blarney when a straightforward solution would be to stop labeling and other signifiers.”  In “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell counseled writers to avoid the abstract in favor of the concrete lest writers indulge in shibboleth, sloganeering, and other silliness.  As a general matter, Mr. Orwell cannot quite be correct.  Writers must abstract to think.  As a starting point, however, Mr. Orwell seems to me correct.  Start from descriptions as clear and concrete as you can make them, then categorize or collectivize only when necessary.

The Tactical Essence of “Essentially”

Whenever you verge on inserting “essentially” into your prose, desist or at least resist.

“Essentially” is often but not always a dodge.

Consider the following:

At 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, Barack Obama essentially declared himself king of the United States of America when he decreed that he has the unilateral authority to ignore the fact that the DREAM Act was not passed into law by Congress.

This op-ed contribution by Professor Scott Douglas Gerber appeared in The Lima News on 26 November 2014.  http://www.limaohio.com/news/opinion_columns-opinon/50750776/Obama-cant-make-himself-king  Professor Gerber then alerted the “Law and Courts Discussion List” of his latest publication.  This had what I presume to be its intended effect:  subscribers or readers went atwitter.

I stopped reading after that first sentence.  I could not concede or honor that first sentence, so I moved on.  Why should I read or consider banter or blather?

When the list started to react, I chuckled that, once again, I was in my own reverie.  To me the use of “essentially” was the interesting feature at once remarkable and unremarkable.  Dr. Gerber used “essentially” in an unremarkable manner common to academics.  I presume he intended readers to pare away petty objections to get to some nucleus or kernel or germ that Professor Gerber wanted to worry.  Nonetheless, Professor Gerber’s deployment of “essentially” was in part tactical, whether he would acknowledge it or not.

Barack Obama and his legion of admirers would contest that he had declared himself king, so Dr. Gerber deployed “essentially” to sweep away objections to his figure of speech.  In this tactical view of communication, I fixate on the stifling that “essentially” works, especially on those unwary.  For “essentially” in practice amounts to “do not criticize all of the aspects in which my claim and/or argument lacks plausibility or cogency;  instead, grant me that I am discerning some incontestable reality.”

Now Dr. Gerber’s op-ed badinage should not persuade even those who fall for “essentially.”  I did not comment on the rest of his op-ed because I did not bother to read it.  I strive not to bother with blather.  [Professor Gerber is free to disregard this posting on the same ground!]

I post herein to invite consumers of content to start to start every time they encounter “essentially.”  That adverb is often, perhaps even usually, an invitation to suspend disbelief and to supplant the consumer’s critical faculties with the content-creator’s tactical devices.

Essentially [sic] “essentially” invites the reader, the viewer, or the listener to collude with the writer, some performer, or a speaker in fending off many objections to this writing, that video, or a bit of audio.  If the medium demands concision that pushes the content-creator to skip counter-arguments, the content-consumer should notice that and proceed with great caution.

Read Dr. Gerber’s op-ed if you like.  All I ask is that you note that “essentially” hides all of the ways in which the regal trope is inappropriate.

Marketing Torture to the Masses

I often start my day with and from Andrew Sullivan’s “The Dish” because Dr. Sullivan channels the not-so-late George Orwell.  This morning “rewarded” my following Dr. Sullivan with revelations of the “neglected beauty of the obvious” [O. W. Holmes II].

First, please behold the elegance of tweets:  http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/12/11/an-orwellian-acronym/ .  To me the most important point is that journalists should be challenged every time they use “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” or deploy the phrase’s acronym, “EIT.”  Content-consumers should challenge content-conveyors who use the term or who permit the term to be used without challenge.\

The content-conveyors will not change their behavior.  Our betters and rulers grant interviews on the presumption that their lies, evasions, and other marketing will not be challenged.  An interviewer who does not toady will not be granted access to “the best gets,” the interviewees who attract consumers to advertising.

Rather, the point follows the end of Mr. Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language.”

     … one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if
one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase … into the dustbin where it belongs.

I suggest that we each and all jeer the phrase “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” off our screens.  If torturers would defend torture, make them call it torture,

Please note in addition that the tweets insist that conveying “EIT” or “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” is not objective journalism.  It is collusion in masking horrors.  It makes content-conveyors and content-consumers accomplices after the fact.

It does not, however, defame the United States of America or us the people.  As Dr. Sullivan notes — http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/12/12/americas-history-of-torture/ — Peter Beinart of The Atlantic has posted “Torture is Who We Are” http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/12/torture-is-who-we-are-cia-report/383670/ to argue that torture is hardly rare in U. S. history, culture, and conquest.  It is part of our identity. Sensible Americans may dispute how great or small that part of our identity might be.  However, one’s ticket to that dispute is candor.  Admit the tortures.

I am always cheered whenever someone advocates our cutting the bullshit.

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