Divide and Distract: If Donald Trump Wins the Election He Loses, But if He Loses the Election He Wins (part 2/3)
For some time now I've been toying with the idea of Donald Trump as future triager-in-chief – instead of "you're fired!", "you're triaged!" I nonetheless couldn't help but think that said interpretation was likely the result of seeing the world through triage-coloured glasses and that I was perhaps missing out on some other underlying story. So I decided to err on the side of caution and avoided writing a post for a post's sake.
While then listening to the third debate, and upon hearing Trump's reply to Hillary Clinton's accusation of his making light of a physically disabled reporter – "Wrong!" – for the umpteenth time I couldn't help but burst out laughing at the inanity of it all. (Not to say that I'm some insensitive clod – the audience itself laughed [and was rebuked] upon Trump's declaration that "Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.") In fact, I laughed so hard and in such a way that it reminded me of how I used to laugh at the behaviour of an old friend of mine of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) notoriety, which then reminded me of Donald Trump's involvement with the WWE over the years. As I then mulled over (and explained in part 1 via my conception of World Electioneering Entertainment [WEE]), could it be possible that Trump's antics are actually a big act? Or more specifically, and to really go down the rabbit hole with this one, could it be possible that Trump already knows he's going to lose the election, and not simply so that the presidency can be handed to Clinton but to create a grandiose distraction? Yes, that's pretty far-fetched, but what's more zany – thinking this has all been real, or to think that a fair amount of what's been going on has been contrived?
Anyway, for quite some time things have seemed slightly fishy to me about WEE 2016. Although I'd yet to make my WWE/WEE analogy, upon hearing that portions of Melania Trump's speech at the GOP convention lifted from a previous speech by Michelle Obama I immediately smelled the whiff of fishy #1 and called BS, recalling WWE-owner Vince McMahon's assertion: any attention is good attention. And while some journalists pondered the following:
Did Hillary Clinton's team point out the glaring similarities of the two speeches? I'd suppose so. It would be the smart thing to do, to call reporters and make the case.
I again screamed to myself "BS!" If it was Trump that concocted it all then it would make sense that it was Trump's team that called it in (or tipped someone off), not Clinton's. Wanting a way to make a spectacle out of the entrance of Trump's wife, discovery of the parallels in speeches certainly wouldn't have been left up to chance. For let's not forget Trump's assertion, motive, and uncanny ability:
I'm going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I'm going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me.
And suck he did. For following revelation of the parallels in speeches, the Trump campaign actually turned the tables and tried to shame the Democrats (much as how Trump actually demanded an apology from the New York Times for condemning his impersonation of its physically disabled reporter). Trump's campaign manager stated that
Once again, this is an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks to demean her and take her down,
while his spokeswoman stated that
This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd.
Granted, I did realize that even just thinking that Trump and company manufactured the plagiarism drama was quite the stretch to make, and not just because the eventual fall-person would have to be sacrificially fired over it all and then secretly paid off, right? Right? Well as it turns out, not quite. As the junior aide who apparently inadvertently lifted part of Michelle Obama's speech put it,
Yesterday, I offered my resignation to Mr. Trump and the Trump family, but they rejected it. Mr. Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences... I am honored to work for such a great family.
I mean really, who knew Trump had such a mushy-gushy heart? ("There's nobody that has a mushier-gushier heart than me. Nobody.")
Anyway, and much like the aforementioned retort given to Clinton, it doesn't need to be pointed out that Trump has been spewing out a ridiculous amount of completely obvious fabrications and absurdities this entire election. ("You know what my favorite [book] is? The Bible!", "I have the world's greatest memory", [which he then (hilariously!) stated half a year later that he couldn't recall having said that], etc.) This hasn't seemed to matter in the slightest though to legions of Trump supporters, people whose prolonged dismissal by the establishment as being expendable has resulted in their complete willingness to brush off all of Trump's fabrications if – and I'm now thinking that that's a dubious "if" – the purpose of those lies have been to bully government predators who have been bullying them for years on end. And Trump surely knows this.
Moreover, and not that I think that Trump likes to spend lazy Sunday afternoons reading up on semiotics any more than I do, but if we take a look at the late French philosopher Roland Barthes' 1957 essay on wrestling, "In the Ring", one can just about see a blueprint for this entire election.
