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Subject: The triumph of the literal rss

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Vic Lineal
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One of the lines that was repeatedly put forward before and after Trump's election, and prior to his inauguration, to dismiss alarmed reactions to his words was that his act was a cynical performance, that he was a talented businessman who was selling the voters what they wanted to hear, but that his policies would be standard Republican policies, even perhaps more moderate and open to compromise than those of Republican hardliners. That he was an adept and intelligent snake oil salesman cynically exploiting voters' angst but the US government would keep functioning on all the same, as it is a well oiled machine resilient enough to moderate or reverse any candidate's most strident eccentricities. He was understood throught the prism of neocons: using "noble lies" to craft narratives and acquire popular support, but interested only in hard power behind closed doors.

China, always a reliable thermometer of Realpolitik, was initially warm and supportive of Trump - he was doing empty political posturing for the sake of winning the election, they reasoned, but as a businessman he was surely familiar with the inner workings of power, and the absurd and impracticable declarations were intended only for public consumption. It could even benefit China, they hinted, to have Trump (a pragmatic, non-ideological businessman) at the helm instead of Clinton (an apparatchik who was unequivocally devoted to the long term US interest in pressuring China and escalating strategic tension in Asia). And then, shortly after the election, China suddenly changed the tune. It became crystal clear that China had figured that Trump was not bluffing, and once in the office he was going to do the weird, absurd stuff he was twitting.

Maybe the image of a complex gamer that was projected on Trump, the idea of a talented negotiator who is so utterly cynical that he will say anything to get elected for personal gain, was wrong. Maybe it was seeing complexity where there is none. Maybe we are so used to seeing politicians as duplicitous and cynical that we cannot imagine someone who actually believes his outlandish and clearly false claims. Maybe he's not cunning, but pathologically literal.

Are we observing the end of the post-modern regime where, as Sloterdijk said, cynicism became the dominant ideology of power? Are we entering the era where the deconstruction of external reality will couple with ardent belief to produce pure ideological zealots?

Largely unrelated op ed in The Guardian

Marina Hyde wrote:
We are always told by those in thrall to him that much of what Trump says is metaphor. The wall is a metaphor, Brexit financier Arron Banks explained to me. “It’s like the ark in the Bible – there wasn’t a literal ark! It’s an allegory.” The Muslim ban is a metaphor, suggested anti-democracy billionaire Peter Thiel shortly before he joined Trump’s transition team, praising voters who “take him seriously but not literally”.

Their compulsion to make excuses for Trump says much about how they handle misgivings, but others would do better to understand that pretty much everything the president does indicates that he represents the triumph of the literal. This is the guy who turned the traditional dick-measuring contest that is the Republican primary into an actual dick-measuring contest. “You know what they say about men with small hands,” said Marco Rubio, prompting Trump to pledge: “I guarantee you there’s no problem [with the size of my penis].” Do let’s ditch the idea that Trump is a poetically complex man who will govern in conceits. He is just conceited.
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Walt
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My feeling was that Trump was a good enough salesman that what he actually stood for was unknowable. A similar situation occurred with Reagan, who was too good an actor. The difference is that Trump is generating policy while for the most part Reagan's kitchen cabinet gave him his policies and talking points.

The problem is that Trump has always been rich. He's never had to control his impulses (though he might choose to do so, as in the last days of his campaign). Being self-controlled is just not Trump's natural attitude.
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C Bazler
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One thing about narcissists is that honesty and integrity are secondary to their need to be admired and to appear superior. Trump commands authority because he projects confidence and a level of expertise even in circumstances where he is completely ignorant or unqualified. When pressed about something he doesn't understand, he lies. When pressed about his lies, he criticizes his interrogators and turns the argument around on them.

Most people with any sense of morality would feel dishonest or dirty doing that. Not Trump.

So no, I don't think he has a gran plan, other than try to get people to like and respect him. Who knows, that may motivate him enough to do good things for the country, but it won't be because he cares about the country. He cares about himself.

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Pete Goch
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All of the crap he said during his campaign was just rhetoric. It was grandiose bullshit meant to entertain his audience. Whatever made them shout and cheer. Whatever played well.

What we're forgetting in all this is that he never expected to win the election.

Consequently he never formulated any sort of plan for what to do in case he was actually elected. It simply never occurred to him. Lacking any sort of spark of real intelligence or imagination he is now falling back on his rhetoric and, reality and common sense be damned, trying to write it into existence. He simply doesn't have any idea of what else to do.

So here we are living in Trump's world of bullshit made "real".
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Josh
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I thought he was a con man, but now I know he's fucking crazy.
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Mary Weisbeck
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An interesting op-ed from the NYTimes; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/opinion/sunday/live-from-...

Quote:
Mr. Trump is not just a president who is unusually obsessed with media. He is an aspiring media mogul who happens to be president. When Mr. Bannon told The New York Times that the media should “keep its mouth shut,” he was being disingenuous. Mr. Trump doesn’t want the media to keep its mouth shut. He wants to silence his critics, co-opt their distribution and broadcast the story of his stardom.

It’s hard enough to predict the next four hours of the Trump administration, much less the next four years. But the publicity-driven instincts that got Mr. Trump to the White House may serve him terribly in the Oval Office. He is unpopular and torn between paradoxical instincts to condemn traditional news companies while seeking out their approval.
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Grand Admiral Thrawn
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cbazler wrote:
One thing about narcissists is that honesty and integrity are secondary to their need to be admired and to appear superior. Trump commands authority because he projects confidence and a level of expertise even in circumstances where he is completely ignorant or unqualified. When pressed about something he doesn't understand, he lies. When pressed about his lies, he criticizes his interrogators and turns the argument around on them.

Most people with any sense of morality would feel dishonest or dirty doing that. Not Trump.

So no, I don't think he has a gran plan, other than try to get people to like and respect him. Who knows, that may motivate him enough to do good things for the country, but it won't be because he cares about the country. He cares about himself.


Exactly. There is much hope. If he's having a discussion with a Democratic congressperson that he wants to impress, he'll come out of that meeting and veto Ryan-sponsored legislation.
 
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Grand Admiral Thrawn
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Our new government is not rightist or leftist or centrist. It's narcissistist.
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