Trump is the global brand leader of Impunity
THERE’S been a lot of classy writing about Trump, and some of it might even be doing some good, but I particularly like the Canadian writer Naomi Klein’s clear definition of the essence of the Trump brand as Impunity.
“How do you hold someone responsible when their brand is Impunity?” she asks, the impunity that comes with great wealth. And last week in an essay titled Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and the Role of the Pampered Princelings, she wondered “how exactly do you rationalise being lifted up by an intricate lattice work of familial and social supports (tutors, prep schools, connections at the best universities, entry-level executive jobs, capital to play with) and then setting about shredding the meagre safety net available to those without your good luck?”
Last week, too, on Twitter, Klein put it like this: “Anyone else feeling pummelled by the triple whammy of the IPCC climate report, Brazil’s election results, and the f-u of the Kavanaugh appointment? It all feels connected somehow: greed cooking our planet, elites pitting us against each other, while wrapping themselves in impunity.”
And this was before the “disappearance” of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul; nor did she have space to mention the apparently routine manner in which Putin rubs out his opponents in London or New York or Washington; or the strange case of the former president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, being investigated in China for “bribery” and detained under “a new form of custody”.
So that would turn Klein’s triple whammy into something more like a sextuple whammy, with a few more whammies always on the way — a kind of an orgy of impunity, all of it “feeling connected somehow”, seeming to take its cue from the global brand leader of the Impunity phenomenon.
“Is US isolationism emboldening autocrats?” they were asking on CNN, noting how ludicrous are the alibis of the Russians or the Saudis, that they are so far gone they can’t even be arsed thinking up half-decent lies to suit every occasion.
By “US isolationism” here, of course, they meant DJ Trump, though for all their virtues, CNN is still at times too grand to engage the enemy directly. Trump himself has no such squeamishness, and will declare CNN and any other members of the free press “the enemy”, because he knows there’s a war going on — even if they don’t.
Indeed, even if these recent outrages were unconnected to anything but the incorrigible delinquency of the various regimes, the Trumpian brand of Impunity has been influential for some time even in certain countries which don’t have “regimes”, as such, countries which used to be “advanced”.
In the pampered princelings who are running Brexit, one can see not just the nationalist malaise which has been sweeping America, but this towering indifference on their part to the carnage which will surely come. Like Trump, a Boris Johnson or a Jacob Rees-Mogg would have started with such advantages in life, there is virtually no way their abysmal manoeuvrings can cost them a shilling — Johnson gets £275,000 a year for his weekly column in The Daily Telegraph, having failed so notably as Foreign Secretary, for which he was getting £141,000 (or “not enough to live on”).
In this we can see that some of the enemies of journalism are journalists themselves. You can see this, too, in the US reporters who are still somehow disappointed that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is giving them the wrong answers, as if they’re expecting some kind of Truth to be coming out of her, and by extension, out of her commander-in chief. They must know that that game is over, and yet they are still pretending that some kind of democratic interchange is going on in those White House press briefings. They just can’t let go of their own privileges, their own careerism, and Trump gets this, and keeps pushing it.
They are not seeing what is obvious to John Dean, one of the men who drove old Nixie down, and who tweeted last week about the intimidation of reporters at the Trump “rallies”: “Not sure why the mainstream media takes this abuse. Don’t cover these rallies and Trump will beg them to return… he has made media abuse part of his schtick… media is playing his game, they should STOP”.
So these “mainstream” journalists may be rightly suggesting that Trump is spreading this contagion, that from Riyadh to Rio he is emboldening every other blackguard out there, but they don’t really understand it as clearly as Naomi Klein does. They don’t fully realise that something has changed profoundly in the international psyche, that since World War II there was always this feeling that if things got really, really bad, the Americans would arrive to sort it out for us — and that that is gone now.
It is gone to the extent that if, say, another Mussolini comes along, not only has he nothing to fear from “US isolationism”, he will in all likelihood be following the playbook of “US isolationism”. He will be looking at a man in the White House who is more Mussolini than the Mussolinis themselves.
Indeed to get them to concentrate on the true nature of what is happening, I would suggest that commentators still in denial might re-visit and adapt one of their most beloved cliches for this new age of Impunity — “It’s the economy, stupid” has served them heroically for years, ever since James Carville drilled it into everyone working for the Clinton campaign.
If he was going up against Trump these days, chances are a Carville might try something more like this: “It’s Mussolini, stupid.”
As Trump himself once remarked, after tweeting a quote from the said Mussolini: “Hey, it got your attention didn’t it?”
‘Against Trump, a Carville might try something like this: “It’s Mussolini, stupid...”’