Why Trump is Machiavelli’s marshmallow and Putin is Machiavelli’s Prince.

At the Helsinki summit, critics have described Trump as weak. They have noted his body language, his behaviour, and his posture to argue Trump looked soft, weak, and outclassed by Putin who looked, solid, strong, and in control.

Trump’s defenders respond by saying that the critics project their own weakness and insecurity onto Trump. For Trump supporters, the President was in his element as he stood up to America’s “Deep State”. He showed them he is in control.

To judge the competing claims, we need a standard. One way is to compare how their audiences react. In many ways, we can see someone’s political or personal power by the way their audience react to them. A person can have institutional power that people respect. Or, they can have personal power that others respect. However, another measure of power is the ability to generate fear such as the physical fear that makes a person reflexively cringe or shrink before it. Finally, the truest, deepest, and most fearsome power is love. Love, not fear, endures as the greatest power. However, neither Trump nor Putin have ever been known to evoke love except, especially for Trump, a transactional “love”.

Putin’s power is on display when he holds Russian oligarchs to account for their failure to keep factories open. See this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_BQaV13C6o&feature=youtu.be

The powerful men in this meeting fear him. They know what he can take from them. He demonstrates his power, his anger, and presents a figure of substance as he radiates, in a barely restrained manner, his outrage on behalf of the people. His words and his behaviour show a man in charge, a man with authority. He does not ask for their support or their respect.

Trump’s power is on display with his meeting with Silicon Valley’s CEOs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oX_9yD2lN2g

No one fears Trump. Their posture and behaviour are of men who are more inconvenienced than concerned. Trump does not present a figure of substance or attention beyond an institutional sense what he can do for them, not what he can take from them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtVS0L-Ng4Q

Even though the situations are different, Silicon Valley is not a failure, the audience hardly hold him in respect, awe or concern.

Trump appears to confuse his ability to berate a subordinate like Michael Cohen with power. Trump demands praise from them in a transactional sense because his ego comes before any higher duty. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCMigZq0_zE

Putin gets respect because he knows how to appear to dominate the powerful on behalf of the weak.

Against this standard we can see who appeared calm, collected, and in control at Helsinki. Trump’s behaviour reflects his dependency on Putin for foreign policy successes to assuage his insecurity about the election. Trump’s deference is part of his New York political education since he thinks it means Putin will invest in Trump’s survival. That is, if Putin supports Trump he gets what he wants with less effort. Putin though will give Trump symbolic gestures in exchange for tangible rewards. Machiavelli’s Prince roasted a marshmallow at Helsinki.

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Posted in demagogic, democracy, politics, public opinion, reputation management | Tagged , , , , ,

Why Jim Jordan must deny he knew anything about the sexual abuse.

Jim Jordan has put himself into an invidious position. He denied any knowledge of the sexual abuse allegations by Dr Strauss. In the past, his denial seemed to keep the issue at bay. He did not remember the past the same way as others. Yet, the Michigan State scandal changed everything. After Dr Nasser trial and sentence showed the scale of abuse at Michigan State, Dr Strauss’s victims began to speak up. Once the school was contacted, it began to investigate.

Jordan must deny the claim because the alternative is politically, morally, and personally unpalatable.

If he had knowledge and failed to act, he is a moral coward who put his political ambitious before doing the right thing. He admits to being a less talented Edward Kennedy.

The only way he can explain why he did nothing is that he did not know. However, his defence is starting to crumble.

As more claims emerge to corroborate the original claim, it becomes harder to maintain his ignorance. The attacks on his accusers, the Dr Strauss’s victims, cannot save him.

For the public, his denials might work because there is no evidence beyond hearsay. Jordan benefits from being presumed innocent. However, his gamble that there is no evidence to support his accusers or to undermine his claims, is slipping.

As the Perkins Coie investigation continues, it is only a matter of time before contemporaneous accounts or official records emerges to cast doubt on his claim. If the investigators find an email, a letter, a memo, a statement in a grievance or a legal deposition, or even a diary entry, then Jordan’s defence disappears.

