Feb 2, 2017

Donald Trump, seriously

(Trump Jump, Twitler, immigrant, kakistocracy, Donald Lump, trumpcare, Trump Treatment, Tyrannosaurus rump, alternative facts, Hot Donald, Trumps Razor, small hands:  The Urban Dictionary, our favorite linguistic cyclopedia, has dropped its habitual preoccupation with matters autoerotic and gone full Trump Dump since the Machtsübernahme, and so our friend Glenn wants to know what we think about the new president. Glenn's particularly interested in answers regarding Trump's intelligence:)

Trump is intelligent, at least technically. He can think on his feet, he's wily, sly, cunning, and has been successful for more than forty years in a difficult business---not as successful as he claims, but he's survived four or six bankruptcies, several trophy wives, and a grueling election campaign---you can't do this without substantial raw intelligence. There are NYT reports regarding his deal making, which emphasize that his negotiation skills really shine when we get into the fine print (the annotations of complex real-estate contracts)---meaning that even his attention span is substantial when he's into a "deal." And then there is corroborating evidence about his work as developer---a developer obsessed with details, we read. So yes, he's clever.

Which doesn't mean he's Socrates. He's not an intellectual, let alone a thinker. He won't take time to think unless it's urgent business. He's a results man---or business man---in the worst conceivable sense. And he's extremely narcissistic---no need to elaborate, just one more anecdote (we quote the Washington Post):

A recording obtained by The Washington Post captures what New York reporters and editors who covered Trump’s early career experienced in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s: calls from Trump’s Manhattan office that resulted in conversations with “John Miller” or “John Barron” — public-relations men who sound precisely like Trump himself — who indeed are Trump, masquerading as an unusually helpful and boastful advocate for himself, according to the journalists and several of Trump’s top aides.>
His grandest success is his election as the 45th president of the United States.

(Intermission: let's employ the term US, or USA, and discard "America" as a signifier for Trump Country---a continent-grabbing misuse popularized by Ronald Reagan).

Trump prevailed on his road to victory in magisterial fashion. He was right at any turn. And this, his perfect triumph, if is our best hope for his speedy undoing.

Because his extreme ego---not a strong one, more an overblown balloon itching to get pricked at a children's party---must have expanded to unmanageable proportions with his win. And so he has to tweet that  his inauguration will come with an "unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout."

And so he looks like this one hour later (reposted):

We're sure that there was a connubial kerfuffle as well...

...but that's not the main point here. The main point is that if Trump believes in anything, he believes in "ratings," and the ratings were bad.

(Intermission: there was a connubial kerfuffle of course, and---even though his ratings may survive his inauguration or the failure to build the Mexican Wall at the expense of a few billions or trillions (who would know the difference)---they may not survive a divorce (or suicide) of Ivanka or Irina or whatever her name is, not among the marginal rust belt voters that he needs for his reelection.)

The wall, yes. First this clip (reposted (9 sec)):

The Mexican wall exemplifies the fundamental reason why Trump coasted to victory; us bleeding-heart liberals are prone to spit on the wall as an emanation of pure Trump-dump...but...EVEN UNDER OBAMA THERE WERE EFFORTS TO BUILD THE MEXICAN WALL--- efforts which were shelved in 2011 for financial reasons. And then there was George W. Bush who had started the whole thing. Yes. (Link.)

We are blaming Trump for defenestrating facts---the sheer fact of facts ("believe me")---but who among us remembers the FACT that this wall is not a new effort, not even a partisan one? Facts are mental constructs, they exist "objectively" only to the extent that they and their sources are shared. And this "sharing"---or lack thereof---need not be a matter of culture or culture wars, sheer cognitive overload will do the job of collective ignorance just as well.

We went in one generation from an eternal age of underinformation (200,000  B.C. until 1985) to an age of over-information. For 200 k years we didn't know enough, and now we know too much. And we can't handle it. We sit through elaborate Power Point presentations during the decisive meeting of the board, and there's not enough time, never, a few questions asked, a few answers given, we're all smart, and, boom. We sit through a trash trailer bash in McDowell County, West Virginia, all of us depending on government handouts and blaming Obama for squandering our hard-earned $$$. We sit through a Georgetown dinner and check our iThings.

Even if there were no culture wars, facts are going out of the window because there are too many of them. The mechanics of the 24 hour news cycle is just an example. And Trump understands this, at least instinctively. He's a result, not a cause. And he's just the beginning.

Hard to say what comes next. Societies may develop new rules and institutions to deal with the consequences of over information. Or they may fail. Nobody seem to realize this, but the way we spend out time---the precious 24 hours per day that seem to be the only constant in this time of change---the way we keep our brain busy has changed more during the last twenty five years than during the preceding 200,000. The change we're presently undergoing may be too fundamental, or coming too fast to allow new countervailing institutions and norms to develop before somebody in the Oval Office pushes the red button. It would be his undoing, but ours as well.


Perry Brass said...

Wonderful commentary, Michael. Yes, the Trump trumped-up victory can be attributed, in some ways, to the Information Overkill Age we are in,and the need, a constant in America——er, the USA——to affirm regular, good ol' boy anti-intellectualism. But I see other situations in play here. One is our constant American need to recognize, buttress, and even create "self esteem," so that all efforts, all accomplishments are recognized on the same level. Thus the Donald's yuge accomplishments as builder, developer, and creator of vast useless spaces, like running 3 failed casinos in Atlantic City, is on the same level as a Nobel prize winner in physics or medicine. Trump firmly believes in his own "genius," and so do his followers, because, as Joe Conrad said in "Lord Jim," "He is one of us."
He is not a regular member of the "elite," despite all his money and the fact that if one of his hillbilly followers ever tried to sneak into the upper levels of Trump Tower he'd be shot on sight, but because he "tells it like it is." He is not going to let us down, and he hates all the same people we find it convenient to hate.

As we say back in the shit-kickin' part of the USA I'm from: "Nuff said."

MJJM said...

As long as he prevents even one Charlie Hebdo massacre, he can be every contemptible character in literature, film, and real life as far as I'm concerned. As long as he does the job I hoped for when I voted for him.

Michael Ampersant said...

Perry: Yes, fully agree.


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