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Kolumne: Thomas Adcock: Triumph of the ‘Trumpanzees‘

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‘I Love the Poorly Educated’ D. Trump

FANTASIES of Donald Trump voters: Barack Obama is a Kenya-born homosexual who, along with the she-devil Hillary Clinton, founded ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria); liberals are at “war” with Christmas; abortion is homicide; poor people are lazy; climate change is a hoax; Sharia is taking over the American criminal justice system; Muslims, including American citizens and refugee children, are probably terrorists and must be registered with the police; sonograms prove that fetuses can masturbate; God sends hurricanes and earthquakes to punish cities with large gay populations; African American neighborhoods are hellholes of drugs and violent crime; physically disabled schoolchildren drain the public treasury; Jews are conspiring to create a one-world government; Mexican immigrants are drug-dealing rapists and murderers; childhood vaccinations are communist-inspired; everyone must carry guns at all times; English should the official language of the United States, and Christianist fundamentalism the official religion; “The Donald,” as the first two of his three wives called him, was a disciple of Jesus Christ in a past life; President Obama’s modest health insurance program is “the worst thing that has happened in this country since slavery,” according to black neurosurgeon Ben Carson—who further suggests that Jews could have prevented the Holocaust “if the people had been armed.”

Triumph of the ‘Trumpanzees’
Vulgarian Victory Launches Post-Truth Era
 

Dim bulb Trump voters: ‘What, me stupid?’

 By Thomas Adcock

Copyright © 2016 – Thomas Adcock

NEW YORK CITY, near America

 During the 2012 American federal election cycle, “objective” journalists employed by corporate media dared not question the veracity of presidential candidates’ pronouncements, whether from Republican or Democratic Party quarters. Neutrality was the unwritten holy dictum: Liars were not “liars,” lies were not “lies,” and “lying” was not a campaign strategy.

Four years later, the L-words are de rigueur—as accurate descriptives for a political era of libel, slander, mendacity, and internet propaganda masquerading as news. Especially given the pathological prevarications of Donald J. Trump—the New York vulgarian, television mogul, and Kremlin-approved president-in-waiting—past euphemisms such as “misspoke” and “exaggeration” and “political rhetoric” simply don’t cut it this season. Thus, the linchpins of polite media are forced to engage in blunt clarity: liars are now “liars,” lies are now “lies,” and lying is “lying.”

Mainstream media doth evolve, however slowly.

But another element of holy writ remains in force: Establishmentarian bugles such as New York Times, the Washington Post, and the television networks may not apply the word “stupid” to the 62.9 million Americans who voted for a pathological liar—that particular L-word being the least offensive item on a long list of Mr. Trump’s deficiencies of character and deed. This year, the media’s most popular euphemistic weasel words indicating The Stupid are “low-information,“ ”gullible,” “ill-advised,” and “poorly educated.”

Among those tens of millions of poorly educated et cetera are the people of Clay County, Kentucky, population 21,013. According to the Census Bureau, this sorry place in the coal-packed hills of Appalachia is the poorest community in the United States. As such, its denizens are desperately dependent on what little in the way of food, shelter, and medical attention the government provides—along with monthly cash pittances for the elderly under the Social Security program. These poor folks—94.7 percent white, mostly tenants living in flimsy trailer homes—awarded 89 percent of their votes to a lying billionaire who, during his entertaining if not edifying campaign, posed as a foe of Wall Street greed and a tribune of “the forgotten men and women of this country,” as he called aggrieved people he’s never known.

Yet now, as I write, Mr. Trump is busily staffing his incipient regime with fellow millionaires, billionaires, and right-wing ideologues who promise to slash federal funding that sustain the voters of Clay County and their families, and to convert the Social Security trust to “private accounts” administered by the vampires of Wall Street eternally in search for fresh blood.

When interviewed by National Public Radio, the Clay County residents said they preferred Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton—candidate of the Democratic Party, which since the 1930s initiated every subsistence program upon which they and their children rely—because of the liar’s cryptic campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again.” A rallying cry they could not define, actually; no more than anyone else could, or would.

Political scientists say the slogan is Mr. Trump’s hush-hush-wink-wink support for an old-timey notion that black folks should know their subservient place. Social scientists suggest that the slogan resonates with a classic distrust of “outsiders” by homogeneous Kentucky mountain folk. This means Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, African Americans, East Coast intellectuals, and “fer-ners,” as non-locals are generically known.

