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kicking cripples

Everyone on the planet knows Trump is ratings obsessed. Numbers, even inflated imaginary numbers, are his bread and butter – quantifiable proof of success.

Ratings are the results of direct competition. A ranking of winners and losers. One of the supposed driving forces in Trump’s life remains his father’s conception that one was either a Killer / King or you were a weakling/loser.

Ratings, and by extension poll numbers, are unlike any wealth he’s ever collected. Since ratings are based on pure dominance. Audience size is the only metric of success. TV ratings are a corporate popularity contest. More personal than real estate with his name on it. More satisfying than any bank account accumulation.

But why.

Sure, it appears to be pure textbook narcissism. It is all grandiosity. Ratings satisfy Trump’s driving need for admiration. And ratings validate the mountain of lies designed to prop up a fantasy image of self.

BUT.

If Trump is just personality disordered, then, we would not be in such a predicament. The predicament is one of chaotic meaninglessness. Trump has crashed through the “fourth wall” of our 24 hour news cycle.

Trump refuses to adhere to the banality of talking points designed to bore and demotivate the audience. Trump as stolen the metrics of entertainment and applied them to our politics. So we are dislocated and confused.

BUT should we be confounded by the success of Trump at redefining the political dialogue? No. Because his message is based in how we consume our entertainment now. Where we are shocked is that such a “serious” sphere as national politics could be so easily adapted into a ratings generating machine.

As long as Trump’s message is simply stated, summarily repetitious, and designed to amp up emotional response / drama, he will continue to dictate and dominate our political discourse – unchallenged.

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donald-trump-short-fingered-vulgarian-fingers-bruce-handy-ss09Trump could not have happened, or risen to power, without the ideology of reality show competitions becoming the aspirational fairy tale of our culture. Reality show competitions combine the banality of traditional game shows with the simplicity of soap opera melodrama.

Earlier this month, NPR interviewed Tom Forman, a reality show producer who worked with Trump producing reality tv shows. Forman explained how Trump uses the reality show high drama/conflict driven narrative:

“You don’t want to get bogged down in an argument over facts when you make a reality television show. You don’t want to convey a ton of information, because people get bored or lost or change the channel… […] Trump tweets about withdrawing federal funding, and suddenly you’re impassioned and you have a point of view — and he’s hooked you. …he’s made it understandable, he’s made it personal, he’s added a conflict-driven narrative.”

I said during the second Presidential debate that all Trump had to do to win the election was look over at Secretary Clinton and say, “You are a lying bitch.” And America would explode with glee.

Some of that explosion would be outrage and despair over the crass and disgusting nature of such a profanity. And that reaction would be righteous, rational, and justified. It would be the only reasonable response.

Even those political fans who only followed this year’s political playoffs would be shocked, but it  would border on relief that, finally, someone was speaking plain, everyday English at one of these debates. Even if they were turned off by what was said.

Trump supporters, and everyone else for that matter, would delight at being able to finally have a nuanced and strong opinion on politics. Putting aside any “authentic” thought or reaction, the majority of America would embrace the conflict and drama of such an outrage. The majority would celebrate the “event” as something interesting to talk about.

And while Trump never, quite, said those exact words, he came damn close. And with almost everything he pronounce, he does it in such direct and simplistic terms that everyone, no matter how intelligent or “woke” they are, immediately has a impassioned opinion about it.

And this is the reality show genius of the Trump dialogic. He argues with reality, so we might argue with each other.

Is it simply distraction? Is it only distortion? Is it totally nefarious? I am not sure.

As my friend Stoopid Johnny said about the outrage at a cabinet appointee’s nomination –  “Another day, another government program I’ve never heard about.” It could be that Trump might be teaching us the most profound civic lesson ever?

But, probably not.

reagan-burger-mcdonaldsRonald Reagan was many, many awful things that we’ve allowed our political culture to forget. The Reagan record is a direct attack on fact. There is a new dimension to the Reagan Myth, one that IS mentioned but without the appropriate weight of the strangeness. Reagan was first and forever a B Movie star. A handsome actor of medium acting talent.

As a movie star, Reagan was a successful failure. Yes, he starred in movies. But monkey movies. He was never going reach the “next level” as an actor and his movies, if remembered at all, would be remembered for Bonzo, not Reagan.

But as a B Movie star, Reagan embodied certain stereotypes that soothed the fears of voters facing a changing American society. Reagan looked like he smelled clean. He carried himself with the poise of a matinee idol playing the part of the unflappable American President. But at least Ronnie did some research for the role as an elected governor.

I say all that because the United States just elected our first reality TV star President. Arguably, reality tv shows are the b movies of current culture. Reality TV is full of absurd characters interacting in stupid, highly melodramatic situations. And most importantly, reality tv is incredibly cheap and quick to make.

It is incredibly well-documented that Trump is a shit business man. Without the protections of bankruptcy, tax law loopholes, and the non-stop self-affirming promotion, Trump wouldn’t register a blip on the business pages. He is only a success because he keeps telling us about his successes.