He must either continue to deny he knew anything or he must admit he knew and explain his failure to act. The former will only make him appear delusional. The Joe Paterno defence. Who can remember what they said or did 30 years ago? All politicians have a faulty memory when it suits. The latter is politically catastrophic. Even trying to finesses this by saying “There were rumours, but that is different from a formal allegation”, only makes it worse.

The failure to act is politically fatal. Even apologizing for it confirms his failure. Whether or not there was a formal allegation or a rumour, he was in a position of trust and authority. He failed to act, to do the right thing when he had the power to do it. Who can trust him to do the right thing? He did not challenge the powerful. He was craven when he should have been courageous. His failure to act enabled the abuse. He chose wilful ignorance.

No matter what happens, his character is defined. Jordan’s ambition, character, and cravenness have sealed his fate. He cannot say it isn’t deserved because there is no one else to blame but himself.

 

 

Posted in democracy, ethics, reputation management | Tagged , , ,

Daniel Morgan Inquiry and the million-page dodge [updated]

The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report is delayed again.[1] It began in May 2013 with the claim it would report in 12 months. Within that first year, the original chair resigned[2] and one of the panel members did not take up their appointment. These events delayed the panel’s work. Along the way, the Metropolitan Police and News International (the former parent of the defunct News of the World and now reborn as News Corporation[3]) were slow to provide documents.[4]

The panel, with a new chair (appointed July 2014)[5], began work in January 2015, but was delayed further. Over the next three years, other events created more documents. They had to review these documents. The panel estimates there are 1.5 million documents. The reason for delays is often explained as the number and complexity of the documents. The police claimed in 2014 that they had over a million pieces of paper.[6] In 2018 they reiterated this claim as one of the reason for the delays.[7]

One million pages of information might sound like a lot.[8] For someone familiar with records management and e-discovery, it is a small amount. In 2009, as US court directed Anton Valukas to investigate Lehman Brothers collapse. In a little over a year, he and his team published their 2,200-page report. To do this they had to access over 2600 different IT systems as well as interview hundreds of people. They had to review more than 3 petabytes of data. That is about 350 Billion pages. The Met’s pages are just over 1.5 gigabytes.[9] A petabyte is one million gigabytes.[10]

Even paper documents can be scanned into an electronic document records management system to be identified, coded, and indexed for searching and analysis. Such systems are common across the legal and investigatory world.[11] What is curious is that does not appear to be the case with the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel.  [Update 30 May 2018: The Papers have been digitised.] [The claim that a large number of documents is difficult to manage would make it appear] as if in the 21st century where the most advanced electronic tools are available we have the police and the Home Office working as if they were Bob Cratchit and Uriah Heep with a quill and ink pot.

When someone says they provided many documents, they want you to believe that the volume and complexity are the reason for delays. In this sense, it is a dodge. It is used to mask the reality that the documents contain embarrassing revelations and they provide evidence of deeper wider problems than the inquiry. For these reasons, there has been a delay not because there have been one million pages. Instead, there are other reasons which suggest that the Met is not minded to cooperate with the Panel in any way that does not serve its interests.[12] So, the next time you hear the police talk about one million pages you should think of this video[13] and treat the claim accordingly.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/28/daniel-morgan-new-delays-hit-inquiry-into-31-year-old-case

[2]http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/10807166.Daniel_Morgan_murder_review_panel_chairman_resigns/?ref=arc

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_Corporation

[4] As the Panel’s Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) page explains, there were delays:

“…the material requiring to be analysed was not made available to the Panel by the Metropolitan Police Service and others until after the beginning of January 2015, some sixteen months after Panel members were appointed.”

https://www.danielmorganpanel.independent.gov.uk/?s=faq  Alastair Morgan, Daniel’s brother, had to write to Rupert Murdoch in 2015 to encourage News International’s cooperation. https://fothom.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/daniel-morgan-letter-to-rupert-murdoch-28th-anniversary-of-dm-murder-rev-rb.pdf

See also https://www.exaronews.com/daniel-morgan-murder-scotland-yard-obstructs-panel-inquiry and https://www.exaronews.com/daniel-morgan-inquiry-panel-poleaxed-by-row-over-police-files

