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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