And it is that narrative, the unending litany of unsupported bullshit, that creates the appearance of a brilliant business person. All his credentials are noisy and garish. He surrounds himself with gaudy feedback loop, shiny baubles meant to awe us into envy at the lush life he lives.

But everything “Trump” is a set piece. Even taking Trump as a snickering joke, a clueless punchline to a “sad and mean” jab at his expense, further inflates his coffers.

Trump is not a phony. He is something beyond phony. Trump is curated. Trump is sculpted. Trump smashes through the Situationist idea of the Spectacle. He is a phantom limb. Trump is the embodiment of the Reality TV competition, the karaoke culture.

As such, Trump’s lies are edited, dramatic, and compelling. And no truth we counter with will ever be sharp enough to puncture the gauzy film he floats upon. We need to either enter the competition on his level – becoming another vapid contestant on his idiotic progroms. Or we can try to cancel the show.

Every college’s Communications Mass Media class teaches something about how commercials and advertising use a propaganda model to entice and persuade.

The oldest trope is the NEW AND IMPROVED ploy – which always implies forward innovation, while never pointing to the shitty useless history of the product.

Meaning, if laundry detergent has room to be constantly improved, just how ineffectual was it to begin with?

With the rise of Trump, we witnessed the conclusion of various propaganda systems converging. A topic for another longer post, but one of the curious results of the success of Trump’s narrative is how it opens up opportunities for Corporate exploitation.

In a world where political boycotts of Corporations are common. Where the attempt to lower an economic consequence to change a profit engines’ method of operation, grassroots organization determines the effectuality of such a protest.

Recently, these protests have taken on an antithetical aspect – Corporations have been targeted for reward for their socio-political stances (Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day).

So now, how should we take the news that DOVE produced advertisements that “clap back” at TRUMPLAND’s assertion of “alternative facts?” Putting aside the obvious dire real world implications of such Newspeak, just what do we do now that this discourse has entered into the advertising?

The co-mingling of all these aspects seems dangerously problematic.

1. DOVE’s whole advertising purpose is to create an image of the world made better by its products. Ultimately, creating a lasting brand loyalty and constant need of its products.

2. DOVE rightly recognizes that it’s consumers responded positively to its feminist-lite DOVE SELF-ESTEEM PROJECT campaign and the Corporation was rewarded for its liberalish seeming stance. Especially, in the free “viral” sharing on social media by consumers who support the “message” of the ads.

3. Seeing the success of its soft social commentary, the assessed risk of conservative political backlash in the form of product boycott is weighed against the free goodwill “viral” spread among more liberal consumers. Obviously, DOVE chooses to risk the backlash in both directions.

4. DOVE understands that exploiting the blatant propaganda of “alternative facts” does not endanger their own persuasive rhetoric. Exposing the political absurdity of the lies does not have enough connective tissue to their own advertising lies – the consumer will delight in taking the piss out of TRUMPLAND, but will not question DOVE’s larger profit-driven motivations.

Hashtag Exposed!

Hashtag Exposed!

So what does this all mean?

I am not sure other than it is yet another piece in a puzzle. Another site of resistance we must be weary of embracing, since such focal points are less supportive than they appear.

When this sort of Corporate action is embraced, we must understand how its message is geared less against TRUMPLAND than it seems.  Since the propaganda modes are intertwined and reliant upon each other.

The status quo must and will be maintained at all costs and as such Corporations like DOVE have a real and vested interest in assuring that the curtain of lies is not torn completely off the wall.

drawing by Kate Atherton

Trumpland, America’s Worst Theme Park

In America’s new theme park, Trumpland, all the attractions are grotesque, tragic, mirror-reflections of common sense. While billed as “…an America  First fun time…,” once you get into the park its too late. You’ve already been had. The lines are super long, everything is covered in a nutty grease, and nothing really works.

Trumpland promises so much. But Trumpland is NOT a family theme park. Unless your family is awful. And I mean like super-awful. Drowning boxes of kittens, awful. Punching old ladies for their pain meds, awful. But even then, you are NOT guaranteed a good time, either. Otherwise, Trumpland is an utter disappointment to all paying customers!

The park has only been open a little over a week. But aw shucks, has the golly gee wiz shine wore completely off.

Instead of promoting the exciting new attractions like the Immigrant Green Card Roller Coaster that loops and stalls through a life sized international airport, senior management of the park spent their first week moaning and whining.

Seriously, founder, chief flower arranger, and President Donald Trump spent his days between crying like a giant babyman who can’t find a decent wet nurse to role play his diaper fantasy and signing oversized souvenir proclamations.

Both the Trump Babyman Role Play costume AND these poster sized “executive orders” are already on sale in the many, many Trumpland gift shops.

Inexplicably, now, certain people are not even allowed to enter Trumpland. A fact that customers are not told about until after they have purchased their park tickets and booked their vacation accommodations.

