This is why Trump calling Syrian refugees ‘dangerous’ is stupid and wrong

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You wake up and check Twitter, and see that the word #earthquake is trending, along with the name of some Japanese-sounding town you’ve vaguely heard of. You check the news on Google and see that it’s a big one – 8.2 on the Richter Scale (does it go that high?!), and it turns out that the epicentre was only a few kilometres away from the town. Hundreds of buildings have collapsed, including many that were supposed to be earthquake-proof. Tens of thousands of people have been trapped and hundreds of thousands made instantly homeless, and according to Reuter’s there’s a storm on the way. You wonder why storms so often follow earthquakes, and try to remember if your brother-in-law’s family have gone to China or Japan on vacation. Maybe you should call him to check they’re ok. But it’s 7.30am. What time is it in China? Japan? You keep reading and watching. The Government has swung into action, sending helicopters to assess the extent of the damage and digging and sonar equipment to rescue any trapped survivors. Neighbouring countries have offered to send help. On each link you click on the death toll gets higher. How dismal. Maybe you should donate. Money or blood. Red Cross. Money can be sent quickly. But blood? How do they…

You look on Twitter for a link to the Red Cross. To the left of the screen you can see that the earthquake is no longer the top trending item. It’s #Trump, and then #sendthemback. Your heart sinks. At a time like this? What’s he… you take a deep breath and click on the hashtag. There’s the story, from CNN. The President has tweeted about the Japanese earthquake. You’re surprised he’s managed to spell it correctly. He’s announced that the US will immediately be closing its borders to Japanese citizens, and will be ‘assembling’ those already in the US with a view to immediate deportation. He calls them ‘infected’, and says that Japan is ‘the world’s most dangerous country’. You rest your head on the keyboard and pray to whatever God might exist for the strength to get through another day.

We want President TRUMP, not “President Bannon”!

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Did you vote for this man to be President?!

Did you vote for Donald Trump to be President of the United States of America? So did hundreds of millions of your fellow citizens. They were inspired by his rallies, his crushing victories in the so-called debates and his simple but powerful message: Let’s make America great again. As a result, last November, through the medium of the electoral college and in the face of vast opposition from the liberal media and the political establishment in Washington, he won. He won the right to serve in the greatest office on the planet as leader of the free world and most powerful man on earth.

Who, then, is “President Bannon“?

That’s the name that’s been trending on Twitter all week. It’s also the man whose face you’ll see on the cover of this week’s Time magazine, accompanied by the headline ‘The Great Manipulator’.

That’s not what you voted for in December.

It’s not who you chose to be President.

Now, Donald made a smart choice in picking Bannon as his Chief Strategist. The man has a number of attributes which should appeal to any Trump voter. He’s fanatically racist, boasts an impressive history of violence against women, and has the face of a 75-year-old pedophile alcoholic priest. Such a man is ideally placed to be the second in command in Donald Trump’s administration.

But not the first. Not no. 1. After all, whoever he might be, Steve Bannon did not win the election. He wasn’t the man you chose to bring jobs back to America, frack under your houses and build a wall to stop Muslims pouring into the country from China. But if other countries hear the rumors that it is he, not Donald, who is leading the country, who is taking key decisions that it is the job of the President himself and alone to take, then they will not respect the man you voted for, and the libtards who were so shaken up by his historic victory* will continue to make out that Trump is little more than a witless, barely literate and probably incontinent orange-skinned frontman for far more powerful and shadowy forces.

Something is wrong, and something has to change.

It’s up to you to make that change. It’s up to you to insist as loud as you can that no one but Donald Trump, the man you chose to be President, should be sitting in the Oval Office ruling the country and the world, waiting for the phone to ring so Vladimir Putin can tell him what to do next. Bannon may the ideal person for running far-right fake news operations or managing the disposal of porcine waste on a major agricultural facility, but HE IS NOT THE PRESIDENT. So repost this article wherever you can. Get on Twitter and tell the world: Bannon must go. We want Donald Trump in charge of everything. At all times. No manipulation. No delegation. No advice on bewilderingly complex issues which would tax the expertise of even experienced politicians, let alone an overgrown fratboy sociopath who’s never read the Constitution, doesn’t understand the role of the Supreme Court and would struggle to locate the Washington Monument on a map.

If that means that Donald Trump should go without sleep for four to eight years, so be it. That’s what you voted for. Accept no substitute. Bannon must go. Trump must govern. Alone.

The hashtag to use is #TrumpNotBannon.

Let’s make this happen.

 

*Although not in terms of numbers of the popular vote, obviously.

No one expected the American Inquisition

There is a strong sense of a counter-revolution to what is being orchestrated from the White House.

What Van Jones, on the night of the election called a ‘whitelash‘ – a carnival of repressed racism in response to having had a black President – is actually much broader than that.

