Thoughts on the “Internet Apologizes”

These reflections are a response to this article:

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.


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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.

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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.”

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.

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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”.





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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.





[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.””

[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.’ ”

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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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Facebook Employees need a reverse Voight-Kampff Test.

In the film Blade Runner, a test, the Voight-Kampff, is administered to potential replicants. It measures their blush response to questions that will elicit a strong emotional response.[1]

This brings us to the Facebook. Given the number of ethical lapses they have shown, in particular with the way they deal with children, we have to begin to wonder if they are human and not replicants. To be human is to have a soul and to think not calculate. As Hannah Arendt noted, when discussing the banality of evil, when we think, we become moral beings. Without that moral element, we cease to be human. When we stop thinking then we stop being human. It would appear that the Facebook prides itself on calculating rather than thinking.

We are told that the Facebook makes “mistakes”. Yet, each decision was done with intent. Those who designed the projects, approved them, put them into practice and monitored them, *intended* that they would:

  • Exploit young people’s emotional state to market products to them.[2][3]
  • Confirm that adults grooming children was *still* wrong.
  • Manipulate users’ emotional state to find out if it was effective so they could learn to do it better.[4]

When caught they say; “It was a mistake”[5]; “We will learn from this”[6]; “We will take on board ethical practices[7]”. These practices occur with regularity in a company that is supposed to pride itself on taking care of its users. The Facebook appears to exploit its users and harvests their privacy like a farmer harvests wheat.

When pressed, the Facebook will claim: “All our actions are legal.” They seem to forget the old truth that no matter how morally depraved or vicious an act, you can always find a lawyer who will ensure you do it legally.

What these “mistakes” show is a company, a culture, and a community that appears to have stopped thinking ethically. The Facebook employees have stopped thinking since they no longer question the moral or ethical content of what they do. As long as the Legal Department says, “It is ok”, they stop thinking and never ask, “Is this ethical?”

What we appear to have at the Facebook is ethical groupthink. The individual is no longer encourage to challenge such morally obtuse decisions. Instead, they are carried along by the organisational goals, the desire to succeed, and the need to belong. They exercise great influence over their users; do they see an ethical duty in what they do?[8] They make; organisational decisions, financial decisions, but do they make ethical decisions?

The Facebook employs America’s elite who are trained at America’s best universities. The university educates them as a good employee not as a good person. They leave with an ethical void that awaits its corporate content or soul.[9] By contrast, a true liberal arts education trains the soul. Yet, Zuckerberg famously never finished university. Therefore, if the Facebook wants to hire ethical employees, human employees, it needs the reverse Voight-Kampff test starting at the top.







[1] Tyrell:             Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil? Involuntary dilation of the iris?

Deckard:           We call it Voight-Kampff for short



[4] see also





[9] See for example Deresiewicz, W. (2014). Excellent sheep: The miseducation of the American elite and the way to a meaningful life.

The last time we had such hollow men in history was the Weimar Republic. They were formed by the educational practices that Nietzsche warned of 50 years before Weimar

Nietzsche, F. (2015) Anti-Education: On the future of our educational institutions. trans. Damion Searls ed. Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon,n Date: December 15, 2015

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Trump or America: crisis management as reputation management

As the White House reels from another Trump Twitter Tantrum™, we see how it might handle a crisis. The tantrums and related scandals are the practice runs for when a true crisis emerges. What we find, though, from these events is that Trump does reputation management not crisis management.

Trump knows how to handle a scandal since his career reflects his ability to manage his appearance. When we understand his intrinsic desire to manage his appearances we can see why those who have worked for the White House find it difficult to adjust. They are unprepared for evaluating everything through its effect on his reputation. Trump must “punch back” against any perceived slight to his reputation to shift attention away from the claim to his response.

In a crisis, the goal is not to protect the leader’s reputation. Instead, a crisis requires a leader to respond and it is that response which defines the leader’s reputation. However, a crisis is a shock to the body politic so a better public relations strategy is not enough.[1] Only the President can respond so they must act. Even though government agencies provide the response infrastructure, the President provides the leadership. When a natural disaster hits, FEMA[2] exists to deal with it. When America suffers combat casualties, the NSC[3] responds. Despite these institutions, only the President can express the nation’s mood.[4]

A President cannot substitute himself for the nation. If he responds to a crisis to protect himself, he will fail.[5] We can see this in how a reputation management strategy undermines the seven basic steps of crisis management.

Have a plan.

Trump’s latest tweet just blew it up.[6]

Be able to communicate the plan.

Sorry, Trump said something that contradicts it.[7]

Implement the plan.

Which plan? The one for the Monday scandal or the Thursday one which fell apart because of what Trump said on Saturday?[8]

Be able to answer questions about the plan working.

Ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she finishes finding out how to give a consistent answer about Rob Porter that will not have to be revised in a couple of hours.[9]

Update the plan as needed.

The White House Communications Director of the day does this hourly to deal with the latest Trump Twitter Tirade™.

Be ready to adjust the plan.

Trump changes his mind on major policies depending on the person who spoke to him last.[10]

Have someone publicly available to make decisions.

No one seems in charge because no one knows what Trump wants. The more unpopular the decision, the less Trump wants to be seen.[11]

To manage a crisis, a leader needs the best solution without regard for reputation. They rely on a structured method to discover and test different options about the reality of the situation through frank debate. If a leader focuses on reputation, they encourage groupthink[12] where advisors evaluate options, and each other, by what defends the leader best.

