Friday, April 24, 2020

Dramatic Reading: Triggered: Donald Trump Jr: Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Class Warfare

Lot of stories of growing up. Learning from Dad. Hating the left. 

This is chapter four and I just can’t. It’s a lot of virtue signalling to certain blocks of voters. It starts with stories of Donald Trump walking job sites with his kids checking for sand trap depths and such. Then, stories of Lil D and his various summer jobs where he forged his iron-clad work ethic. Then, all the growing up rich he did. Then, some hunting.  Also, How his Dad underpaid him when he started doing a more physically difficult job. Pull your brain basket out for the big quote.

“I thought, I used to make hundreds of dollars in tips, smelling nothing but sunscreen and salt water, and now I’m in mud and sawdust up to my knees, wiping dirt out of my eyes, and working around sweaty dudes for less money. I decided I would tell my father that weekend after dinner what I had realized about my paychecks. I assumed that he would immediately raise my pay and commend me for realizing how unfair the system was to working guys like me.”

Certainly doesn’t paint that familiar picture of hard work being its own reward. I bet it works out just like this dumb laborer thinks it will.

Okay. I must bring this all to halt to tell you that, in the book, the discussion between Trump the elder and Lil D is presented in the form of a one act play. Cringeworthy move, Mr. Editor.

Here’s what you’re looking for:

“Why would I do that? You think people are going to give you more money just because you’re a nice guy? They’re not, Donnie. Anything you want, you have to go and get it. Nothing is going to be handed to you. Nothing. You have to earn it before you ask for it! Always remember: you don’t get anything you don’t ask for.”

The narrative gets a little fuzzy here on why Lil D believes he deserves more money. In the play, it’s because he’s doing more work at the job site. So, step by step:

“Anything you want, you have to go and get it.”

Now, my analytical skills are rusty, but I think that’s exactly what Lil D is doing. He’s going to negotiate with the boss about pay. Look, it’s made clear in the book that, in retrospect, Lil D considers this to be a formative lesson in negotiation. He compares it to “playing your first pick-up basketball game against Michael Jordan.” 

 “Nothing is going to be handed to you.”

Except, in this case, the job. Now, I’m not going to say that I remember every inch of this chapter, but I’d remember if there was a story about Lil D being the best available candidate for the job. How he’d interviewed really spectacularly against an array of top contenders from all the best places. I know, I know. People give their kids jobs all the time in an effort to teach them work ethic. But, what interests me most here is what’s taken for granted.

“You have to earn it before you ask for it!”

Right. So, earlier, Big Poppa Trump says that he didn’t give Lil D a raise because Lil D had not asked for one. If we apply this fun little algorithm which presumes to calculate pay after the work has been done, Lil D has done things in the correct order. In that, he is now asking for his more money after he has “earned it.” How can he also be wrong in not asking before he “earned it.”

“Always remember: you don’t get anything you don’t ask for.”

 This is the most sinister line of all. And I use that word carefully. I don’t believe this is addressing the apparent lack of appropriate remunerations. I think this is Big Boppa Trump telling his son that he was underpaid because he wasn’t smart enough not to be. That’s the dark lesson here from the Trump parenting playbook. If something bad happens to you, it’s because you deserved it.

That’s that good, good gravy. Because it would seem to make the opposite true as well. If something good happens to you, it’s because you deserve it. Anything you have or are given, by virtue of whatever attribute, you deserve. We’ve caught a vicious little Ourbouros.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Dramatic Reading: Triggered: Donald Trump Jr: Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Cracks in the Foundation

“I love the poorly educated.”  ~Donald Trump

Lil D is very concerned with the manner in which Democrats are tending to the inherent flaws of their political “foundation.” Which he defined as:

“It built a political party on a foundation of Jim Crow-style racism, support of the KKK and slavery, and stark opposition to Abraham Lincoln. Every few decades they added a floor to that foundation. Those floors included a widespread welfare state, hindrance of businesses both big and small, political correctness, Soviet-style socialism, and Antifa. They are the party of dependence. Without that, they have nothing.”

This is hard. This is harder than I thought it would be. I’m stealing moments away in quarantine to do it and I really thought there’d be more here. 

I want to avoid making jokes like a late night host or Chapo Trap House. I’m convinced that the look-how-stupid political analysis model is beneficial to the right and has been since George W. Bush. I’m also convinced that’s the reason for the presence of the bad jokes in this book.

Chapter 3 has something like a three act screenplay structure with a flashback comprising the entirety of the second act. Act 1 is Lil D recounting his project management of the International Trump Hotel & Tower in Chicago. From this venture, he learned that foundations are important and faulty foundations are bad, like the Freedom Tower in San Francisco. 

“Today, they call it the ‘leaning tower of San Francisco’ and estimates are that it’ll take more than $100 million to fix -- not the best news for people who bought condos in the building, which have depreciated in value $400,000 on average.”