As Barthes states in his first sentence, "The virtue of wrestling is to be a spectacle of excess." Hello! Or as Trump put it in The Art of the Deal,
The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion.
In his comparison between pro wrestling and boxing (neither of which he sees as morally superior to the other), Barthes then points out that
[The] public... is quite aware of the distinction between wrestling and boxing; it knows that boxing is a Jansenist sport, based on a demonstration of excellence; one can bet on the outcome of a boxing match; in wrestling, that would make no sense. The boxing match is a story constructed under the spectator's eyes; in wrestling, just the contrary, it is each moment which is intelligible, not their sum... The rational future of the combat does not interest the fan of wrestling, whereas on the contrary a boxing match always implies a science of the future. In other words, wrestling is a sum of spectacles, none of which is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which suddenly rises straight up on its own, without ever extending toward the consummation of an outcome.
I admit that I'm not the sharpest when it comes to this semiotics stuff (I'm getting flashbacks from film school / university of the futility behind trying to not get bored out of my skull while being taught about all that signs and symbols stuff), but from what I gather, the gist is that for the pro wrestler it's all about energy. In other words, the wrestling fan isn't so much concerned with what is going on – a logical progression of events – so much as they're interested in the fact that something is going on. While Trump's opponents have been vainly attempting to fight a prim and proper boxing match, Trump is the pro wrestler who has been running circles around his opponents, bopping them over their heads with metal chairs. And the more passion he shows the more the audience eats it up.
As Barthes explains further,
Wrestlers are good at flattering the crowd's powers of outrage, going to the very limit of the concept of Justice, this farthest zone of confrontation, where it takes only a trifle to open the gates of a frenzied world. For the fan of wrestling, nothing is finer than the vengeful rage of a betrayed combatant who passionately attacks not a successful adversary but the stinging image of foul play.
Otherwise put, Trump generates the passion the audience seeks via crusading against, and serving justice upon, the evil forces – "crooked Hillary" and her email scandal, et. al.
Although correlation certainly doesn't imply causation, sometimes the comparisons even get cut and paste. Barthes explains that in boxing "the most conventional sign of propriety [is] shaking hands." In pro wrestling however, "foul play exists here only by its excessive signs:... refusing to shake hands with a partner before or after a match" – and yes, the media dutifully lit up the Twitterverse upon Clinton and Trump's refusal to exchange the accustomed pleasantries before the third debate. (This media of ours really has no shame.)
Not to belabour this all too much, but two more quotes of Barthes' provide a bit more food for thought. Firstly,
at this pitch, it no longer matters whether or not the passion being expressed is authentic. There is no more a problem of truth in wrestling than in theater.
That is, it doesn't matter whether what's going on is real or not. Imagine what might happen if somebody ran into the middle of a Wrestlemania ring and yelled out "it's all fake!" Similarly, what's happened when Trump has been called out for being an "entertainer" and/or host of a TV show? As every single one of Trump's opponents have found out, absolutely nothing. And more importantly, the audience loves it.
Finally, Barthes points out that "the wrestler's function is not to win but to perform exactly the gestures expected of him." By this Barthes means the two wrestlers in a match, but in this particular match there is one wrestler and one boxer, and they're both supplying their respective audiences with exactly what they want. Clinton's backers have observed the election from the point of view of a boxing match and so have seen her meticulous denunciations of Trump's antics as crowning her the clear winner. Conversely, Trump's supporters have been seeing it all through the prism of a wrestling match and so inevitably see his non-stop rambunctiousness as crowning him the clear winner.
Having conveyed all that, I don't necessarily mean to suggest that Trump has donned the wrestling persona with the impression that it'll win him the election. For starters, and to go along with all the rest of Trump's fabrications, might it be possible that Trump isn't as racist as he's lead us to believe (as others have questioned as well)? Might it be possible that Trump is "simply" an amoral sociopath that doesn't care either way, one who says whatever is expedient to rile up the audience?
