‘You’re entitled to your own opinions,’ quipped American politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan sometime in the last century, ‘but not your own facts.’
But come the 21st century, and everyone has whatever facts he wants. Fake facts. Altered facts. Facts that are specially tailored to broaden the reader’s shoulders and tighten his waist.
When we were growing up, we sat down to the news at 6:00pm.
There was the national news, available on the three channels: ABC, NBC, or CBS. There was little difference between the three.
When Chet Huntley gave you the ‘facts’, few people doubted them. Americans had their myths and misconceptions, but all had the same ones.
Now, news and opinion are available from hundreds of different websites, blogs, and ‘news channels’. An internet user is ‘fed’ news that he wants to see. There is no effort to deliver impartial ‘news’. Instead, the new media merely stroke the prejudices of their target audiences like a pet owner caressing his cat.
Fixed ideas are no longer challenged; they are embellished…justified…and reinforced.
And it was in this new world of fake news, fake money, fake statistics, and fake policies that Donald J Trump saw his opportunity. Politics is more important to the financial world than it has been for generations. And Trump is more important to politics — for good or for bad, we don’t yet know.
This is partly because he will take office at a critically dangerous period, with a $35 trillion bubble in excess debt…
There is no more road
Clinton, Bush, and Obama were all able to kick the can down the road. But Trump may have run out of road. For an investor, that is the most important question of 2017.
We predict, through no fault of his own, that the can will blow up on ‘The Donald’. How and why are the subject of many of these Diary entries.
Of course, we could be wrong. But we’re walking on the sunny side of the street here. In this case, being wrong would mean an even worse disaster.
Either that $35 trillion bubble explodes on Donald Trump, or it blows up on his successor…in an even bigger explosion. Because it can only be booted down the road by adding more debt…making it bigger and more dangerous.
Grudges and beefs
But let’s begin by looking at how Donald Trump has changed the US political system…
Whatever other talents Mr Trump may have, he has a keen instinct for showmanship. He realised that he could use this talent to bypass the traditional parties, traditional media, and traditional ideologies…speaking directly to the people in language the Twitter Age understands.
In particular, he targeted a part of the population that had been neglected by both parties…people with a grudge against the insiders…and a beef with the whole system.
Then, he reduced complex issues to simple symbolic or demotic messages that seemed absurd to the elite media but that rang so many bells with his target audience that they put him in the White House.
Academics and commentators could discuss forever the problems of working-class America: globalisation, technology, low wages, job losses, inequality, drug abuse, and even shorter lifespans. ‘On one hand, this…’ they would say. ‘On the other hand, that…’ another would counter. Blah…blah…blah…
A professor would hold up statistical evidence proving that more job programs were needed. A columnist would suggest that the issues could be deconstructed along Freudian lines. An education lobbyist would look more carefully at the consequences of lower spending on education; ‘we need to increase primary school outlays,’ he would conclude.
But Trump cut through the chatter and nonsense.
More important, he saw that the traditional media had lost its role as gatekeeper of news and opinion.
Wrestling with a whirlwind
Trump saw that he didn’t have to analyse issues carefully or come up with coherent and defensive policy positions; he didn’t want to sound like another blah-blah candidate. This was a new world that called for a new kind of approach.
He proposed building a wall along America’s southern border. He called out China for unfair trade practices…and walloped both parties for letting foreigners take advantage of us.
He was a billionaire, he reminded voters; he knew how to make a deal. And he was a businessman, not a politician; he knew how to make money and hire people. No need to get into the details.
As for terrorism, he promised a quick and decisive policy. No jabbering. No confusion about which terrorists we should support, and which we should oppose.
Instead, he made it sound as though he would go after them all…torturing people as necessary, killing innocent family members as appropriate, and bombing the hell out of ISIS, whoever they were.
The New York Times could point out his fallacies and logical inconsistencies all it wanted. So what? His supporters didn’t read the paper.
This left critics and detractors wrestling with a whirlwind. They wanted to grapple with him…prove him wrong. They wanted to pin him down…put his shoulders to the ground.
But they could get no purchase on him.
More to come…
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