[5]

“A number of events occurred during 2016-2017, including the hearing at the start of 2017 of a civil action by Mr Jonathan Rees and others against the Metropolitan Police Service. A trial was held and findings made by the court and, as a consequence, additional documentation was received by the Panel during 2017, which then had to be considered in depth. The Panel is also now considering a large volume of material which is being incrementally provided to the Panel during 2018.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/appointment-of-baroness-nuala-oloan-of-kirkinriola-as-chair-of-the-daniel-morgan-independent-panel

[6] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/exclusive-more-evidence-of-police-corruption-relating-to-britain-s-most-notorious-unsolved-murder-9239662.html

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/28/daniel-morgan-new-delays-hit-inquiry-into-31-year-old-case

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/28/daniel-morgan-new-delays-hit-inquiry-into-31-year-old-case

[9] https://catalystsecure.com/blog/2011/07/answering-an-e-discovery-mystery-how-many-documents-in-a-gigabyte/

[10] http://www.theposselist.com/2010/03/20/the-valukas-report-on-the-lehman-brothers-collapse-and-e-discovery-stratify-and-caselogistix-win-the-day/  see also http://www.theprojectcounselgroup.com/2010/03/20/the-valukas-report-on-the-lehman-brothers-collapse-the-e-discovery-aspects/

People cooperated with the review because the legal power behind the review. The people understood the rule of law and they respected. Even though Barclay’s which had taken over Lehman Brothers holdings had confidential documents within those systems they were able to quickly agree an approach to compartmentalizing those documents to preserve and protect their interests.

[11] https://www.legaltechnology.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/eDisclosure-Systems-Buyers-Guide-2018-V6_0.pdf is probably the best free buyers guide you can find on edisclosure (UK) or edisovery (US) systems. Please note that e-discovery is not the same as e-disclosure even though they are often used to describe similar practices they are different in law and in their implications. http://www.mondaq.com/uk/x/626152/disclosure+electronic+discovery+privilege/Civil+litigation+Discovery+is+not+the+same+as+Disclosure+forensic+eproviders+please+note

[12] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/exclusive-more-evidence-of-police-corruption-relating-to-britain-s-most-notorious-unsolved-murder-9239662.html

[13] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJR1H5tf5wE

Posted in accountability, democracy, police | Tagged , , , ,

The Trump leak saga continues

Axios published a story that recounts the president meeting with his communications staff after the inappropriate McCain comments were leaked.[1] At the meeting, his staff accused each other of being a leaker and the story leaked.[2] None of this is new. None of this is surprising.

Trump wants this drama. He encourages the leaks, the infighting, the intrigue. He knows they keep attention on him. Trump is the man who isn’t a president in real life, but he plays one on TV. He lives in a reverse Truman show where only he knows the script and everyone else is being manipulated.

We know that Trump leaks. He talks to reporters regularly. He loves the power that comes from the fact that everyone wants access to him. They will do anything for it and once they have it they will do anything to keep it. Trump insults a reporter yet they continue to gain access and desire access. They know he sells their product. Trump loves this type of power, yet, he does not understand political power. He understands how to create group loyalty to give him the appearance of personal power but cannot translate that into institutional power. By contrast, Lyndon Johnson was less interested in group loyalty as he was in political power, the institutional power that makes him effective.

Like Trump, Johnson wanted to be the center of attention. He craved public acceptance and most importantly the acceptance of the DC elite. Like Trump, he was considered crude and ill manner. There is an important difference though. Johnson wanted to wield political power. He wanted to change the country and he succeeded. He reshaped the country in his image by giving the people what they needed for he had lived as they had. He had grown up poor. He was not there to serve his supporters, his political party, or himself, he was there to serve America. He knew that his legacy would be the common good that he created. Trump, lacks both the vision and understanding as he pursues a private good that rewards his family first, then his business associates and finally, his supporters.

