Like me, you may be feeling a combination of shock, distress, and terror
at the news that Donald J. Trump will become the next leader of the world’s
largest military and economic superpower.
But it’s all right! It’s all right. It won’t be that bad. I mean, it
will be pretty bad. That’s for sure. But we can get through this. To help
you through this difficult adjustment period, here are some comfort thoughts:
Many Trump policies range from mutually contradictory to the physically
impossible so they can’t all be implemented.
Writers of satire or absurdist comedy need never again be told that their
work is too far-fetched.
Reagan was a TV actor with fantastical economic ideas and latent Alzheimer’s
and the US came out of that pretty okay.
Exposure of electoral system that weights votes of residents of North Dakota
and Wyoming 3-4X greater than those in California and New York, holds
elections on a working Tuesday, and uses plurality voting, may prompt actual
change, perhaps to “Best Out Of Three” system, or drawing straws.
He is pretty funny, for a President.
Inevitable war with foreign power and subsequent nuclear winter may offer
effective solution to global warming.
Nation avoids messy spectre of four years of depressing gridlock where bitter
Republicans hold White House hostage and nothing gets done.
Small children can be told that anything is possible with a straight face.
Nation will undergo a great strengthening, in “what doesn’t kill me
makes me stronger” sense.
Shocking the hell out of the ruling class is necessary from time to time in
order to avoid a build-up of complacency and corruption, so why not now.
And election campaigns are all about demonizing opponents but only rarely
are they actual demons.
Also the UK voted to Brexit, so, you know, sucks to be those guys.
I was thinking about how unfair it is that reality has evil right-wing corporate overlords
named the Koch Brothers while if I wrote that in a novel people would call me shallow
and juvenile. I mean, it would be true. But also unfair. You’re supposed to have more creative
license in fiction, not less. Then there’s Trump, who does things on a daily basis
that no satirical character could get away with. It makes you wonder where there is left to go.
But then people have been complaining that satire is dead forever. Satire has died a
thousand times, apparently, at the hands of JFK, George W. Bush, in fact probably every
US President since about 1960. Before then I’m not sure. But I imagine a long line of
despairing intellectuals stretching back through the centuries.
So it’s probably just a failure of imagination. We have a set of societal standards, and
when someone veers close to the line, we can satirize them by portraying what it would be
like if they crossed right on over. Oh, you think taxes should be lower? WHAT IF THERE WERE
NONE AT ALL. That kind of thing.
But when someone does cross the line, and stays there, like Trump, it’s a problem.
It feels like there’s no way to satirize it because the only step farther
is pure ridiculousness. Still, on reflection, I think you have to consider that
the line has moved. It moves a little every year, in one direction or another, and this time
it’s moving very pro-clown. Many US Presidents have been a little clownish—Reagan, Clinton,
George W.—and in fact now I think about it, more Presidents than also-rans. It has been
an asset to be clownish. No wonder we wound up here. But my point is that
it’s probably fair to imagine a very clownish
President in the future, and elections contested between clowns.
This time, crossing the line hurts Trump. And that does indeed put him beyond satire, as
well as making him unelectable*. But he also moves the line, and nothing is as shocking
the second time, so the next clown will seem more reasonable. The next clown will be
more reasonable, having observed the hits and misses of Trump. They will keep all
the goofy style over substance and just pare off the awkward Hitler parallels. So get ready for that.
Maybe not next election.
You wouldn’t run a second clown against Hillary if your first clown got obliterated.
But after that. I see 2024, two clowns.
Max, I hear you’re Australian. Do you support Australia becoming a republic?
Yes, I do! Australia almost became a republic in 1999 but the referendum was
defeated 45% to 55%. It was interesting because according to the polls, most
people were in favor of the general idea, but against any specific implementation.