I wrote on the day of the inauguration that this was a climate denial coup. But actually they’re giving free reign to all the sadistic and self-serving whims of the most reactionary elements of the ruling elites, regardless of how chaotic the results may be. The last few weeks have seen the lighting of bonfires under regulations and laws guaranteeing public access to healthcare and education, protecting the environment from rapacious slash-and-burn corporations and the real economy from those who would gamble it away in an afternoon, safeguarding the rights of women, refugees, and so much more. Their project will involve, as Richard Seymour details, austerity of a savagery never before imagined. The political scientist Robert Nichols writes: “this is what the Trump administration represents: a coup d’état by the ultra elite billionaire oligarchs, who have effectively eliminated the political-managerial class that used to sit between us and them”.

One obvious analogy to all this is fascism. Hitler’s rise was partly the result of the failure of the socialist revolution of 1918-19. But in our search for historical precedents we can also go further back. The Portuguese historian António Saraiva argued that the Medieval Inquisition was an attempt to hold down a class on the rise: the new merchants who were challenging the power of the church and the aristocracy. That counter-revolution involved the imposition of violence and terror over several centuries.

What is the nature of the heresy that Trump and Bannon have been tasked with repressing? The targets chosen in these first few weeks tell us very clearly: it’s our right to a stable climate. It’s women’s rights to control their own lives. It’s all the civil rights that were won by those whose ancestors built America’s wealth with their slave labour. It’s middle-class aspirations to a dignified life. It is, it should be clear by now, all forms of what can reasonably be called social progress and it’s the very notion that those who weren’t born into the elite class deserve to have rights of any kind.

Orchestrating this is the Grand Inquisitor himself, Steve Bannon, the Torquemada of our times. The fact that he was previously employed overseeing a network of far-right websites presenting ideology as news is of huge significance. For while over hundreds of years the various Inquisitions around Europe imposed their control through torture and public burnings, their contemporary counterparts make use of a far more advanced tool of social control and repression. It was thanks to the internet that they were able to gain power (as Jonathan Albright explains) and it is through trolling and shaming that they will rule. The priests of this movement don’t wear cassocks and carry incense; they sport chinos and brandish iphone 7s, and they express themselves not through papal bulls but through photos with photoshopped slogans ridiculing all accepted beliefs except the one that says that the Holy Church of the Rich, Nasty and Profoundly Stupid is sempiternus.

The ideological psychopaths behind Trump, Putin and Brexit

I’ve seen several headlines comparing Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist, to the Mad Monk Rasputin, given the coincidence of their seemingly hypnotic influence over the country’s most powerful man and their apparent commitment to arcane forms of Evil. Rasputin also has a counterpart in contemporary Russian politics, in the form of Vladislav Surkov, ‘Putin’s grey cardinal’, a figure who, according to the Atlantic, “has directed Russian society like one great reality show”, often using bizarre means of discrediting anyone who stands up to the Government. A meeting between Bannon and Surkov would put Malcolm Tucker and Jamie from ‘The Thick of It’ in the shade.

Although Tony Blair’s Press Secretary Alistair Campbell was the model for Tucker, his bullying and lying could hardly be called psychopathic, and he seems to have been driven by loyalty and career progression rather than destructive zeal even as his dishonesty and cynicism destroyed the Middle East. The same could not be said for someone who, although he is no longer on the scene, has also had a decisive influence on world events: Dominic Cummings, former adviser to the failed Geek Emperor Michael Gove and, as head of the pro-Brexit camp in the Referendum, originator of the slogan ‘Take Back Control’. He has been described by David Cameron as a ‘career psychopath’ and by Rachel Johnson, sister of Boris, in similar terms. I urge you to read in full Pat Kane’s assessment, in which he calls Cummings an “intellectually committed chaos-merchant” and reports on his mission to subject all aspects of human behaviour (health, education, all public services) to the capricious and/or sadistic whims of the market. This may not suit everyone, but Cummings believes most of us to be a waste of education, as cognitive ability is primarily related to genes. This throwback to early 20th Century ideologies is currently off -stage, back to writing deranged screeds on his personal website, but the ideas he promotes are clearly of influence on a Government which has no better idea than rip-it-up-and-start-again.

Figures like Bannon, Surkov and Cummings may have different visions of a perfect society, but they share a commitment to elite rule and an idea of how to aggressively pursue it: by creating chaos, using what Rebecca Solnit (in one of the best assessments I’ve yet encountered of why Trump won) describes as ‘gaslighting’ to destabilise accepted values and undermine trust in established institutions. I found out about Surkov through Adam Curtis (a very skilled propagandist in this own right), who says that Surkov has “turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theater…(creating) a constant state of destabilized perception, in order to manage and control”*. This interest in disruption is something all ideological psychopaths share. An appropriate analogy might be that shaking a baby vigorously enough a) might somehow make it grow up quicker and b) will stop things getting boring. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that historical precedents to such projects lie in the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Khmer Rouge. Figures like Bannon, Surkov and Cummings also have literary antecedents. Kane defines Cummings as “a mercurial figure who could easily stalk the pages of the Booker Prize longlist”. After all, part of the thrill and success of the Booker-winning ‘Wolf Hall’ lay in Thomas Cromwell’s machiavellian machinations. Much of what I’ve read about the three ideological psychopaths in question reminds me of a quote from H.G. Wells’ Doctor Moreau:“Each time I dip a living creature into the bath of burning pain, I say; this time I will burn out all the animal, this time I will make a rational creature of my own.”