Trump’s greatest success, his tax plan, came more from what Congress wanted than he directed. The event was stage managed as companies who received billions in tax relief giving thousand-dollar bonuses to their employees. The tax benefits are best for Trump’s immediate supporters but only for the common good indirectly. He has not remade the country so much as re-mortgaged it.

Trump wants the leaks and most importantly the *stories* about the leaks to keep his supporters engaged. Their group identity is reinforced with each tweet. They believe there is a deep state conspiracy[3] behind the leaks with the media trying to destroy Trump even though he courts them, talks to them, and most importantly leaks to them.[4]

Johnson never confused the game[5] for the goal. Trump has. America is poorer for it but Trump and the media makes billions from it.[6]

 

[1] Here is the story about the meeting to discuss the leaked story. https://www.axios.com/oval-office-leak-kelly-sadler-mercedes-schlapp-trump-0b622aa7-6719-47f0-89eb-8d12008f7cd9.html Here is the meeting about the leak that leaked. https://www.axios.com/white-house-sarah-sanders-john-mccain-kelly-sadler-8a4e33f7-c2bd-4cc6-aebd-57594d7ab4f4.html this was based on leaked comments by Kelly Sadler who made an inappropriate remark about Senator McCain. http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/387182-white-house-official-mocked-dying-mccain-at-internal-meeting

[2] It is rather curious that Trump left the Oval Office door open during the meeting.

[3] https://www.ft.com/content/0537407a-5cd6-11e8-9334-2218e7146b04 Trump encourages this belief. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/936037938898636800?lang=en

[4] Trump is the first WWE president. https://mediameditations.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/trump-as-the-wwe-president-it-is-all-a-show/

[5] Johnson understood the media and courted it aggressively. Here he is smooth talking Katharine Graham of the Washington Post. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4k-eWym-fY As well as other media figures. http://www.historynet.com/lbj-meets-press.htm

[6] https://www.theepochtimes.com/legacy-media-outlets-are-making-a-killing-off-trump_2230478.html

Posted in demagogic, democracy, ethics, public opinion, reputation management | Tagged , , , ,

Thoughts on the “Internet Apologizes”

These reflections are a response to this article: http://nymag.com/selectall/2018/04/an-apology-for-the-internet-from-the-people-who-built-it.html

Once again, we find technologist evangelists waking up to good and evil. Yet, none have returned what they have gained from touting their utopian vision. The great and the good prided themselves, in an almost Frankensteinian fashion that they knew better and they could master nature. They gave no thought to the warnings of Ancient political philosophy or the Bible regarding the dangers of tools unmoored from moral-political supervision.

Even a cursory read of Heidegger’s Question Concerning Technology should have been sufficient to warn these “evangelicals” of what they were doing.

Yet anyone who opposed them or warned that such inventions required moral political supervision were dismissed as luddite, reactionaries, know nothings, bigots and haters resistant to the glorious paradise of technology that awaits. Even now, they throw their political weight against anything that appears to be a moral-political supervision of their technological inventions, their lifestyle, or society.

Now they want to be on the vanguard of a technological self-confession touting their jeremiads to suggest that a capitalistic monster turbo charged on the anabolic steroids of technology will suddenly grow a conscious? You got yours and now you realize it is a bad thing for everyone else?

The system is designed by *intent* to maximise its ability to exploit the human person. It exists to extract everything from the user, monetize it and sell it all under the guise of “convenience” and “service” and “efficiency”. The perfect eating machine designed with one purpose–consume man as a moral-political being.

But now, you want the world to know you’ve grown a conscience as you become dimly aware that moral-political supervision might be needed *but only to salve your conscience and protect your profits, * not because you believe in moral-political supervision.

And they’re going to stop it after profiting from it for the last 30 years and encouraging everyone to embrace it, invest in it, believe it and punish those who resist it, question it, caution it, or challenge it? More gruesomely, after designing products and processes with the intent to *addict* people to them, where you have people in your companies whose sole purpose at the company is to make the product *addictive* or find out the potential to exploit the emotional content of what a user posts, you want it all to be “better”? Even as you aggressively, unceasingly, push this addictive, technology into every home through voice, location, and emotional surveillance systems? You want to say sorry and feel better about it.