To call the voters of Clay County stupid is impolite and uncharitable. Indeed. But it is forthright, and probably necessary as a wake-up call to poor white Trump voters to try thinking anew: to act in the logical cause of self-interest. In Clay County—and elsewhere in the great swath of white America still vexed that a smarty-pants black man has been president these past eight years—the alarm might begin with a frank understanding of cognitive impairment driven by the fears and resentments of what plutocrats call the “little people.” Suckers, in other words, who fall for loudmouth politicians playing to their insecurities—externalized in racism, anti-Semitism, anti-intellectualism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and vaginaphobia.

After taking these brave steps into the sunshine of acuity, Trump voters might then recognize the basis of all brands of bigotry: plain old stupidity.

But never mind. Mainstream media are not yet allowed to spark evolution by speaking ill of determinedly dim-witted white voters who fell sway to Mr. Trump’s retrograde campaign. Voters whose average yearly income is $55,000 (€51,650), according to the Census Bureau; voters who countenance a yet-to-be-completed presidential cabinet of tycoons holding an aggregate worth of at least $35 billion (€33.14 billion), according to a Forbes Magazine analysis, making it the most outlandishly wealthy cabinet in U.S. history.

But some of us American scriveners swim in an alternate stream. We apostates view the November election result as an abomination that largely happened because of plain old stupidity. And that beyond his clownish drag—baggy suits and extra-long garish neckties draped over a cheeseburger gut, absurdly coiffed hanks of spray-and-fluff golden hair, a face the color of butternut squash, the impulse control of a horny adolescent boy—next year’s president, God help us, is a repugnant liar risen from a swamp of corporate fraud, an incurious oaf bumbling headlong into an American version of European fascism.

We were duly warned of this by an infinitely finer American, a man of influence at the helm of an influential publication—Norman Thomas (1884-1968), socialist editor of The Nation magazine. Back in 1935, he wrote, presciently:

[F]ascism is capitalism with a new mask…it is dangerous precisely because it begins as a revolt of the little man against the plutocracy. …Fascism is an expression of a cultural as well as of an economic revolt of a class [that] feels itself menaced at once and the same time by the plutocracy and the proletariat.

Donald Trump’s victory was a horrid surprise to those who overestimated the American polity, myself included. Nearly half the country selected a man of no previous political experience, an impressive history of business flops, an alarming appeal to nazis and white supremacists, an advocate of torture as legitimate punishment, a man whose endlessly crude remarks attack women, racial and religious minorities, and journalists who fail to flatter him.

The electoral might of American dunderheads is stunning, and soul-draining. They have exhibited the discernment and cogency of chimpanzees. In this space, for the duration, they shall be known as “Trumpanzees.”

The distinguished television reporter Christiane Amanpour, globetrotter extraordinaire, is scarcely less contemptuous of those attracted to Mr. Trump. Drawing from her experience in covering autocrats around the world, she sees beyond a given strongman’s laughable caricature to the distinct possibility of his terror. It is essential to democracy, she believes, that we take note of historical repetition: In the wake of imperious absurdity—as when Donald Trump, during one of his late-night Twitter tantrums, blamed media for “inciting” nationwide and worldwide protests against him—there is likely to arise dictatorial danger.

Ms. Amanpour said as much during this year’s International Press Freedom Awards dinner, held here in New York on November 22. On that glittery evening in the elegant banquet room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Ms. Amanpour issued to us inciters a journalistic call-to-arms:

“I believe in being truthful,” she said, “not neutral.”

She spoke to a fear of and revulsion for the triumph of the Trumpanzees, driven to a frenzy of foul dudgeon by their candidate’s eighteen-month campaign of fablisms, threats, and denunciations:

We are not there yet, but [we] in this room…know only too well: First the media are accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating—and then suddenly they find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives. And then they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prisons—and then who knows what? …That is how it goes with authoritarians around the world, like Sisi, like Erdoğan, like Putin, like the ayatollahs, Duterte in the Philippines…

We cannot continue the old paradigm; we cannot, for instance, keep saying—as it was over global warming—that factual evidence is given equal play with a tiny minority of deniers.

I believe we must stop banalizing the truth. …We have to be prepared to fight especially hard right now for the truth because this is a world where the Oxford English Dictionary, just last week, announced its newest word—“post-truth.”