They also put me in mind of a series of characters in the later J.G.Ballard novels: deranged scientists and psychologists relieving suburban boredom and stress and shaking up bourgeois lives with doses of ultraviolence. The messianic tennis coach Bobby Crawford in Cocaine Nights (1996) oversees a crime wave in an expat coastal resort while arguing that ‘great men’ should live outside the law and crime can be encouraged as ‘a means to an end.’ Wilder Penrose in Supercannes (2000) is a psychiatrist who promotes psychopathy as a means of relieving stress. Millennium People (2003) features a charismatic and possibly insane pediatrician called Richard Gould, who stirs up his followers to bomb Heathrow, the NFT and the Tate Modern in a “search for meaning”, while in Kingdom Come (2006) Dr Maxted counsels of the need for “elective insanity” and foments suburban revolt based on sporting and consumer loyalties, arguing that: the future is going to be a struggle between vast systems of competing psychopathologies, all of them willed and deliberate, part of a desperate attempt to escape from a rational world and the boredom of consumerism”.

There’s also been a lot of talk over the last few months about tricksters: Pied Pipers who lead the masses astray. Ideological psychopaths seem to make use of charismatic leaders, or at least to put themselves at their service. They are often not the figureheads themselves but the powers behind the throne. The Italian populist leader Beppe Grillo keeps himself out of direct political involvement and tries to get someone else to do the dirty work (he’s not very good at choosing). Then there’s the question of which ideology they adhere to. Bannon recently claimed to have once been a Leninist but has very clear fascist and possibly Nazi sympathies. Surkov’s inspiration apparently comes from contemporary art, and both he and Bannon have been associated with the fascist Russian ‘philosopher’ Alexander Dugin, who believes Russia should provoke an all-out world war. As for Cummings, despite his intellectual posturings, he may be stupid enough to be a fan of that ultimate Godhead of failed teenage bullies with megalomaniac pretensions, Ayn ‘Medicare’ Rand. He is an extreme Neoliberal and a reminder that the origins of Neoliberal thought lay partly in nazi belief in the purity and goodness of elite power.

Another common comparison for Bannon has been Goebbels. The Nazi propaganda leader was notoriously interested in and inspired by mystical beliefs and occult rituals. The Trump phenomenon has partly been explained in terms of a hypnotic effect, not least by (stranger and stranger…) Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams. The (mock?) science of Neurolinguistic Programing may partly explain why, according to several reports, people went into Trump’s rallies curious and came out fuming. Conspiracy theorists find consolation in the belief that all world events, from Brexit to Trump to the war in Syria, are controlled by the CIA; it’s comforting to think that someone’s there behind the scenes watching and learning and will step in when things get out of hand. However, part of the immense value of Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ lies in its exposure and exploration of the chaos and vanity of attempts to control and learn from war, with its groups of scientists competing to use humans like lab rats.

One thing people like Surkov do is to learn from recent developments in marketing and apply them directly to politics. What’s happening politically in the UK, the US and elsewhere is by no means detached from what’s going on in the economy. We are subject to massive and increasing manipulation in the form of disruptive technologies, such as Airbnb and Uber, many of whose creators believe that disrupting settled industries and tearing up patterns of social behaviour is an end which justifies all means.

That ultimate agent of chaos Donald Trump certainly has a way with a crowd, but he’s also stupid and helpless when it comes to understanding world events. He watches the TV news and accepts the simplest and most misleading of explanations. He appears to have no-one to trust and doesn’t seem to have any idea what he’s doing beyond acting out his most sadistic impulses. It may be that he thinks Steve Bannon is his only friend. Bannon certainly appears to know how to manipulate his charge. The plot of this contemporary dystopian parable is starting to resemble Frankenstein, but in this version the Doctor doesn’t care about the consequences of what he’s created, and instead is urging the monster out of the castle to attack the village and take over the world.

Rasputin, of course, ended up being shot dead and thrown into a river, partly undone by his own drunken boasting. As for his contemporary counterparts, they may look and feel like protagonists making their own rules but in reality they are obeying deeper and darker forces which may well destroy them. All of them appear to be deeply narcissistic and probably enjoy being talked and written about, even though it’s public knowledge that Bannon is a wife-beating drunk, Surkov a failed novelist and pictures of Cummings show him posing like a pitiful pastiche of the Bullingdon crew. Maybe he was the one who cleaned up after their parties. Ultimately the three ideological psychopaths I’ve talked about here are not masters, but servants of (to quote Pynchon in ‘V’) a much more ominous logic.

* Curtis explores this in more depth in ‘Hypernormalisation’ (2016)

If you really want to bring down Trump, snap at his Achilles heel

The science-fiction author Philip K. Dick once wrote that “sometimes the only rational response to reality is to go insane”. Some experiences and threats are just too traumatic to deal with. Hence we use a range of psychological mechanisms to protect our sense of who we are and what we are doing from breaking down. One of the main ones is denial: we simply pretend that that which troubles us doesn’t exist. However, denying what we are scared to face has consequences which may be worse than the thing itself. Repressed fears can return as outbursts of rage against undeserving targets, fetishised stand-ins for whatever it is that we are avoiding.

