The 19th century Irish playwright, poet, satirist, and world-class wit, Oscar Wilde, once wrote:
“A man who is much talked about is very attractive. One feels there must be something to him, after all.”
What an apt statement about Donald Trump and his presidency! For Trump, any publicity is good publicity, since it keeps him in the limelight. He has long ago discovered that image rules over substance, and that the voters who support him want the circus to go on at any cost. Furthermore, the liberal media is complicit in the making of the Trump image as they dissect his every move, rant about his indiscretions and lies, and affect righteous indignation about how he treats them.
As intelligent and articulate as some of these political pundits may be, what they don’t realize is that their words fall largely on deaf ears. Will your average voter read pages of political discussion in the New York Times, or even conservative blowhard David Frum’s long-winded rants in The Atlantic (Frum recently wrote a tedious article about his debate against former Trump strategist Steve Bannon where Frum went on-and-on trying to justify why he lost the debate against someone who can genuinely be classified as one of the evilest king-makers of our time)? I don’t think so.
Trump is truly America’s first post-modern President. Even though he has not read the critics so in vogue at universities: Foucault, Derrida, Barthes, and that gang, he understands their message that truth is relative and that it is all about language and how you use it. If Shakespeare had a vocabulary of over 40,000 words, Trump’s is less than 1,000. Yet, he is adroit in his use of repetition and redundancy:
“We are going to build a ‘uge wall. A tremendous wall. A wall that is tremendous. A wall that will be built tremendously ‘uge.”
This plays well to his racist, gun-totin’, nine-fingered followers who marvel at his intelligence and honesty and who see him as the vindication of their own hatred of what they perceive as the educated elite trying to have the once-over on them. Furthermore, Trump as President has given them (the White Males) the permission to hate: women for trying to shake off the repression of centuries of patriarchal rule, African-Americans for daring to be considered common citizens with equal rights, gays for wanting to be acknowledged as “normal” and part of our society, immigrants and people of any color other than white who they truly feel are coming to steal their jobs and to rape their women and children. And the list goes on.
Trump is the master of the lie and the contradiction, knowing that it is his word against facts, and his constituents view facts as suspicious since they are constructed by academics, whom they hate in the first place. Thus, he can lie with impunity since the liberal media is too polite to actually say the President is a liar. Trump has made lying the norm and truth as questionable. He has pitched his rhetoric to the lowest common denominator, and it has worked brilliantly. He knows that the majority don’t read, and that our attention span has been tainted by social media, that the 140 words you can post on Twitter are all that most will read. And, because it appears in print, on phones, on the Internet, and on television screens, it is the only “truth” that people care about and the only one that matters. He is mercurial, and changes his story on a daily basis, keeping his followers on the edge of their seats to witness the latest.
Trump is also the master of the sound byte that fits onto a baseball cap. Can you imagine a slogan from a member of the liberal media? Their verbiage couldn’t fit onto a Texan’s Stetson hat.
Trump revels in controversy, in chaos. Sadly, he has thrown America into this vortex where all, including detractors and supporters, spin in his orbit.
He is an Ego without a pego, knowing that there is no gratification greater than being at the center of everyone’s attention, even though that center surely cannot hold much longer. Yeats’ rough beast slouching to be born is alive and well in the White House.
And so we slog on. We in Canada are lucky, even though we have our own Trump wanna-be in the form of Ontario’s Premier, former hash dealer Doug Ford, and in our own province, burqa-basher François Legault. Still, we are far from the maddening crowd that is on the other side of our borders. We are by and large a humble, reticent folk, content to simply drown our sorrows in good beer after our hockey team loses instead of picking up an AK-47 and opening fire on the public. Our rage, if indeed we have it, is not seething just below the surface, incited to flames by an orange haired buffoon. (In the case of Stormy Daniels, an Orange-poontang).
Finally, what would the POTUS say if he were quoted Oscar Wilde’s ironic morsel?
“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
Would he slyly agree, or would he wink and dismiss it, telling his followers:
“I’ve got nothing against fags… I mean gays. And this guy, he was a ‘uge one.”
And Oscar, somewhere in heaven, would look at the peeling wallpaper, roll his eyes, and sigh:
“Before this term is over, one of us has got to go.”