Toddler on the roof

Donald Trump offers US medical help to ‘incredible guy’ Boris Johnson – The Guardian

Don’t jump off the roof Dad.
You’ll make a hole in the yard (…)

Popular song

Trump’s behaviour may resemble that of a spoilt toddler, as many people have pointed out, but it is coherent and consistent. Hear me out. It’s called bullshitting (1). Create and maintain an alternate reality at any cost and defend it against all attempts to call it into question. To do so on any scale you need wide access to the media. Outrageous behaviour and being president help.

Unlike many bullshitters who are busy maintaining an alternate reality that has its roots in the world, Trump’s bullshit is centred on himself. He is the subject of all the tales he tells. He is the centre of his world. His yarns are an existential part of himself. They may possibly be the only part of him. So any challenge to his words is necessarily an existential threat. A question of life and death. No wonder he gets angry at journalist who contradict him.

What is ‘interesting’ about Trump’s bullshit is that it changes every day or even every time he opens his mouth. Part of this ever shifting narrative stems from a visceral need to protect his persona and the story he’s narrating of himself from being called into question. One of the effects of such repeated discontinuity as we try to parse his meanderings is that it makes holding on to reality all the more difficult. And while we are ‘struggling’ to come to terms with his inanities – the media are fixated on him whether they be fawning or outraged – his thugs ‘rape’ the world and its people. A textbook case of applying what Naomi Klein calls ‘shock doctrine’ (2). Stir up trouble and confusion or ride the waves of disaster then do what you want while people stand lost and bewildered.

This article began life as a brief reaction to a FaceBook comment by Alistair Scott.

(1)  Frankfurt H.G., On bullshit, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2005.
(2) Klein N., The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Picador, New York, 2008.

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