Good luck.

For those of us lucky enough to come of age before the web, our legacy will be to tell our descendants; we were free once.

 

Posted in accountability, demagogic, democracy, public interest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump: A man they did not fully understand.

Why do Christian Evangelicals support Donald Trump? Some people argue it is transactional; he delivers what they want. Others see him as figure of America political theology. He will connect political power and theological transcendence. avatar. An alternative view is that they support Trump because he upsets their “enemies”. A very small group argue that Evangelicals support him because he appears to embody prosperity theology. They support him because they accepted what he appeared to have: power, success, and wealth.

I want to suggest a different view. My view is not complicated, it is not elaborate, it is taken from the film The Dark Knight. The Christian Evangelicals turned to a man they did not fully understand.

They turned to him because they have been squeezed, threatened, bullied, intimidated. Those who deny their faith, denigrate their beliefs, and disparage their way of live have used the presidency and the law as a weapon against them. Even if they lost the public debates, they could still expect the law to remain neutral or at least an honest broker. For decades, Fox News and other outlets, in particular the preachers, have sown fear that “liberal elites” would use the government, the law, and the courts as weapons to persecute them. Obama and his supporters did not disappoint. From his campaign rhetoric about guns and religion to his decisions in office, the caricature that Fox News and the preaches have warned about became an apparent reality. For Evangelicals, political events such as Obergefell v Hodges, and the transgender bathroom policy proved the law and the government were now a weapon.**

In their fear and hope, they turned to a man they did not fully understand. If the President and the law were going to be used against them, then they would use them to defend themselves. They turned to Trump despite his obvious flaws, immorality and injustice. Who else spoke to them? Most importantly, who spoke of fighting fire with fire? No other candidate spoke the unambiguous rhetoric about Christian values, spoke to their fears, and above all convinced them that he would fight fire with fire. Trump’s uncanny knack of knowing the fears that he must speak to within his supporters found a ready audience within Evangelicals.

He might be flawed, we might not like him, but the danger we face requires us to turn to him. Americans need to consider: how did the country get to the point where an election could be understood as an existential battle for survival?

A country founded on religious freedom, tolerance, and the common good appears to be one where religion is persecuted, tolerance an excuse to oppress, and the common good a swindle. Even if this appears to be an exaggeration, for many people it is a reality they see confirmed in the media and the pulpit every day. Instead of asking why the Evangelicals supported Trump, you need to ask “what alternative did you they think they have?”

Unless you find an answer, you will get worse than Trump.

 


**Even though these claims distort reality, the public rhetoric has shaped how people perceive that reality and thus distort it if not replace it with one preferred by those who promote the rhetoric either out of goodness or malevolence.

Posted in bias, democracy, journalism, politics | Tagged , , ,

Pornhub: You are the product.

“Our program boasts some of the highest payouts across the entire industry, paying out approximately 90% of the ad-revenue earned. Many of our models use Pornhub not only to make ad revenue but also promote their subscription websites, paid snapchats, cam shows etc. and end up building huge fan bases across all their platforms.”

https://www.polygon.com/2018/3/24/17159474/pornhub-gun-videos-youtube-alternative-platform-ad-revenue

Forget the Facebook, the future of media and work is this business model. The only difference is that you, the content producer, can actually profit from it instead of The Facebook.

The profit margins will diminish rapidly as content saturates the market, but until then there is money to be made. The business model is viable as long as you leave out any moral or ethical concerns for the dignity of the human person. We’ve already done that so it is time to make some money.

What we see here is the logic of the social media market. The model also applies to other forms of labour since the logic overcomes any resistance to the moral or ethical nature of the human person.

Naked capitalism has arrived. You were warned it wouldn’t be pretty.

Posted in Uncategorized

If it is time to let Trump be Trump, who will he blame when it goes wrong?

Trump claims he will become the president he wanted to be but others denied him. His claim shows his uncertainty and inexperience. Instead of an answer that reassures us, it provokes more questions. First, if Trump was unable to assert his will as president what does that say about him? Second, if he wants to blame others, why were they able to thwart him? Third, if others could convince him to accept cabinet members and aides he did not want, then how will he resist those who try to persuade him in the future?