Lies are the backbone of Donald Trump’s ascendance in the worlds of real estate and gimcrack merchandising—and now politics. Where he once swindled bankers stupid enough to provide him capital for undertakings that wound up in Bankruptcy Court, he has now swindled Americans stupid enough to give him their votes on Election Day.

trump6—Stupid enough to trust him, knowing full well that he was obliged to answer to a pending class-action lawsuit in a California federal court charging him with racketeering and fraud. Ten days later, the scam known as “Trump University”—a defunct get-rich-quick hustle, in which hundreds of suckers were relieved of as much as $35,000 (€32,900)—was settled. Mr. Trump agreed to pay out $25 million (€23.5 million) in return for no admission of guilt, a concession considered prosecutorial stupidity by many in the U.S. legal academy.

And due to the national stupidity of holding fast to a murky, idiosyncratic, eighteenth-century presidential election process, we have this year a grossly undemocratic result. While Hillary Clinton won 65,746,544 million direct “popular” votes to candidate Trump’s 62,904,682—a plurality for Mrs. Clinton of more than 2.8 million—The Donald won the indirect “Electoral College” tally, 306-232. (Don’t ask. It’s senseless.) Needless to say, the truth-challenged Mr. Trump touted his victory as a “landslide.”

David Dunning, a retired professor of psychology at Cornell University in upstate New York and visiting scholar at Germany’s Universität Mannheim and Universität zu Köln, offers a useful definition of political stupidity. He concludes that the problem of a rueful choice at the ballot box “isn’t that voters are too uninformed,” he wrote in Politico Magazine, “it is that they don’t know just how uninformed they are.”

With reference to his recently conducted study on the subject, Mr. Dunning added:

[P]eople with severe gaps in knowledge and expertise typically fail to recognize how little they know and how badly they perform. …[T]he knowledge and intelligence required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task—and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at that task. This includes political judgment.
[W]ell-informed voters accurately endorsed true statements about economic and social conditions in the U.S.—just so long as those statements agreed with their politics. Conservatives truthfully claimed that the U.S. poverty rate had gone up during the Obama administration; liberals rightfully asserted that the unemployment rate had dropped.
But both groups also endorsed falsehoods agreeable to their politics. Thus, all told, it was the political lean of the fact that mattered much more than its truth-value in determining whether respondents believed it.
Given all this misinformation, confidently held, it is no wonder that Trump causes no outrage or scandal among those voters who find his views congenial. All it took was a candidate to come along too inexperienced to avoid making policy gaffes…It’s not a surprise that someone trying out a brand new career at the presidential level would make gaffes that voters, in a rebellious mood, would forgive—but more likely not even see.

In March 1955, Alfred E. Neuman made his début in Mad Magazine—as a jug-eared, gap-toothed cartoon goof designated as the satiric journal’s “house idiot.” Alfred, as is plain as day simply by looking at him, believes any ludicrous lie that he’s told—much as Donald Trump’s fawners. The falsity of what he hears never bothers Mr. Neuman, whose classic rejoinder to prima facie absurdity is always and forever, “What, me worry?” Consider merely three of The Donald’s worrisome whoppers, delivered over the past year:

  • From his fifty-eighth floor penthouse on Manhattan’s east side, he witnessed what no one else in the world seems to have noticed: “thousands” of Muslims on tenement rooftops a mile away in New Jersey, on the opposite side of the Hudson River from New York, “cheering” the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001. (We are left to presume Mr. Trump’s talent in identifying religious affiliations on sight, and from a significant distance.)
  • The father of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a rival of Mr. Trump in Republican preliminary contests leading to Election Day, was a shadowy conspirator in November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are “co-founders” of the Middle Eastern terrorist group Da’esh (known in the U.S. as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS).

Any one of the foregoing falsities would have sunk the elective hopes of any veteran politician hungering for any public office anywhere in the land. But as Mr. Dunning suggests, The Donald was given a rookie’s break in his improbable aim for the top of the political food chain. The pending liar-in-chief has the knack, or the luck, of appealing to tens of millions of Alfred E. Neumans.

In light of the situation, I make a modest editorial proposal to the editors of Mad: When writing of the Trumpanzees’ inevitable discovery that not all their dear leader might say is truthful, provide them with the grace and good humor of a Neumanesque catchphrase of self-recognition—“What, me stupid?”