Continuing with the hypotheticals, and as Michael Moore has suggested, might it be possible that Trump entered this election simply because he wanted a raise from NBC for hosting The Apprentice, and that he's been trying to find a way out after being immediately fired by NBC thanks to his incendiary remarks about Mexicans? I'm not so sure about that. Not only has Trump already lost plenty of business (and thus money) in the Middle East and other parts of the world, but he even stated himself that
If I lose some businesses overseas, it doesn't have any impact on me whatsoever. What I'm doing right now... is far more important than any single business that I own.
Which is, of course, hard to interpret as being anything else but another fabrication. But it's also hard to take somebody's ambitions for the presidency seriously after hearing them state that
I've given up a tremendous amount to run for president. I gave up two more seasons of Celebrity Apprentice.
If this is all mere nonsense, could it then be possible – as Jeb Bush and other Republicans have stated, and as even some Democrats have stated – that Trump is a plant by the Clintons in order to guarantee a GOP loss? I suppose so, but as we've readily seen, Trump's absurdities and insults have only worked to make his candidacy stronger and stronger. (Until, that is, the revelation of his comment made to Jeb and George Bush's little cousin that one should "Grab them by the hoo-ha". [Jeb: "Hey Billy, know of anything that could tank Trump's campaign?" Billy: "Nope, nope, nothing at all."])
Nonetheless, and supposing things are on the up and up, Trump could conceivably pull off an upset win in less than two days' time, and not simply because of diehard supporters and the FBI's recent reopening of the investigation into Clinton's email saga (which I'll get to in a moment), but due to the amount of closet Trump supporters (from gay Muslim students to countless others) and legions of ex-Sanders supporters who would "prefer chaos to stagnation." That is to say, if the fix is in and Trump's supposed to be blowing this election, he's not doing a very good job of it.
But what if it were a different kind of fix? To return to Michael Moore, his first film, Roger & Me, was based around the premise of attempting to score an interview with Roger Smith (CEO of General Motors at the time), an interview which Moore didn't get. But kind of did get. As Moore was forced to admit years later, yes, he did actually interview Smith, but that was apparently before work had started on Roger & Me. Which, I suppose, is plausibly possible. And as Moore then stated in response,
If I'd gotten an interview with him, why wouldn't I put it in the film?
Why? Because – and as I'm sure Moore the entertainer and showman is well aware – if the "bad guy" gets caught then the chase – the spectacle – is over. And if the chase is over then the audience can't be strung along anymore. Trump, the student-excellente of the WWE and now media savvy performer in the WEE, is well aware of this. Unless you have explicit plans for there to be no further sequels, or you want to end the franchise, or you do not want to start a television show and career as a professional rabble rouser, then you certainly don't want to "win" (or catch the CEO).
It's for this reason that I'm not so sure about Moore's statement that
[Trump] cannot and WILL NOT suffer through being officially and legally declared a loser – LOSER! – on the night of November 8th. Trust me, I’ve met the guy. Spent an afternoon with him. He would rather invite the Clintons AND the Obamas to his next wedding than have that scarlet letter ("L") branded on his forehead seconds after the last polls have closed on that night, the evening of the final episode of the permanently cancelled Donald Trump Shit-Show.
This is possibly seriously underestimating Trump, presuming that he's nothing but a small-time, small-picture thinker whose mind doesn't go beyond that of money and winning or losing. Because what's been recently going through my mind is, What if Trump is a plant – not to simply lose the election, but to provide a distraction?
For starters, not only do we know that Trump adores attention, but we also know that he's going nowhere after this election, win or lose. First off, and as he stated in the third debate in response to whether or not he'd concede the election were he to lose,
What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense, okay?
Secondly, by making repeated claims that "millions of people... are registered [to vote] that shouldn't be," Trump is effectively laying the groundwork to contest a "stolen" election. As put by Salon, all he has to do is "get close enough to Clinton that he can plausibly claim that someone hacked a few voting machines or stuffed a few ballot boxes." Whether or not he then files lawsuits alleging voter fraud, the adoring crowds will eat it up, and who knows how long it can be drawn out for, even if just in unofficial manners (like all the birther stuff but at a whole different level).