Trump will be Trump. He now feels or believes that he can act as he always wanted to act but others denied him this freedom. For that reason, his choices will receive more attention since he cannot claim others who did not share his vision were at fault or contributed to the vision’s failure. If something does not work, who will be responsible? Tradition suggests that the president is responsible for what happens in his administration. However, Trump behaves differently for his approach challenges this traditional view of the presidency.

Trump appears to work by the principle that he asks his staff to perform and when they don’t they are at fault, but when they succeed he deserves the credit. Trump brings the idea of moral hazard to the presidency since he avoids any blame or criticism even as he reaps the public accolades for his staff’s success. By his ability to nullify President Harry Truman’s famous saying “The buck stops here!”, Trump transforms the presidency into something that serves him.  Truman served the presidency because he judged himself by what he did for the country not what it did for him or his party. He accepted responsibility and accountability. By contrast, Trump works to avoid responsibility and accountability. Someone else must be to blame.

If Trump wants us to believe that will can act as he always intended, then we will see how he matches his claim to be in charge with the equal if not greater claim someone else is to blame for failure. Although Trump can claim that others fail to deliver his vision, he bears responsibility for them since he chose them and provides the resources for their work. Can Trump flatter the public enough to accept that someone else must be to blame? Who else but Trump will be responsible for Trump? The traditional response would be the people, through the media and political institutions, but as long as Trump flatters them, the media and political institutions cannot make him responsible. He might make them feel better about themselves or accept why he cannot act, but only one question matters: Did Trump make America better? Right now, it seems the answer is no, but if he can blame someone else does it matter? If it doesn’t, then the idea of the common good, the idea of America, no longer exists because “us and them” replaces “We,the people”.

 

 

 

 

Posted in bias, demagogic, public interest, public opinion, reputation management | Tagged , , ,

Would Ivanka date her father?

We know that Donald Trump said he would date Ivanka if she was not his daughter[1]. What we do not know, as no one has asked Ivanka, is whether she would date her father if he was not her father?

What is surprising is that no one asked that obvious follow-up question. Perhaps the answer is obvious since Ivanka did not date or marry someone like her father. Yet, even that answer raises the question of why she subordinates her life to his since despite her marriage and apparent independence, she lives within his shadow.

With that question, Ivanka is in an invidious position. She knows she cannot publicly rebuke or repudiate her father even less so as a senior advisor to the President. As Trump runs his empire and family with the belief that he alone is worthy of attention and this has not changed with the presidency.[2] The Trump empire rotates around Donald. It is all about him and the children are accessories to his success.[3]

Donald Trump’s comments reveal as much about himself as what he expects of someone who looked like his daughter. What we don’t know is whether he expected her to understand men in the way that he appeared and behaved. Perhaps he made these comments to draw attention to himself and to pander to what interests Howard Stern and his audience. In this role, he might just play the outrageous jester to control the audience by his ability to flatter and provoke in equal measure.

If Ivanka were to answer that she would not date her father, even if he was not her father, it would suggest that she did not find him or what he represented as appealing. We are aware that Ivanka has not married someone like him and married someone closer to her age (Jared is a few months older than her). We might have to conclude that she remains faithful in her own smaller way to what her father’s behaviour taught her.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP7yf8-Lk80

[2] “The Trump Organization has a unique culture. Everyone calls the boss “Mr. Trump.” Employees often eat lunch at the Trump Grill, in the lobby of Trump Tower, which offers a dish called Ivanka’s Salad. The higher you get in the company, the more the family and business blur. Michael Cohen, the executive vice-president of the Trump Organization, told the Jewish Chronicle, “To those of us who are close to Mr. Trump, he is more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/ivanka-trump-and-jared-kushners-power-play

[3] “A Trump family friend told me, “It’s a close family in many ways—except it’s all about Donald all the time.” He went on, “Donald only thinks of himself. When you say, ‘Donald, it’s raining today,’ he says, ‘It doesn’t matter, I’m indoors.’ ” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/ivanka-trump-and-jared-kushners-power-play

Posted in politics

Saint Trump and Saturday Night Live

When Saturday Night Live (hereafter SNL) lampoons someone they exaggerate the gap between the person’s reputation and reality to reveal their identity. In this approach, SNL exaggerate some trait to show the person as ridiculous. For Trump, this does not work because the gap does not reveal Trump so much as understate him. The behaviour they show is Trump being Trump. More to the point, their lampoons do more to celebrate than criticise him. It is a perverse form of hagiography.