Trumpanzees are hardly the only dim-bulbs populating the American political landscape. Choices announced for the Trump presidential cabinet constitute a parade of the prodigiously stupid. Try these few deplorables:

  • trump9Congressman Tom Price of Georgia, nominated as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Price is active in the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a fringe group of right-wing doctors. The association holds that government involvement in health matters is “evil” and “immoral,” and rejects required vaccination programs for schoolchildren.
    In particular, Mr. Price and his comrades despise President Obama’s signature domestic achievement—the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, a tepid first step toward universal national health insurance. Dr. David McKalip, head of the AAPS Florida chapter, demonstrated that sentiment with a racist image of the president that he circulated on a Tea Party listserv in 2009 (above right).
  • Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn of the U.S. Army, appointed national security advisor. Like Mr. Trump—whose Secret Service code name, I suggest, should be “Twitter Fingers”—General Flynn is fond of promoting preposterous conspiracy theories in tweet format. A theory du jour that he endorses: Hillary Clinton operates a child sex slave ring from the basement of a Washington pizza parlor. Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, who once applauded Mr. Flynn’s appointment, now characterizes his colleague’s belief as “bordering on the demented.”
  • Ben Carson, the retired brain surgeon nominated for secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A man of zero governmental experience, Mr. Carson’s Christianist bona fides include an oil painting of himself and Jesus Christ on prominent display in his home. The doctor has a unique view on homosexuality as a lifestyle choice rather than an inborn disposition: “A lot of people who go into prison straight and when they come out (sic), they’re gay,” he said in a televised interview. “So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
  • Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama, named U.S. attorney general. A staunch opponent of climate change research and human rights in general, Mr. Sessions (who appears to be Alfred E. Neuman’s silver-haired uncle) was rejected for a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for Southern Alabama in 1986. The reasons: too racist, too politically unhinged. Among the things Mr. Sessions is reliably reported to have said, while in office as a federal prosecutor, was that two of the nation’s most respected legal advocacy groups—the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—are “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”

Then there is Stephen K. Bannon, named czar of political strategy for the Trump White House. In Hollywood, the Harvard-educated Mr. Bannon produced right-wing film and television propaganda. As a rumpled, whisky-breathed, right-wing journalist who seems to be hiding potatoes under his face, Mr. Bannon most recently presided, happily so, over Breitbart News, the online haven for authors of anti-Semitic and white racist screeds.

Bad enough that Mr. Trump’s appointees lack a desirable quotient of intellectual ability—or, in Mr. Bannon’s case, moral scruples. Several members of Congress, dominated by Republicans in both the Senate and House of Representatives, were on hand for the “Congressional-Clergy Town Hall,” held in the Capitol dome’s Statuary Hall in early December.

Prominent Republican pols attending the godly klatsch were the aforementioned Senator Cruz, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Representative Trent Franks of Arizona. Representative Barry Loudermilk of Georgia led a group prayer, after which Senate Chaplain Barry Black prophesied that a heavenly revival was about to sweep America—and that “it will commence in the halls of Congress.”

The vision roused the Reverend Dale Walker of Tennessee to concurrence with Chaplain Black: “If God rules in the halls of legislation, it’s the pulpit’s benefit of being there, being on site and standing up and speaking the law of God to our elected leaders and praying for them (sic),” sayeth the Rev. Walker. “It’s been the absence of the pulpits is the reason why Satan has ruled in the halls of legislation (sic).”

This solemn show occurs on an annual basis.

trump14Speaking of show, Donald Trump announced the other day that the presidency will be a part-time job for him, as he intends to stay on as executive producer of “Celebrity Apprentice,” scheduled for a return to NBC-Television next month. Hope Hicks, a Trump spokeswoman, told the Hollywood weekly newspaper, Variety: “Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it (sic) with Mark Burnett.” It would be churlish to begrudge Mr. Trump’s reaping yet another fortune via “Celebrity Apprentice,” but may certainly resent his doing so as a TV impresario with a White House address; it smacks of fellow tax-cheat and toothy TV personality cum politician Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr. Burnett, a British-born macher in the oxymoronic genre of reality-TV—“Celebrity Apprentice/starring Donald Trump” being a pioneer of the form—is at work on his newest production: a balls-out glitzy presidential inaugural ceremony in Washington on January 20. “The Inaugural/starring Donald Trump” will be broadcast live throughout the world so that all may behold the illusion of democracy that America has stupidly become.

—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag

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