Cue the wavy screen and we’re off to, I assume, an amalgamation of summers he spent in Czechoslovakia. It was here as an adventuring five-year-old he learned the true horrors of a command economy. Apparently, the houses and buildings are very drab. There’s bread lines. Grandma and Grandpa are last in line because Grandpa won’t join the party. Also, their apartment was small. And the TV channels sucked. And…

“In Czechoslovakia, the government gave the people everything they needed to exist (barely) and then asked for a small amount of labor in return. People worked in careers that would maintain the status quo and provide for the state, and everyone made roughly the same amount of money. No one could make a higher wage just because he or she worked harder. There were no incentives, so there was no economic growth.”

I have very few tools to refute this analysis of Czechoslovakia’s economic movement. Plus, there’s very little incentive for me to do so. Personal growth? I guess. There’s certainly no monetary reason presented. See, I think when you hover between the bottom three tax brackets, money really is the most powerful motivator around. Most of the time.

Also, when people do the kind of long form video essays, like on Youtube, on topics like Lil D's book, all they do is go find someone or somewhere that has the expertise necessary to refute or clarify the statements and quote them. I bet that’s more persuasive if you've been to college or beyond. If you’re somewhat familiar with things like the scientific method, peer-reviewed journals, the differences between conjecture and theory, and keyhole essays. I believe it’s possible to view, without knowledge of the aforementioned, one person says one thing and one person says something different. As though discourse itself were made up of facts and alternative facts.

“Stupid” may be an identity. It’s possible that taking pride in a lack of formal education has become a badge of honor -- worn especially in the anonymizing mists of the internet. It’s possible that the liberal tears that are so often sought are the tears of frustration at being confronted with a deluge of inaccuracy. The conservative countermeasure to being wrong or transparent in their greed, racism, homophobia, or economics is to present so many shoddily constructed ideas that the liberal or “leftist” on the other side steams up and goes red-faced. It’s possible this is where the political game is now. 

The game forces someone into unpleasant feelings until the only refuge is numbness. Engagement may be the beginning of the losing. Because people who went to college are programmed to disabuse someone of their ignorance as quickly and efficiently as possible without regard to emotional stresses. Because that, perhaps until very recently for most, is how college gets down. It’s all about overload now.

That’s all I really have. Lil D then launches into his third act featuring the dangers of AOC, Bernie, The Squad, and Teen Vogue. Last one is not a joke. Apparently, it’s leftist propaganda for the young. I let my subscription lapse, so I can’t really comment. 

I would, however, leave you with this:

“I would help my friends pluck and butcher them--I butchered hundreds of chickens in my childhood.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Dramatic Reading: Triggered: Donald Trump Jr: Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Counterpunch

 “He’s stringing them together like a necklace that members of his tribe can wear in order to recognize one another.”  ~me, from before

This was a tougher one to write than I thought it would be. First, there’s the sifting through all the posturing and braggadocio. Most especially, how hard he doesn’t run from a fight.

“He knew as well as I did that there’s no such thing as being “too hot” on social, at least not as far as I’m concerned. I consider myself to be a shit-talker par excellence.”

Weird flex, Drama.

Then, it’s refuting the assertions piecemeal. I don’t have time for that. Somebody else does. 

The “red meat” as it’s referred to by Lil D -- no doubt another shot at vegans-- of this chapter is stringing together: The Mueller report and subsequent testimony, the reaction of the “left” to the election of Donald Trump, and acts of violence or harassment suffered by people on the “right”  into what appears like a chain of causality stemming from irrational hatred of all things Trump. Political distinctions of victims in these tales of Antifa and woe, predictable as they may be, aren’t really important. These are people on the Trump family’s side. These are people perceived as close to Trump, even if only politically. 

Trump’s voters are presented with an unspoken equivalency. They are under attack from “the left,” “leftists,” “the radical left,” and “Democrats.” Though he, in a thus far uncharacteristic backpedal, states that some Democrats are good people.

Now, I know I made a bit of a leap back there. I took a leap from the attacks, physical or otherwise, endured by people close, in whatever way, to Donald Trump and turned that toward Trump voters. Early in my notes, after reading a particularly pungent bit of chest-puffing regarding the release of the Mueller report, I grabbed this quote:

“If that’s what you’re expecting, you’d better go buy a different book.”

In my notes, I saw this was the second time he’d invited the reader away from his lovely pages and wondered if he was insecure. Well, I mean, he is. The non-stop alpha male chest-beating prose tells you know that much. He’s making one last attempt to kick out the uncool kids by appealing to their sense of revulsion at his personality.


"Also, if you find any of the following even remotely offensive: patriotism, masculinity, hunting, MAGA hats, the american flag, guns, religion, Roseanne Barr, criticism of stupid ideas, capitalism, skyscrapers, or the use of the word 'Christmas' during the Christmas season, then you should definitely stop reading."

