In No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need Naomi Klein refers back to another of her books, No Logo, to talk about Trump’s early recognition of the business idea to – instead of selling products, objects, sell his brand. His outrageous behavior got him attention and that helped build the Trump brand. Marketing the brand brought him millions and, the cherry on top, the presidency – where he continues his same outsized strategy.
He didn’t have to pursue far right values but those values seem to accompany an all-that-matters-is-money logic. Given the stories about his refusing to pay contractors, coming out on top of deals with little regard for ethics or fairness, bankruptcies, it is quite astonishing that voters would expect him to suddenly display benevolent behavior toward them. He railed against the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. but his brands were all outsourced.
The recent tax bill is another instance of blatant betrayal. Another consequence of and motivation for this bill is that increasing the national debt makes the kind of social programs the Right disapproves of unaffordable. I suppose you have to factor in the alienation – the anti-establishment to-hell-with-it attitude of frustrated working people feeling financial vulnerability bearing down on them without a clear idea that it’s coming from predatory capitalism.
Then there’s the Fox News factor. Who was it said when a Faux News figure moved to work for the Bush Administration, “The merger of the Republican party with Fox News is now complete.” The anomie is shifted, with the help of these unscrupulous zealots, to immigrants, minorities, liberals or some other scapegoat. The “smart” con man worked this field with impressive results.
Klein also references her important book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism to warn that the agenda now being pursued works best under cover of some crisis. They’re going full bore but the resistance is always easier to overcome when some dramatic smokescreen is available. The Patriot Act was rammed through congress with hardly a dissenting voice in the aftermath of the 911 crisis, a bill that gave the executive branch grave undemocratic powers.
The author hopefully postulates that it is harder to use the shock doctrine, or crisis capitalism, when the population has already been shaken down. For example, Klein suggests that the right wing Spanish government attempted to use a bombing in a Madrid subway to herd the population toward its agenda but that attempt backfired because the populace had already been manipulated by the right so often that they could see it coming, promptly throwing that government out of office, and pulling Spanish troops out of Iraq.
Other examples are given to encourage U.S. citizens to be prepared for the likelihood that Trump will create or use any crisis that might arise to advance those parts of his agenda that ordinarily would be strongly resisted. Like rolling back social security, something the right resisted at its creation and has been yearning to repeal ever since.
Although nuclear war, accidental or not, and over-population are very real threats to our civilization, the most urgent in Klein’s view is climate change. It is disheartening in the extreme then to consider Trump’s appointments to cabinet positions, climate deniers one and all. Rex Tillerson of Exxon, Secretary of State? Jeff Sessions, known racist, Attorney General? Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator, known for his cosy relations with fossil fuels industry? Rick Perry, Energy Secretary, the guy whose position, during the presidential campaign, was that the department should be eliminated? Goldman Sacks in all things financial? The fox in the hen house, as the saying goes.
And there are those deluded souls who believe that they can turn a profit from war. War also is one of those crises behind which much profitable mischief can be carried out. It provides a nice distraction. Clinton attempted to deflect attention away from his, ah, problems, by bombing a pharmaceutical plant in Africa, pretending it was a bomb plant. Bush/Cheney were under investigation for insider trading when “patriotism” required disappearance of such investigation when the good ol’ boys invaded Iraq. Hopefully we have been conned enough to meet the next one with an effective skepticism.
Naomi suggests that the aesthetics of branding is Dynasty-meets-Louis XIV…. gold and flash. Trump’s brand is the ultimate boss who can do whatever he wants, as exampled by his own boasting about grabbing whoever he wants wherever he wants. What might have been scandalous in the pre-branding era, is now just proof of being a “winner” in the power/wealth game. Someone gets stepped on? More proof. Being entirely amoral, he thinks he can get away with anything. Being president is the ultimate branding tool. Mar-a-lago has doubled its membership fees to $200,000. The president meets there with world leaders. His children meet with them and cut deals. So the presidency and U.S. government are now a for-profit family business. Where can the ego go from here?
Reagan began de-regulation with a vengeance, Clinton, Bush and Obama enabled it further. Klein notes that this is a wholesale disparaging of the public sphere. Deregulation was like fertilizer for Trump and he is pushing it, if we-the-public let him, to where it will be irreversible.