This new move baffled other theme parks who have reassured all paying customers they will not be turned away from their resorts.

The Trumpland shareholders seemed divided about the sense of these new requirements. And some are wondering if the park is even worth defending any longer. We will all wait to see how the park fares in the coming week. If it lasts beyond that, is anyone’s guess.
White Plight
ALRIGHT, MY FELLOW CRACKERASS CRACKERS! My pasty brothers and sisters, maybe you will listen to me since it does not seem to be sinking in when anyone of a different color, gender/sexuality, or faith tells us this…
 
WE WHITE MOTHERFUCKERS DID THIS – SO LET’S SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LET THOSE MINORITIES WHO TRIED TO SAVE US FROM THIS SHIT HAVE THE FLOOR!
 
The best and only real white ally, right now, is one who will listen and support, UNCONDITIONALLY, those who legitimately and justifiably fear for their lives, civil rights, and the future of their families and loved ones.
 
THEY ARE NOT EXCLUDING US – WE THE ENTITLED, PRIVILEGED – WHEN THEY VOICE THEIR ANGER AND FEAR. NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT US!
 
Are our egos sooooo fragile and our empathy soooo contingent that we cannot even allow those we agree with and support to yell the loudest, condemn all our enemies, and embody the pride we claim we want them to inhabit?
 
STOP IT MY FELLOW WHITE PEOPLE! We have interrupted, spoken-over, and explained their situation and feelings way too long. Frankly, our behavior is getting embarrassing! Let those we claim to love and support – SPEAK FOR US, for a change!
 
WE HAVE DONE ENOUGH AND GODDAMN IT DID WE FUCK IT UP.

I spent a lot of time alone at the Canterbury playground. Especially, early in my 8th grade year. I was waiting for anyone to come walking home from Heights High. Most nights no one appeared. I just loitered, alone, on the wooden monoliths or pumped my legs on the swings. The waiting ended as night began to creep in along the edges.

IMG_0128.JPG

painted by Aaron Melnick, 1985/86

One afternoon, I was there. I believe it rained during the day. There were intermittent puddles around the flat painted concrete. I remember my pants were wet from sitting on one of the black rubber swings.

I had on that silly jean jacket marked up with a few band logos and the DEAD BOYS blood vomiting skull painted on the back.

A huge beat up silver Cadillac screeched to a jerking halt, the front tire jumped the curb, before the car was slammed into park. The passenger door creaked open and a small child bounced out. He immediately tore toward the playground with a huge smile.

I watched as the driver threw open the trunk and lifted out a big wheel which he tossed to the sidewalk. Then he called out, “Dominic, come get your bike!”

The kid ignored this to disappear into a blur as he slid down the wet slide. The driver picked up the Big Wheel by the handle. He sort of lifted and dragged it toward the playground’s wood chip play area. He shoved the Big Wheel toward the concrete, then noticed me.

The driver was dressed in black shorts that hit his pale legs mid-calf, a teeshirt with some unfamiliar logo on it, topped by a D.R.I. black painters cap, the plastic brim already curled inward.

He was one of the largest people I ever saw. I mean there were a few fat kids in my class at school, but this guy was squat and round. And solid – like if you went to punch him it would be like punching a bag of backyard play sand.

As he passed the wooden climbing structure he shouted to the little kid who dodged behind one of the pylons, “Dom! Go ride your bike or we are going home!”

Then this guy came up to me. I still sat on the swing, well, sort of stood and leaned back, the chain taut as it held me up.

“Hey,” he said. He leaned against one of the metal swing set poles. He looked me up and down, as I did him. Sized each other up and made sure we never met before.

After he studied the band images on my jean jacket, he spied the little moshing man D.R.I. logo. He took off his hat, revealing a mat of jet back hair, a wavy mass that might have been an attempt at a devil’s lock.

“You like D.R.I.? Did you go to the show last night? It was fucking rad, man. Got this there. I heard they are faggots tho, you hear that? DOMINIC RIDE YOUR BIKE!” he said in one quick breath. He did not wait nor cared if I answered.

I think I whisper stuttered something in response, but he didn’t really pay attention. Instead, he turned and screamed at the child, “If you ain’t gonna ride the bike, I am taking your ass home!”

Dominic raced to the Big Wheel, kicked it, then ran laughing up the wet grassy hill.

“FUCK! DOMINIC GET IN THE CAR! WE’RE GOING HOME!” the driver screamed at the little kid doing a wiggle dance on top of the slightly graded hill.

“Anyway, cool. I’m Tony,” he said as he turned to go, “Probably see you around, huh? You go to Heights? Coventry? You know Steve Murad?”

I watched as Tony Pines stomped off and kicked the Big Wheel toward the car. He continued to swear as the little kid got into the car.

It wouldn’t be until the following summer that I would really get to know Tony Pines and his family. But this was as good an introduction as any…