I believe that the core appeal of the new far-right of Trump, Le Pen, Farage and so on is that it denies on our behalf things that we can’t face, and identifies simple targets against whom our repressed fears can be expressed in the form of rage. The list of things that supporters of such individuals systematically deny includes racism, rape, historical events, news sources, slavery, the holocaust, science,  and accepted facts in relation to all of the above.

How can I state the above with such certainty? In the spirit of honesty and not denying one’s own past, I confess that for several years I was in the very bad habit of arguing with supporters of Ukip on Twitter. In a bid to use the medium as something other than an echo chamber, I sought out people with opinions different from mine and tried to engage them in debate. One thing I learned is that such a  platform is not designed for and can’t really be adapted to support meaningful political discussion. The other conclusion I was forced to accept is that denial is the central platform of parties like Ukip. It was like doing a Master’s degree in Puerility and Obtuseness Studies. Not only did I see their supporters regularly deny all the things I listed above: I was also regularly part of interactions in which the other party would deny what they had just said, refuse to acknowledge a logical fallacy in their argument, ask for evidence of my points and then refuse to engage with the evidence I provided, and turn to personal abuse when all else had failed. Part of the problem with discussing politics on the Internet in general and Twitter in particular is that the other party can just disappear: they’re not responsible for defending the statements they’ve made or the claims of the organisation they’re supporting. This exacerbated the problems I experienced in trying to reason with people whose worldview denies reason itself.

All that I’ve described is united in one specific issue, one that I think enables and then excuses all types of denial. That, of course, is the climate. If you can deny Climate Change, you can deny anything. It helps enormously (and is absolutely no coincidence) that the leaders of new far-right parties are funded directly by the Climate Denial Industry. But the ideology of denial runs deeper than mere economic self-interest. We are all to some extent if not climate deniers at least climate ignorers. As I’ve argued before, we are all complicit in the conspiracy to cover up the facts about the climate. However, as abstract facts become manifest in our daily lives, as changes to our habitat become more apparent and less deniable, the pathology of the serious climate trolls is deepening and spreading to infect all other areas of human knowledge and seriously threatening everything that we take for granted, all the rights and forms of social progress that underpin our freedom and stable way of life.

The links between, on the one hand, those in the political realm who ridicule and censor our attempts to protect our living systems and, on the other, the economic interests that jeopardise our species’ survival are also becoming more explicit and less deniable. Anyone curious about Trump’s connections to Russia and what interests lie behind them does not need to go trawling through Wikileaks documents or hope that some hitherto unseen videotape comes to light. The fact that Putin has regularly been seen in the company of the man who Trump appointed his Secretary of State is troubling in itself. That his company (ExxonMobbil) has rightly been called the greatest criminal corporation in history tells us most of what we need to know about what is going on in international politics right now. Trump’s direct financial involvement in the pipelines he himself has authorised fills in the rest of the dots.

The reason that climate change is the Achilles heel of the new far-right is that it is only possible to go on denying these things if you are part of a psychotic cult, one which is led by a psychopath and whose principle purpose, whose golden edict, is denial. If you are not part of such a cult, the available facts speak for themselves, or at least they would if they were more widely acknowledged. The reason that the things I’ve described are not more widely discussed is because they have revolutionary implications for how we live. That’s why companies like ExxonMobbil, Volkswagen, Koch Industries etc have devoted so much money and energy to making sure that ordinary people are confused by basic facts about the climate, believing that there is doubt and ambiguity where there is none. But our own experience of the world has now reached a point where it is only by direct censorship and repression that the truth and its implications can be contained.

If we truly want to address the cause of the rise of monsters like Trump and Le Pen, we all have to become climate campaigners. They are strong because we are silent about what most scares us. If we, collectively, can break that silence then we can expose them at their weakest point. That means we need to learn and share as widely as possible the true story of the climate crisis, one which starts with very basic science and develops into the deadliest and most dastardly conspiracy in human history. It also means that we have to be open with each other about something that truly terrifies us. Although activism is in itself a form of therapy in that it transforms our perspective on our own situation from a passive to a dynamic one, it isn’t enough in relation to this issue. We also need climate therapy groups, in which people can be honest about their fears. To paraphrase Thomas Pynchon, we need to keep sane, but care. And we also need to make sure that whenever anyone is worrying or ranting about the dangers that Trump, Le Pen and their ilk represent, climate change is absolutely central to the concerns being expressed.

The ideology of the emerging Trump/Putin/etc cult is based on psychotic and puerile denial of the causes and consequences of changes in our climate. The most effective way to stem its rise is to break our silence about that terrifying subject and accept our adult responsibility not to let the most evil forces on the planet destroy the lives of all of our children – including, as of three days ago, my own.

