The Apprentice

Watching the tragedy of Trump’s childlike oligarchy unspool is mesmerising. Like when you can’t help crank your neck to catch the car-crash you don’t want to see.

Richard Seymour does a majestic job deconstructing Trump’s language and rhetoric and the function of feigned imbecility, see ‘American Carnage’ in Jacobin mag. Seymour – who writes the blog Leninology – and wrote ‘Against Austerity’ –  argues that Trump’s use of simplistic “sixth-grade” grammar is no mistake and credits his advisers, Stephen Miller and the white-supremacist former chair of Breitbart, Stephen Bannon with the task of crafting his speeches, which he argues “sacrifices the rules of logical sentence construction in order to achieve a goal extraneous to sense-making.”

There is a right-wing tradition of “dumbing down” language that goes back to George Wallace argues Seymour:

“The phrases that his followers love — “beautiful,” “sad,” “America will start winning again,” “make America great again” — were all there, woven with the standard American lexis of “dreams,” “vision,” “destiny,” purple mountain majesty, shining sea, and the Creator, into a narrative of national decline and elite betrayal.”

Whilst the game of Trump-bashing must be forged into an actual resistance – and in Scotland a resistance to contagion – there is another problem, as critics of Bella like John Hilley point out.  If we focus solely on Trump’s exceptionalism we miss the continuity of raw US military imperial power and give a free pass to the Obama regime clouded over by a mist of Black Liberal Schmaltz. I’ll buy some of that, US foreign policy didn’t arrive out of the ether, but equally the danger of stressing continuity can be disabling if it just tricks us into thinking “nothing new here”, it’s just the same old USA just with a Lunatic Goofball in charge.

But there’s another aspect to Trump’s phenomenon that needs addressing besides his use of language.

What’s extraordinary about his ascent is the cultural role of businessmen in our society. Watching The Apprentice on either side of the Atlantic the same tropes are present: all-powerful, all-knowing businessman is treated like he’s a minor deity as he offers up bundles of cash as his sidekicks (Nick Hewer, Margaret Mountford, Karren Brady, Claude Littner) hover in semi-threatening guard-dog mode. The joke is often on the contestants who have pushed themselves forward in arrogant over-blown self-promotion, only to be shown unable to sell a hot-dog.

Sharp-suited Ego meets real-world and we all laugh.

In Scotland this obsession with private business and corporate aspiration has another element. It is used a s stick to beat the public sector and to deify and champion the private. It’s an endless well-worn path that seems to be immune to the tragedy and chaos of corporate greed and illegality. HBOS and RBS can run-riot, Philip Green and Mike Ashley are seen as, somehow, aberrations, rather than gilded success stories of a system they personify.

But amidst the sheer-awfulness of Trump’s opening weeks – he’s now being exposed (daily) as a sort of Apprentice loser.

If he was elected on the false prospectus of being a ‘deal-maker’ and a ‘great businessman’ – that as only possible because we have already swallowed whole the big lie that somehow big business and the Cult of the Entrepreneur are the wealth-creators in our society. That central myth needs to be undone and abandoned if we aren’t to have wave after wave of these clowns. Reclaiming ‘entrepreneur’ as an act of creativity and re-establishing that it’s peoples hard work that creates profit is key – alongside de-mythologising the role of Businessman as Leader.

There are two elements to this live exposure of the cult of business.

One is the sheer dark incompetence of the man, a sort of galling existential dumbness that goes way beyond any politics outlook known to mankind, like the motion to open up guns ownership to people suffering from severe mental illness or the revelation that Trump didn’t realise he was giving Bannon a permanent seat on the Nat Sec Council until AFTER he signed the Executive Order.

The second is that while his ‘drawn the swamp’ rhetoric have been contradicted by filling the swamp with Swamptrash, his policies are going to go down extremely badly with some of corporate America. Seymour agains:

“From the point of view of most of Wall Street and its allies, Trump is a disaster. He’s cancelled the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a neoliberal trading and property rights agreement with twelve Pacific Rim economies that was the foundation of Obama’s “pivot to Asia. Nixing the TPP (worth hundreds of billions of dollars to US capital) and disrupting NAFTA (worth over a trillion dollars in trade) to “renegotiate” it is an extraordinary step for any US president to take. Proposing instead a series of bilateral treaties, including with post-Brexit Britain, while quietly supporting the breakup of the European Union, is a serious attack on corporate profitability. Not only that, but it frees up China to expand and forge new alliances across southeast Asia.”

So while he’s floated into power on a raft made only viable because of the Cult of Businessmen, this Apprentice has a plan that will soon see low-pay and unemployed America punished like never before. Richard Seymour concludes:

“…the nature of Trump’s stimulus plan is glaringly apparent: he plans to cut $10 trillion in spending over the next decade, presumably passing the savings on to corporations and wealthy taxpayers. If Trump follows through, it will be austerity of the most savage kind. It will recompense corporations for lost overseas profits, at the cost of the social wage and social reproduction.”