He’s been identifying exactly to whom he’s talking. The insults serve to obfuscate and confound those not in the special group of cool kids. Cool kids to whom those type of insults are of the water-off-a-duck's-back varietal. Cool kids that are also the subject of vicious and violent bullying. This is where he, a man of wealth, power, and status, aligns himself with the inner children of the outsiders. Or, more specifically, those who consider themselves outsiders.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Dramatic Reading: Triggered: Donald Trump Jr: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Trigger Warning

I'm reading this book because I checked it out at the library as a joke on my wife and now I'm stuck with it. This Is My Read.

"But today, "discourse" only exists for leftists. when conservatives do it, they call it ‘hate speech.’"

"You'll also get to find out a little about me during the ride, if only as a way to dispel the conspiracy theory on the left that I was born with horns."

Look, I'm not going to beat around the vulva. This guy is a douchebag. The six pages of chapter one paint the portrait of Dorian Douchebag. I use the metaphor because there is a fiction to this. It’s clear from the bravado that this is something of a performance. I believe he’s using, what I like to call, “The Crowder Technique.” It allows Lil D to say obnoxious things and if someone is offended or wants to challenge the ideas meaningfully, then he was just kidding. It’s a way of testing the water in conversation. However, this isn’t a conversation. It’s a book. So Lil D must artificially inject the alienation of “liberals” who would opt out of a conversation or performance such as this.

See that joke I made up there? The vulva joke? See, you may have thought that in poor taste. You may have been a little put off. You may think that sort of joke is inappropriate for the format given that there are older relatives lurking around these soft and easy avenues of Facebook. Whatever reason you didn’t care for that, the fact that you think it is something you have a right to do. Telling me in the comments that you think so is something you have a right to do. Freedom of expression is not one-sided. I do not have a constitutional right not to be put on blast for making a ill-received joke. In fact, no expression has that privilege. That’s called criticism. There is no freedom from criticism.

“Also if you find any of the following even remotely offensive: patriotism, masculinity, hunting, MAGA hats, the American flag, guns, sex, religion, Roseanne Barr, criticism of stupid ideas, capitalism, skyscrapers, or the use of the word “Christmas” during the Christmas season, then you should definitely stop reading.”

Lil D thinks otherwise on the whole freedom of expression thing. But it isn’t about that. It isn’t about freedom of expression. The previous quote is a way of separating the cool kids from the not cool kids. It’s a way of alienating people who will challenge ideas and a way of bonding with those who won’t challenge your ideas. It’s othering. And done with this lack of subtlety, it’s absolutely juvenile.

You have no idea how badly I want to use words like dumb, stupid, and moronic to describe these middle school rhetorical and manipulation techniques, but in good conscience I cannot. Because they work. They’ve worked on people. They are working on people right now and combating them is hard. It stems from the desire to use any number of the synonyms for ignorant. But doing so will only increase the alienation. It’s infuriating. Because it’s a trap.

There’s a lot of traps in here. It’s a minefield. There’s a lot of statements made in these six pages that are solely there to be the clickbaity headline on the internet. It’s savvy. That’s why so much of this book, I believe, will not be worth going over in these posts. Also, I’m hoping to all that is God that I can make these much briefer. Because the chapters only get longer. And his “jokes” aren’t funny. They’re not even worth deconstructing. I’ll leave that for Chapo.

I know that a lot of you are very familiar with these concepts and could easily suss out the flaws in the logic so forgive me if I’m boring you with some of this.

In the last quote, he’s not just listing a scattershot of concepts which will weed out the liberals. He’s somewhat subtly equating all those things. He’s stringing them together like a necklace that members of his tribe can wear in order to recognize one another. He didn’t forget vegans, by the way. He gets them in a "joke" about what liberals can do with their copy of his book.

He then mentions how he’s hoping that all the liberals are gone and it’s now just us patriots. He goes on and further mentions he didn’t want to “break out my MAGA hat.” Mentions the MAGA hat twice in two paragraphs. It’s product placement. They are 25 dollars and you can buy them directly from the Trump campaign website.

Once the cool kids are firmly and orderly seated at the cool kid's table he pivots to the thing his roasting of the “bunch of oversensitive babies who find everything offensive” was always leading toward, racism. That’s right, racism. Lil D declares that calls of racism are the default position of anything with which the “left” does not agree. He reverts from the “joking” that the statement “Math is hard?” could be considered racist back to earnestness.

“The problem with using racism as a label for everything you don’t like, of course, is that racism is still a real problem that persists in this country -- not nearly to the extent the left would have you believe, of course, but it’s still one of our major issues.”

Folks, I have not read ahead, but I think we’re going to be noodling out some “racism against white people” jams. The big scares come from what Lil D thinks are the real problems facing America today. Including:

“There are stacks of books we’re no longer allowed to read, public figures who are no longer allowed to speak in public, and crucial debates we are no longer allowed to have-- all because they might hurt someone’s feelings.”

Lil D then raises the specter of book burning and the thought that this very tome might be one headed for the fire. Previously in the chapter he’d encouraged liberals to buy his book and recycle it. I bad?