Republicans have a duty to help get rid of Trump

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A week ago I wrote that ‘Donald Trump is going to snap very, very soon’, but I may have been wrong. In any case, there’s another possibility.

The Republicans who put him into power knew the risks of doing so. Three days after his ‘election’ I argued:

…the Republicans have anointed the worst white man in the world to replace the first black President. The problem they now have is that Trump is utterly incapable of governing. He is a man who will clearly be unable to master the complex tasks inherent to the job. Being President of a large powerful nation involves dealing with huge amounts of detailed information. Although there is some limited evidence that Trump has some ability to understand short written sentences, there is no way that someone of his *extremely* restricted intellectual prowess will be able to read the morass of documents he will have to handle on a daily basis, or even to understand the most basic gist when they are explained to him. There’s also the question of workload. Here is Obama describing an average day in his life as President. It’s demanding stuff, and the mere fact that the word ‘intelligence’ is used three times suggests strongly that the new President will struggle. By contrast, Trump’s typical day almost certainly revolves around a heavy schedule of cheating at golf, inspecting prospective line-ups of mid-teen prostitutes, spending seven solid hours on Twitter in an increasingly frustrating bid for ego-gratification, signing documents for buildings that he does not own, telling his children that they are worthless, and looking out of the window of his plane wondering why his own father hated him so much. Much has been made of his lack of political experience but few have considered the possibility that this is man so lacking in concentration and stamina that he has probably never sat through an entire episode of the West Wing. (Neither have I, but no one has suggested making me President.)

I don’t know the precise nature of Trump’s mental disorders. As I’m not a psychologist, I’ll just say he’s dangerously deranged. I know that his fellow Republican Paul Ryan is an admirer of Ayn ‘Medicare’ Rand, which according to my personal DSM qualifies him for psychopath status. However, I also know that not all conservatives are driven by the will to power and the eradication of the ‘weak’. They have values, believing strongly in the importance of duty, loyalty, faith, family, community, stability, and the Republic. Their notion of freedom differs from mine, and has been usefully defined as freedom from rather than freedom to. It’s a noble tradition, one which there’s some sign Mike Pence retains some respect for, despite his absolute contempt for more than half of the human species.

It is by no means impossible for liberals and those of us on the left to find common ground with conservatives. Please watch this 5-minute video by the climate campaigner George Marshall. It’s crucial to my argument and he explains it many times better than I ever could.

Climate Change is traumatic for people with a conservative outlook. It demonstrates that they were wrong about the free market and the supremacy of private self-interest over the private good. Naomi Klein explains this very clearly in ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate’. Many on the right have responded by going full-on psychotic in their denial of the facts.

Climate science is not the only thing that Trump’s administration is hell-bent on denying. It is also flouting basic constitutional rights and the political traditions of the United States in its pursuit of an openly sadistic agenda. Those who are not psychotic or driven by sadism, and who still respect the United States as an institution (as Trump clearly doesn’t), have to help get rid of him. I don’t know what form that will or should take. It would be good if grassroots Republicans could join the movement to resist the devastating (and probably illegal) changes he is imposing. Those who are in the centre or on the left need to be prepared to dialogue with them, using the techniques and language George outlines above. At the top of the Republican Party disposing of Trump will probably have to involve at least cloaks, if not actual daggers (we don’t want to be dealing with a martyr). I also wrote in November (in a mood of some despair):

“…the Republican Party is now faced with the conundrum of managing a situation which is to all intents and purposes impossible. There may already be whispers in the arras that he could be forcibly removed. In the light of his apparent insistence that Sarah Palin should play a prominent role in world affairs few rational people living or dead would be all that opposed to a good old-fashioned off-stage poisoning or stabbing. Or possibly an air crash? I sincerely hope that 1) there are still some Republican leaders out there who still have some measure of faith in the values they profess and the integrity to implement them and 2) that they have left no options off the table.

As I say, although I think it’s essential to avoid bloodshed as far as humanly possible, it will be very difficult for Republicans leaders to manoeuvre Trump off the stage. The fact that it may be dangerous for them doesn’t bother me unduly at this stage. In my darker moments I marvel at lack of the lack of suicides of leading conservative political figures in relation to Trump’s ascension. These are people who claim to love their country and cherish their democracy. Look at what they’ve done to it.

One commenter on this site described Trump’s present position as ‘thriving’. The situation of many of his first victims could fairly be characterised as ‘sitting at a foreign airport wondering how the hell to get back home to their families’. (Ironically, Trump himself is keen to spend as little time with his family as possible.) I think what we’ve seen in his first week in the White House is not an energetic burst of activity but a manic acting out of a mental disorder (whichever it may be) under the guidance of the nazi activist Steve Bannon, a proud wife-beater and probable alcoholic who will do whatever he can to destroy democracy and unleash chaos. Bannon resembles the trickster psychologists in the last few J.G. Ballard novels in that he seems to have learned to manipulate Trump’s psychopathology to the point where the ‘President’ trusts him and probably thinks he is his ‘friend’.