So we wanted to be a republic right up until someone said, “Would we have
a Prime Minister or a President, then?” at which point it dissolved into bitter
This seems to be the general case. For example, a couple of months ago New Zealand
tried to change its flag, since, like Australia’s, it has a certain
Beneath-The-Iron-Heel-Of-The-Colonial-Empire vibe to it, and that idea had a lot of
support in principle, which collapsed when faced with a particular alternative design.
That was when the “Classy Silver Fern” people realized they didn’t have as much in common
with the “Kiwi Shooting Laser Beams Out of its Eyes” people as they thought.
I think the lesson is that you should make people to agree to do something before
you tell them exactly what.
If memory serves me correctly, you wrote a blog about cement
being your prefered way to hide a corpse quite a number of years ago. But what would be your prefered (if not favorite) way to kill someone?
In order to get away with it, or maximize my enjoyment? Because if you mean the second one, you’re a sick puppy, Atom. Get some help.
I think there must be one layer of misdirection. You want the kind of murder where people’s first reaction is, “What the hell, how did that happen,” then a minute later, “Ohhhh.” They think they’ve figured out the secret. But they haven’t. That’s when people stop thinking. No-one wants the thing they figured out to be wrong.
For example, let’s say say I just strangled you to death, Atom. The first thing I’m going to do is strip you naked. Then I’m going to drag you to the bathroom, dip your head in the toilet, put a pair of tongs in your hand, roll you in flour, and throw you off the balcony.
So the cops are in an unfamiliar environment. That’s important, too. They’re more experienced with murder than I am. They know what to look for. But they won’t have dealt with too many naked wet flour-encrusted tong strangulations. That puts us back on even ground.
Now for the misdirection. I’m leaving a suicide note signed by you. I CAN’T LIVE IN A WORLD THAT WON’T ACCEPT
MY TONG-BASED SEX RITUALS. But it’s not convincing. The cops were already
going to be suspicious and here it is, the thing that justifies their feelings. That’s when they find your phone, with angry messages to your
girlfriend. WILL YOU SHUT UP ABOUT THE TONGS. I’M NEVER GOING TO DO THE TONG THING WITH YOU. Bang. Case closed. That girl is going to prison, because one twist is plenty.
Hey Max, what are you angry about today?
My newspaper offered a “life hack” for better storage of food in zip-lock bags:
Put your germ-laden lips on the bag and suck the remaining air out.
They had a video of a woman doing her best not to exhale a mouth full of bacteria
into a bag, to demonstrate. That really enraged me. I’m no doctor but I’ll
take my chances with regular air over sealing in the escaped vestiges of whatever
just crawled back out of your lungs. Really, it’s the label “life hack” that put
it over the top. Like they think it’s so clever. Why don’t you go save some snakebite
victims by suckling at their open wounds, you barbarians.
Which dystopian horrors you’ve imagined have actually come true so far?
ALL OF THEM. Sometimes I think, “Well, at least THIS hasn’t happened,” then BAM, here’s
Trump’s first TV ad.
That thing is really something. It reminds me of why I got out of satire. I can’t do anything with that. It’s already a parody.
My favorite part is where it says we should ban Muslims from the US until we figure out a reason.
Because at face value, there’s no reason to tack on that last part. If you were at a party and trying to make the argument
for closing the borders, you would never say that, because it makes you look dumb. Instead, you would trot out some vague reason
and hope you didn’t get called on it. Right? Explicitly saying “until I figure out why” calls attention to the fact that you don’t actually have a reason.
But the ad does this on purpose! It explicitly validates the idea that we don’t need to waste time identifying problems, but can skip on ahead to the part
where we take action against people we never liked anyway. And this is smart, in a thoroughly amoral, civilization-eroding kind of way, because it’s so hard to logically justify racism. Xenophobia is a feeling, not a philosophy. You can’t really mount a solid, racist case for anything. But it’s a real feeling, so what you really want to hear, if you have that feeling, is that you’re completely right and don’t need to worry about why. We can just go ahead and ban Muslims. Until we figure out a reason.
And then the other side completely ignores all that and gets excited because the ad maybe unfairly implies that some footage from Morocco is Mexico.