To be more specific, this email scandal is likely to supply a perpetual amount of fodder for Trump, and it's here that I smelled fishy #2. Much like I said "oh come on!" to myself after the Melania Trump speech "scandal", I once again couldn't help but think the same thing after reading that Bill Clinton had chatted with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on an airport tarmac just before the FBI released its findings on the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Because really, in this day and age when a cell phone call would do just fine, why would you do such a thing – in broad daylight for all to see – unless your purpose was to either laugh in people's faces at how little you care about their recognition of your corruption, or, that you wanted to antagonize the opposition and supply them with more fodder, knowing full well that your (wife's) supporters will automatically give you all a free pass? Mentioning this to a friend I then said, "you know, now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if this email scandal thing wasn't somewhat pre-planned and manufactured from the get-go." A minute after he said "but why would anyone actually do that?", I of course couldn't help but think "because Trump advised them to!" That is, Trump and company were going to need a never-ending story that could never actually get Clinton in trouble (like Obama and the birther thing) but which could provide a limitless supply of ammunition. And now FBI director James Comey re-opens the email investigation 11 days before the election, which said nothing and which nothing then came from? For real?
Suffice to say, and I don't know about you, but I can't help but now think that Trump is absolutely brilliant, and that somewhere out there Vince McMahon is laughing his arse off while occasionally shedding a few tears that only a proud father could.
Anyway, and supposing there's plausibility to any of that, what is it that Trump could provide a distraction for? Well, like (not too many) others, for some time now I've wondered how cognizant the United States government, or at least certain parts of the United States government, are of peak oil and the collapse of industrial civilization (or in this specific case the decline and fall of the United States). For example, the German military released a report back in 2010 pointing out that social chaos could emerge once peak oil is reached. Surely other governments, including the United States government, are aware of this possibility as well. Having said that, I don't mean to suggest that we should hold our breaths in anticipation of federal governments (as opposed to local governments) engaging the public on these issues. If, as I've written on earlier, the bail-in in Cyprus and the triaging in Greece are to be taken as any kind of indication, then obfuscation is going to be the name of the game. Could it be possible then that Trump has moved up from the WWE and The Apprentice to provide a prolonged (and perpetual?) distraction from the underlying factors causing industrialism's collapse, thus morphing the notion of divide and conquer into divide and distract?
Because make no mistake about it, although Trump is (knowingly?) advocating what are essentially false hopes, he is nonetheless giving voice to many legitimate concerns of the marginalized, none of which can be dismissed due to Trump's repeated racist comments (be they genuine or not). How is that? Well put it this way: The Trump family sells a wine whose label shares their name (of course). Meanwhile, I don't doubt many Trump supporters like to imbibe every now and then. However, to then say that the only reason why anybody would support Trump is because they're a drunkard would be utterly ridiculous. Regardless, this is exactly the logic used when people dismiss all of Trump's supporters as being driven by little else than racial prejudice. (While questioning the sincerity of Trump's racist comments, I'll point out that while the Trump family may sell wine, Donald Trump is actually a teetotaller himself.)
So when Amanda Marcotte, a white affluent female liberal writer at Salon states in her article "The Mystery of Republican Women Backing Sexist Trump: They're Female Misogynists Who've Grown to Accept Oppression" that
Women are judged more by their sexuality or their submissiveness than their actual character. So someone gets more points for being a virgin or being a doting housewife than they do for being smart and talented at their job
– and then states in her article "Donald Trump’s No Leader — He’s Just the Voice that the Ugliest Americans Have Been Dying For" that
Trump is a big, orangey object that’s fun to look at... He’s the end result of years of conservatives growing angrier and angrier... about the diversification of America
– on top of being abhorrently condescending and falling directly into Trump's trap with "ugliest Americans" and "orangey object that's fun to look at" (thereby fortifying his appeal to the portion of the public he's reaching out to), what she is partaking in are dog whistles no better than the ones Trump has partaken in. And the code that Marcotte's dog whistles stand for is "wage class American". Firstly, it's a massive generalization to state that (doting and non-doting) housewives – particularly those that haven't kept up with the Joneses and all their progress – don't do their work smartly or aren't performing a job, any more than husbands (be they doting or not, and whose Norse origin of their namesake means house-bound) who don't work in offices and such aren't to be valued either. Secondly, let's not presume that some journalists (like some of those writing for Salon) aren't submissive to the status affluent quo of performing their progress-laden duty of pulling in decent enough salaries to help keep the economy growing in order to support the Ponzi scheming predation of the fractional-reserve and interest-bearing-debt banking system.