One comment I particularly valued among the hundreds of extremely wise remarks and reflections left in response to my first piece was the following, from someone called nychermes:

I respectfully disagree with your assessment that he will snap. I don’t think he is snapping anytime. That’s a misreading and I will explain as follows. You’ve reduced his complex assemblage to his insecurities – what YOU aren’t seeing is his very resilient, very strong core strength to always go for what he has his mind set to, however it may threaten his insecure ego. HE will NOT SNAP. He will get through every nuisance he creates even if he appears he’s in trouble – he WILL invert the very nuisance only to recreate more chaos to hide and bury his weakness while maintaining a storm of chaos and going after his objectives. HE will devolve the rest of the country and audiences into a pulp of insanity and emotional incoherence but he will stand. He is WAY more dangerous than your well meaning but one-dimensional – ‘insecure ready to snap manchild’ portrait for him. The ‘manchild’ is not ALL of the story as you have made it out to be in your article.

The title of my article was partly wishful thinking expressed as an extremely firm prediction. I think that’s one reason it was so widely shared and read, and I apologise if it made anyone feel in any way complacent about what lies ahead. Of course, Trump may well not ‘snap’ (not being a psychiatrist, I left that term unhelpfully vague). In the meantime, others need to snap into action. Debates over his mental stability need to take place in the open and journalists must openly challenge Government supporters and spokespeople on the issue. Then there are the politicians. According to Robert Reich, some Republican senators didn’t oppose Trump’s rise before the election because they were scared of being shot dead by his demented supporters. Well right now it seems to me that if the only people to lose their lives as a result of this madman’s brief reign as President were the people who installed him in the first place, it wouldn’t be such an absolute tragedy. The world is not going to suffer for their cowardice.

Donald Trump does not represent Republican values. If you are a Republican, you owe it to your country to help get him out of the White House as soon as possible.

Help me help Donald Trump

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New US President Donald Trump and his charming American-born wife Melania greet the adoring crowds before his inauguration ceremony last week.

In the last few days this modest blog has become a major focus of attention, with over 600,000 visitors in four days. This has come as a shock, as I had assumed that something I wrote before I’d technically got out of bed could only have a very limited impact. Nevertheless it means that I now have a platform and I’d like to put it to good use.

Your President is very upset at media reports of the poor showing at his inauguration. He even phoned the National Parks director to see if she had any photos which might back up his assertion that there were at least seventetysquidzilliontrillion people in attendance. Unfortunately there aren’t any. This won’t bother his core supporters that much, because they’ve apparently stopped paying attention to the news, and won’t therefore get to hear about the destruction of their livelihoods and dwellings in the impending economic and ecological meltdown. They’ll just continue as normal in an America which is once again great but where most of the people are dying or dead.

I’d like to help them, and I’d like to make amends to Mr Trump for speculating in my piece that he may have the reading age of a 5th grader. A commenter remarked that this was probably inaccurate, and to be fair I’m not very familiar with the US schooling system, so I hurriedly changed it to 12th grade, but then another commenter remonstrated, pointing out the average reading age for US citizens is 7th grade, so I edited it again and now it stands at 8th grade, which is probably a bit generous. Now, Mr Trump probably won’t have read my article – he’s probably seen it, because it was tweeted by his arch nemesis Rosie O’Donnell, but according to an online readability index thing I just submitted it to it has an ‘Average Grade Level’ of 11.3, so at best he might have just looked at it and thought, I wonder what that says. Nonetheless, I’ve read quite a few things about how obsessed he is about this whole inauguration numbers thing, so I thought I’d use this platform that I’ve been granted and try to find some people who maybe didn’t appear in the photos, but are ready to assert that they were in the Washington Mall last Friday during his speech, and then we can do a tally and tweet him the overall number, and that’ll cheer him up so he can go back to ruining the lives of every single person on the planet in order to drown out his memory of that time Rosie O’Donnell called him an asshole on national TV.

So, were you there last Friday? Did you actually make the trip to Washington to cheer on the new Commander in Chief, but for some odd reason spend the entire time hiding from aerial photographers? Just leave a comment here. It doesn’t matter if we only get a few responses. After a week has passed I’ll start an inspiring hashtag called something like ‘#therewerefourmore!’, and then everything will go back to being nice and normal, just with Eric Cartman in charge of the nuclear codes.

‘Trump is going to snap’: a rejoinder

The post I wrote two days ago in the first hour after waking up has proven to be hugely popular and so is generating a lot of responses. Thank you to everyone who has liked, shared and commented so far. I’m endeavouring to reply to all the comments on the site but it’s beginning to get a bit out of hand. I want to be sure in myself that I haven’t misled anyone with what I wrote. In particular I’d hate to be responsible for any sense of complacency. Here are some nagging reservations I have about what I wrote, plus some stuff I missed out.