Some of you who have been listening to Philip Hammond recently may find this familiar. Meanwhile the false-war against the media takes place is a misdirection. The US capitalist media aren’t the saviours, however much Kellyanne Conway grinds her face for TV comedy-effect or Sean Spicer entertains us.

If Trump fails and fails big as he surely will, either by impeachment, headshot or personal implosion it will not just be a spectacular personal failure, it must be utilised as a grand denouement of the entire failed system of capitalist egotism and the genuflecting to the business class.

As Trump arrives on these shores to be feted by the Queen playing Margaret Mountford to Prime Minister May’s Karren Brady, Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights, is the soundtrack to your life.

Turn it up.



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Comments (9)

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  1. c rober says:

    Business man – multiple bankrupt.
    Drain the swamp – hires more shreks.
    Pay their dues – hasnt paid tax in what 18 years.
    Make America great again – shuts down exports , building a wall for preventing cheap labour keeping the ballifs from south western states.
    Reindustrialisation- for the Americans to buy American again , which they rejected like the rest of the world , other than apple made in china , Microsoft and intel oligopoly being fraught off by open source and cheaper smaller chinese made devices running Android and home grown non intel chips.
    No more spending – wants to build a wall , increase the army – so a cool trillion or so in more debt to be kicked down the road , or to bully China and Japan into investing or buying up bonds.

    Frankly anyone whom thinks this guy is a successful business man is clueless , but then again he now has policy and legislation there for the trough to work in his , and his minions favor… Just like WM and the Tories with trade deals , housing and investment into Hs2 and privitising the NHS.

    So mibbe hes not that mad , or daft , and its just a veeneer , and the columbo effect.

    1. Patrick says:

      I tell you it is the end of the world, and you don’t believe!

  2. Alan says:

    I agree about the need to see both the continuities and discontinuities. For the latter see: The Making of Trump’s World View. Also see Trump’s Grand Strategic Trainwreck.

    On the cult of the entrepreneur see Davies on the “Schumpeterian-Schmittian idea of exceptional individuals”. (This is much expanded in his book on neoliberalism.)

    I think where I might disagree is that you throw out the word capitalism as if it were a thing. What has been covered by the label have been lots of different things and their transformations. And socialism, which has also meant many things, is not an problematic alternative. From a certain angle socialism and capitalism look the same. They both end up with one faction dictating to the many. A new politics is coming up with a balance between the individual and the collective, between creativity and rules, a politics in which one does not swamp the other.

  3. bringiton says:

    If Trump is serious about getting America back to work then he has to address the root of the current problem.
    Immigration is not responsible for taking jobs away from the indiginous population but global corporations are.
    He should pass a law that has a sliding scale of business tax designed to encourage SME expansion and discourage the American penchant for “big is beautiful”.
    This,at a stroke would employ more people and make it more difficult for businesses to have brass plate head offices in tax havens like London.
    The tax take for the USA would be increased,making public services more affordable.
    Not likely to happen however,given the corporate types he has surrounded himself with,so we will continue to see a race to the bottom in terms of a low wage,low tax take economy.

  4. Isabelle smith says:

    Great article ….as a resident alien or more politely called now a permanent resident, I cannot emphasis enough the dangers we face and it sickens me to see the UK GOVERNMENT toadying to such a democratic charade….I only hope the Scottish Goverment will set an independent example !!!!! On a lighter note I loved the images conjured up by the music ,Trump and the Queen ….she seems to be circling him !!!!

  5. Patrick says:

    Hi Mike Small, in this written you make honor to your dimension.
    “The phrases that his followers love — “beautiful,” “sad,” “America will start winning again,” “make America great again” — were all there, woven with the standard American lexis of “dreams,” “vision,” “destiny,” purple mountain majesty, shining sea, and the Creator, into a narrative of national decline and elite betrayal.”
    Friend, I will not defend the personage, however I do not like at all your disqualification
    Contemptuous Freedom does not come in grammar books, nor do the economic political problems
    Of the current world were created by people with a sixth grade English, on the contrary were
    Created by intelectualoides with excellent grammar and excellent diplomatic skills, perhaps
    That’s the reason we’ve been in all these war conflicts for 500 years.

    I do not believe in the bodies of intelligence either, because these bodies are full of idiots without culture
    Who do not know the difference between a Protestant Christian and a Catholic, or a Hindu and a Muslim, nor
    Between a progressive politician and a communist politician.
    Maybe for you too I am disqualified in this debate because very English must be fourth grade, although I am
    Able to read and understand yours, and you know why, simple I am a victim of the intelligence bodies and after
    Spend a few years under physical torture, and mental left me without the ability to write not only my second language
    If not also the maternal.

  6. john young says:

    And still here in wonderful N Britain the unionists close their eyesears to everything,they have no thought for their children/grandchildrens future,there is no understanding of this none whatsoever,they will not cannot move forward or seek new horizons,still belting out “Rule Britannia” and having the army shimmy down from the roof to ecstatic adoration,how fcuking embarrassing.

    1. c rober says:

      Demographic politics is the less murdery form of colonialism.

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