If SNL wanted a real lampoon, they would focus on the gap between Trump and a decent man. Trump’s leadership style reveals this gap. The President exists to serve the people, to represent them, and to shepherd them. In a word, the president works on the idea of servant leadership. By contrast, Trump does not practice servant leadership. Such an approach is antithetical to what he believes and practices. Followers exist to serve the leader. The nation exists to serve Trump.

The following question reveals the difference. Would Trump wash the feet of the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the immigrant? We cannot imagine that Trump would wash their feet. We can see Obama[1], Bush[2], Clinton[3], George H Bush[4], Reagan[5], Carter[6], Nixon[7], LBJ[8] and JFK[9] serving the poor. For those presidents who served in the military as officers, they understand that role or responsibility where they minister to the men who served them. Even without that military background, the men who came to the presidency saw themselves as public servants, conscious of their duty and responsibility.

If SNL wanted to lampoon Trump, they would show him

  • Being honest
  • Being just by paying what he promised.
  • Being faithful to his wife
  • Being a good father
  • Being respectful to women
  • Being compassionate to the weak, the immigrant, the poor, the vulnerable.

If SNL showed this gap we would see the horror of his presidency, but it would not be funny. SNL perpetuate the horror as they deaden us to Trump’s corrupt character. They habituate us to his excess not to decency. SNL profits from Trump and he knows it. In this, they are both the same.

SNL share Trump’s injustice, venality, and moral corruption. SNL want to be liked. Trump does not care. He thrives on the attention as it means you talk about him as your criticism reveals your hypocrisy or jealousy. SNL don’t want to be: just, respectful to women, faithful to their spouses, or good fathers. They both need the rubes, the uninitiated audience, to be those things so they can profit from them. Trump exemplifies what America now understand to be virtue: his success, wealth, fame, and sexual profligacy.

SNL will continue to make a saint of Trump because it serves them well. What they do not want to do is reveal their role in the deeper horror in America’s soul. If they reveal Trump; they reveal themselves; they reveal America’s diseased soul. Perhaps this is why no one finds it funny.

 

 

 

[1] Obama came to politics as a community organiser working in the poorest neighbourhoods to serve the most vulnerable and marginalized.

[2] George W Bush famously campaigned on the theme of “compassionate conservatism”. He is not one to glorify in prosperity gospel nor a brutal libertarianism based on economic and social survival of the fittest.

[3] Clinton is probably one of the most empathetic presidents of the modern era in his ability to connect with the public especially the weakest and most vulnerable.

[4] Bush, like JFK, served in the Navy. His upbringing had a strong ethos of public service.

[5] Reagan had a deep faith and served in the Armed forces. His belief in service can be seen in the event where African Americans were turned away from a local hotel and he invited them back to his home. His parents took them in for the evening and fed them the next day.

[6] Carter’s religious faith drove a deep public service ethos. Even though he was as calculating and politically savvy as any previous president, he presents the best example of faith in the office.

[7] Nixon as a Quaker was raised with the public service ethos. His military service reinforced this message and his political career though driven by an insatiable desire for success that would force those he saw as his enemies to respect him was one in which service to the common good was the measure of success.

[8] LBJ understood poverty and taught poor Mexican children so he understood public service. Even though he was driven by appetites that would consume Trump’s, he understood that his fame would come by his public service never by his private gains. There might be men who had greater wealth, but LBJ wanted to be the greatest president surpassing even FDR.

[9] JFK was a navy officer and his upbringing would have given the idea of public service even though he had his private vices. He understood that he had to respect the public decency.

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