  1. A lot of people are saying that Pence is worse: more rational, more stable, but with an equally psychotic agenda. Some of the things he stands for and has implemented in relation to women’s rights would make the Taliban nudge each other and raise an eyebrow. He would (try to) be the President from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I can see this point but also think that while he may not be strictly speaking mentally ill as Trump appears to be, he does at least have some respect for the USA as an institution, while Trump doesn’t. I think it does show that the resistance movement has to be against not just the figurehead but the whole women-hating climate-lying agenda.
  2. It’s not inevitable that Trump will break down; there is an element of wishful thinking in what I wrote. However, the events on Sunday at the CIA suggest to me that he’s unable to cope without a cheering or baying crowd. He got that at his rallies and he gets it on Twitter but being President doesn’t work like that. I suspect that whatever happens we will see a lot less of him in public. His Government is (already, after four days) adopting a bunker mentality. They’re banking on using social media as their chief means of communication with their supporters. So much for the internet making the world a more democratic place.
  3. The men who are telling Trump what to do seem to be frontloading his Presidency with a wishlist of items (abortion, climate, restrictions on the press) which any ‘normal’ Republican President would be much more careful about. They’re also allowing him to play with his new toy by humouring him over things like his wall. They don’t care about the consequences for his mental stability if there is a popular revolt on any of these issues – they’re using him as a buffer.
  4. The most dangerous aspect of Trump’s Presidency is his censorship of all mention by the Federal Government of Climate Change. As I feared, he’s following the example of the Florida Governor Rick Scott. I pray that it backfires. It represents the singlemost authoritarian measure yet taken by any government as part of the corporate conspiracy to let the planet burn. Mussolini himself said that fascism is when corporate power and the State become inseparable. Climate denial was always going to have to lead to fascism at some point because it pits the interests of corporations against those of human beings.
  5. Anyone who was at all ambivalent on the question of the climate now needs to see and reflect on the similarity between a government banning citizens from talking about politics and prohibiting them from talking about the weather. In response we have to overcome the social taboo on talking about Climate Change. Every time we change the subject we are cooperating with Trump and Pence’s agenda.
  6. I live in Italy, so in relation to Trump I’m basically limited to ranting online. If you live in the US and you want to push Trump over the edge into total mental incapacity while helping destroy the openly psychotic agenda of this Republican Party, please join together with others offline to protest what it’s trying to do on climate, refugees and women’s rights. Facebook and Twitter are good for organising protests, but they are not in themselves forms of protest.
  7. There’s a lot of significance in the fact that upon leaving office former Presidents open their own libraries. Even George Bush did so. If you go there you will doubtlessly find a section dedicated to biographies of his predecessors. Trump, on the other hand, has never read a biography of a former President. He’s never read any books about former child stars either. He’s just doesn’t read books, period. He probably hasn’t even read the pieces of paper those five scumbags have been getting him to sign this week. There’s a genuine possibility that his reading age is no higher than that of an 8th grader. What this means for his present role is that he doesn’t have any idea what a President is or what he’s supposed to do. He has no reference points. He’s got a vague idea that he’s in a powerful position in relation to something called the United States, but he wouldn’t be able to draw its borders on a map. The reason he’s not enjoying the job is that he’s basically a kid. He thought it was a game, or a best a game show. He does not have the knowledge or the level of intellectual and emotional maturity to grasp such a complex series of interrelated concepts and tasks. Explaining a notion like ‘conflict of interest’ to him must be like trying to get a dog to understand the principles of the Slow Food Movement. No wonder he can’t get the White House staff to stop leaking stories about how nuts he is. This stuff is just so f*cking funny. And the most important thing about it is, is that the “alt-right” idiots think he’s some sort of Godhead, a Randian Supermensch. They actually think he’s smart. Which would be almost inconceivably hilarious if it weren’t for the damnable fact that this coalition of misanthrope trolls, frat boys sociopaths and outright Hitler-worshippers is now in the perfect position to wipe our species off the face of the earth for good /end of rant.

Ahem.

I apologise if you leave a comment and I don’t get round to responding – my wife is due to give birth any day. Feel free to email me via the Contact page.

“You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world. That is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could have avoided.” (Franz Kafka)

“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” (Antonio Gramsci)

Donald Trump is going to snap very soon, and here is how I know

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I believe that rather than smashing our own glass houses to pieces in the act of destroying Donald Trump’s Presidency, we need to be aware of our own inner Trump, to reflect on our own tendencies to think and behave in catastrophically immature, venal and insecure ways. I therefore offer up this short account of my own personal emotional development, and then explain why I think it helps explain why Trump is heading for a breakdown very, very soon.

I used to suffer from a quite disabling insecurity, particularly when it came to things like being creative and forming relationships with other people. I got better, partly by virtue of living in and studying Portugal, learning about its people’s tendency to swing between moments of self-aggrandisement and self-abnegation, from ‘we are great’ to ‘we are nothing’. I also learnt about my own habit of projecting my own feelings onto others, both people and countries. The work of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa showed me that we’re all characters on a stage acting out different roles, and that that is okay. I identified strongly with the philosopher Eduardo Lourenço’s diagnosis that Portuguese people tend to suffer from taking on too many identities, and I took enormous inspiration, consolation and guidance from his insights that Portugal is ‘marvelously imperfect’, ‘no worse and no better than anyone else’, and that progress comes from accepting one’s limitations.