Can Trump put America before his reputation? The answer will define him and America.

[1] See for example Richard Nixon’s 1968 preface to his book Six Crises: “Lessons of Crisis”.




[5] When they are confused, the results are disastrous. Nixon confused reputation management and crisis management when he dealt with Watergate.







[12] “Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment” (p. 9).  Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.  A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.”

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Jessica Chastain and the gap between appearance and reality of Hollywood power.

Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them… Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XVIII

Just before Christmas the LA Times’ the Envelope interviewed six leading actresses. The interview was unexceptional in its questions or their responses. What was unexpected was the criticism that Jessica Chastain received when she tweeted a link to the story.

Chastain who often raises the issue of inequality within the film industry[1] was criticized for the all-white line-up.[2] She explained the industry had to become more inclusive. Women of colour were not represented across the industry which limits their chances to be a leading actress.

Aside from the mild criticism and Chastain’s adroit handling, the issue barely made a ripple on social media. What is noteworthy, though, is the public misunderstands power in Hollywood. They don’t see the gap between the appearance and reality of power.[3]

The public believe what appears to be power, a star’s popularity or status, is power. Actors, even the highest paid, are relatively weak as they lack power. Power in Hollywood is understood as the ability to “greenlight” projects. The person or persons who say a film can be made because they have the money or can arrange the talent and money to deliver the project are powerful. Such power can also stop or thwart projects or keep actors from working. From the days when studios blacklisted actors to Harvey Weinstein[4], power in Hollywood is as much saying yes as it is saying no.

Hollywood is a buyer’s market in that actors and even directors are in large supply and the money to fund their projects is limited. Contrary to what most people think the actor or actress have a low level of relative power. The real power is further up the hierarchy. The people, mostly men, who are in charge of studios or companies that can either green light a film or make an actor/actress available. The powerful are those who can connect the money, the talent, and the product. Actors or actresses have limited ability to challenge the system let alone change it.

If you want to change Hollywood there is little point in criticising or attacking those who have to survive in a buyer’s market. Instead, you should focus on the top executives and those who can greenlight films.[5] Lobby them and criticise their choices if you want to change the way Hollywood works since they have the power. Most importantly, if the paying customer wants a change, Hollywood will respond. Perhaps this is the deeper lesson, the paying public do not appear to want this change. The critics face a tough battle in that the executives have the market, the wider public, implicitly on their side.

If the public critics of Hollywood’s systemic inequality keep focusing on the appearance of power, they will not succeed. They need to learn about the reality of Hollywood power so they can challenge it and change it, which might make them realize that a focus on new platforms, like Netflix and Amazon Prime that challenge Hollywood’s power might be where change occurs.[6]

[1] See for example and and


[3] The same gap exists in Washington DC where the width of the gap and the ability to exploit it often indicates a political actor’s status if not survival.

[4] However, the actresses whose careers he appeared to thwart are making a comeback in Hollywood.

[5] The problem though is that these people are rarely in the public spotlight or amenable to public lobbying. They are insulated through their institutions and the Hollywood system from such lobbying. Thus it is easier for the public to criticize what they see and not what they don’t see or requires greater effort and insight to challenge constructively.

[6] This appears to be the case however, Hollywood has survived and thrived by its ability to adapt to both the market and the technology.

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A legitimate president knows “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”

Over the past year, we have been treated to, or rather forced to endure, the unsavoury aspects of a president’s personality. Over the past year, we have tweets and public statements that show us something that is usually hidden. We see a president’s feuds rather than his compromises, his grudges rather than his forgiveness, and his boasts rather than his humility. For his supporters he is telling it like it is. Yet, far from removing hypocrisy he wants to impose his own by replacing the presidential persona with his own.

The President’s behaviour is similar to Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon who were often crude, vulgar, and cruel in private. In public, they presented a different persona to fulfil their presidential responsibilities. They had to adopted a persona that respects common decency since the president is the highest public figure. They respected the office and its public role. They accepted its constraints. What the President has done is blur the two realms through social media and his own personality to avoid these constraints. In particular, he has done this to define himself against the media. The media upholds an expected presidential persona by holding him to account, which in turn filters his public persona to the public. However, the issue is not his struggle with the media nor is it the President’s unwillingness to accept hypocrisy.

To justify his behaviour, his supporters and defenders argue that presidents hide their private vices and that lie to the public with their public virtues. Robert Mercer, for example, claimed he funded Milo Yiannopoulos to attack what he saw as the hypocrisy of those who would shut down free speech in the name of political correctness. In this, though, he refused to accept a view that a society rest upon a shared or common opinion that has to be defended and is not open to “debate.” We can see this respect for the common opinion when previous presidents were genuinely embarrassed to have their private indecency revealed or known. They respected the office and the presidential persona. By contrast, the President broadcasts it, he is *proud* of it, and most importantly, he is celebrated for it by his supporters. They think this reflects the world as it is so they want the world to know he is crude, he is boorish, and he is vicious. Except it doesn’t. Instead, he manipulates the public with his behaviour. He does this for effect and to reshape the presidential persona to his ends, not the public’s.

The President’s behaviour means that his persona supplants the presidential persona. To do this, though he has to undermine any institutions, such as the press, that reminds the public of the presidential persona and the public good. The President and Mercer attack the press or common decency as “fake news” or political correctness so that they can redefine common decency to enhance, not resist, the President’s persona. If they succeed, a private good will supplant the public good.


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