In other words, what Marcotte and other writers of her ilk (read: strong Clinton supporters) often partake in is classist bigotry. In John Michael Greer's excellent interpretation, the American public can be generally understood as belonging to one of four groups: the investment class, the salary class, the wage class, and the welfare class. The investment and welfare classes have pretty much stayed where they are for decades now, although not so for the salary and wage classes, the former only maintaining its way of life at the expense of the latter. Reason being, in the period following the United States' peak of oil production in 1970, foreign markets were increasingly able to out-compete American production, putting a crimp into those middle and upper-middle class lifestyles. As Greer then puts it,
The only way for the salary class to maintain its lifestyle in the teeth of those transformations was to force down the cost of goods and services relative to the average buying power of the salary class. Because the salary class exercised (and still exercises) a degree of economic and political influence disproportionate to its size, this became the order of the day in the 1970s, and it remains the locked-in political consensus in American public life to this day. The destruction of the wage class was only one consequence of that project...
Specifically, the only way that the salary class could maintain their accustomed to ways of life was via measures such as the offshoring of wage class jobs, which then allowed for overseas slave labour conditions to keep the prices of their consumer products low. In effect, the wage class ("the ugliest Americans" and "doting housewives") has been progressively triaged from the economy by the salary class, and when Trump talks about Making America Great Again, this is what the naïve portion of his supporters believe is actually possible – that the United States can be returned to some former state where one full-time working class job was enough to pay for the upkeep of an entire family, something that even two working class adults going full-time today find hard to accomplish.
However – and here's the kicker – there's no way that the United States can be returned to its pre-1970 way of life. The majority of the oil supplies that once enabled America to be Great are gone forever and aren't coming back – unless Trump and the naïve portion of his supporters have plans to wait a few million years or so for some new oil wells to appear, a fossil fuel supply which would allow for another quick binge. Similarly, many of those getting university and college degrees are finding out that a lack of available jobs means that their graduating papers are about as valuable as one-ply toilet paper, and that the loans required for their education have saddled them with one-way tickets to debt serfdom. (If you don't believe me, just check out the subreddit r/lostgeneration.)
And it's precisely all that that makes me wonder. Are those such as the Clintons and Trump(s) and whomever else truly that daft regarding all this? Is it really a case of the blind leading the blind, or might those "in charge" actually have a grasp on the implications of peak oil and the limits to growth – namely, the protracted collapse of industrial civilization? Could keeping the people stupefied be their attempt to maintain some kind of (futile) grasp on control as things unwind?
For if it's not mere blindness at work here, then the shrewd play would be to drive a wedge between the boxing Amanda Marcotte's of the world and the wrestling Joe six-packs, all of which could keep them thoroughly clueless via incessant bickering (and even worse) with one another. Or in short, divide and distract.
Therefore, were Trump to win the election he (or whomever he assigned) would have to preside over the country, and the wrestling/boxing feud – the distraction – would be largely nullified. However, were he to lose (I don't trust voting machines one iota), then the distraction could go on for who knows how long. Because much like Toronto's late-mayor and wannabe-wrestler Rob Ford, Trump likely isn't going anywhere unless he too is pushing up daisies. This is why, obfuscation-wise, a loss for Trump is quite possibly a win for the status quo of ignorance regarding collapse.
Regardless of whether any of my far-fetched musings are true or not, millions of working class Americans who have had no political outlet for over half a century currently have the (false) impression that they've finally been given a voice. But when Clinton wins this election in less than two days' time, the group in the United States that has been hit harder by globalization and automation than any other – the white working class in the Rust Belt and the South – will be faced with the fact that the utopian visions and populist aims that they've been clinging to throughout WEE 2016 aren't going to happen. And whether the failure of the delivery of those (false) promises results in some of the aggrieved taking matters into their own hands remains to be seen.
That's been the second third of this story. I'll finish this off next week with a clarification on the obfuscation that Hillary Clinton is about to make regarding a ceiling that's about to have its glass shattered.