Living in China taught me to accept the existence of other perceptions of my own identity, even if I feel embarrassed about it, particularly in terms of my national identity. Everyone has one and I can’t let the fact of my British or Englishness inhibit me unduly. Writing about my misunderstandings of Chinese society and about my role there helped me accept that I, like everyone else, have an ego, and also that I can use writing as a vehicle for making connections between things and to help find people who’ve noticed the same things, who share my perspective. Spending time with a Lacanian psychoanalyst in London helped me develop confidence in my own voice while also teaching me about the foibles of my tendency to overthink. I got better (although not necessarily good) at identifying and cultivating friendships with other people. I met the woman who later became my wife, who loves me for who I am rather than who I pretend to be. Through my job I became better at listening to people and more accepting of others and myself. I learnt that honest self-reflection is a more effective medium for personal development than alcohol is. Through acquiring other languages I discovered that learning is one of the things I most enjoy and value about being alive.

I still screw up, as we all do, but I accept that doing so is part of life, and when I do or get something wrong I try to apologise without fear or recrimination. I know that I’m not mad in any meaningful sense. I accept that I have some ability to write entertainingly and insightfully, and I have less fear than I did before of saying what I want to say. I have a wonderful editor in my wife and I accept that I sometimes miss things and perhaps expose some parts of myself to criticism and ridicule. I know that what I write doesn’t and doesn’t have to please everyone. I accept that everyone is fallible, and that it takes hard work to produce writing of quality. Sometimes I don’t put in enough hard work, and that’s my fault. I try hard not to depend emotionally on the responses or lack of responses to what I write. In a nutshell, I’ve matured, to the point where I can now face the prospect of becoming a father, something which, say, 15 years ago was (so to speak) inconceivable.

All this means that I understand something of the fragility of Donald Trump’s ego. Having struggled to maintain friendships in the past, I can see how Trump can get to a point where he has, according to a piece in Newsweek based on several months spent around him, no close friends. As I’ve acknowledged before, it’s essential for us to have the humility to recognise that we don’t have the ability to diagnose Trump at a distance. But that there’s something of the manchild about him is inescapable.

These first two days of his ‘Presidency’ saw paranoid and recriminatory tweets, a speech to the CIA in which he ranted bitterly about media reports of his coronation, and his press spokesperson being sent out to deliver another paranoid self-pitying rant. People are mercilessly taking the piss out of the piss-poor attendance at his pitiable inauguration, and Trump appears to be following every single one of them on Twitter. It’s clear to me that whatever means he’s used to survive up until this point aren’t going to work in his new role. There’s simply too much scrutiny and ridicule, and it’s going too deep. He’s too much of a shallow narcissist to ignore it. Trump is going to learn the wisdom of Jacques Lacan: “the madman is not only a beggar who thinks he is a king, but also a king who thinks he is a king”. Whatever monster he has buried in his mind is going to rise up to bite off huge chunks of him from within.

Trump is famously hostile to the notion of learning: no-one has anything to teach him. He was born rich, and that means he’s a genius and that everyone must respect him. He appears to have no ability for self-reflection. The mirrors he has in his mansion may be framed in gold, but he’s never been able to bring himself to look into them for more than a few seconds. Instead he’s surrounded himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear, who repeat back to him his inner mantra: you’re the richest, the best, the greatest writer, builder, statesman, etc etc etc. But it’s his inner voices that are the problem, the ones that tell him that he’s nothing, a failure, that everyone sees him as a joke. The ones that (presumably) sound a lot like his father.

His tweets in particular reveal that at some level he knows that his self-aggrandising self-image is hollow and brittle. So he lashes out, including physically. And it’s getting worse. People are laughing louder. He’s now put himself in a position where the entire world knows that he is venal, insecure, stupid and deluded.

He’s become in two days the paranoid and deluded ruler of so many novels by Latin American and African writers. Usually this point is reached after several decades of rule and the imposition of terror and a cult of personality. He’s the kind of leader that the U.S. has imposed on so many other countries; there is an element of chickens coming home to roost. He obviously took enormous consolation from his media image, the idea that he was ‘America’s CEO’. He believed this and seems to have internalised it, but is also taunted by a nagging awareness that it was little more than a joke, a stupid slogan to sell a TV show. His supporters may not know that, but some will learn. He’s already starting to turn some of them against him. As he attacks their standard of living and doesn’t have the political skills necessary to calm their anger, they will see through him to the delusion, insecurity and vanity within. He’ll have no more defences and will be unable to hide from the stark fact that his flatterers don’t respect him. Putin in particular is evil but not stupid. He knows that Trump is an absolute moron. And he can’t control that smirk of his.

Lacan said that what matters in psychoanalysis is not so much what the client says, but what falls out of his pockets while speaking. Trump appears to have absolutely no idea what he has in his pockets, and now everyone on the planet is picking up things, inspecting them and telling him what they are. They are teaching him things about himself that he cannot bear to learn. He also knows that he is President in name only, and that’s not enough to sustain his ego.

He will snap very, very soon.

Our job is to increase the tension.

New post: ‘Trump is going to snap -a rejoinder’.