Mas­ter ma­nip­u­la­tor

What an Amer­i­can political show­man ( or con man) can teach Malaysians.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - HEART & SOUL -

WE in Malaysia may have a good laugh at the Amer­i­can political cir­cus. But we’d bet­ter watch closely when the or­ange- haired tiger called Don­ald Trump jumps through flam­ing hoops – there may be some lessons for us.

He was dis­missed as a joke can­di­date ( from the re­al­ity TV show The Ap­pren­tice) when he first an­nounced his quest to be­come the next US Pres­i­dent last year. But no­body is laugh­ing now as he steam­rolls to­wards be­com­ing the Repub­li­can Party nom­i­nee for the White House.

What are his se­cret weapons? One of the most pow­er­ful is stok­ing racial/ religious fear against Mex­i­cans ( he has called them “rapists” and “killers”) and Mus­lims.

The Don­ald, as he’she s known, c claimed to have s seen “thou­sands” o of Mus­lim A Amer­i­cans celeb brat­ing af­ter the 9 9/ 11 at­tacks in New York in 2001, and re­counted the du­bi­ous leg­end of Amer­i­can Gen­eral John Per­sh­ing killing Mus­lim ter­ror­ists with bul­lets dipped in pigs’ blood. There is no ev­i­dence for ei­ther story, but Trump keeps re­peat­ing them. In fact, the “Truth- O- Me­ter” of poli­tifact. com, the Pulitzer prize- win­ning political fact check­ing web­site, has rated 76% of his state­ments as false and called him the 2015 “Lie of the Year”.

What is re­ally dis­turb­ing is that his sup­port­ers don’t re­ally seem to care about small in­con­ve­niences like, er ... the truth. In­deed, the polls show that 60% of Repub­li­can vot­ers sup­port Trump’s out­ra­geous pro­posal to ban Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the United States.

One of his men­tal tricks of mar­ketinget g ( or ma­nip­u­la­tion) is to keep re­peati ing sim­ple sell­ing points. It’s like a la ate night TV in­fomer­cial falsely promis­ing you “six minute abs”. T Trump is a mas­ter at pro­mot­ing him mself as a “win­ner”. But what is the re­al­i­tyr be­hind the brand im­age? ? When Time mag­a­zine an­a­lysed d his record, he was suc­cess­ful ma ainly in real es­tate while be­ing a mul­ti­plem “loser” in many busi­ness ven­tures ( ti. me/ 1OvW1D9) in­clud­ing Trump Air­lines, Trump Vodka, Trump Mag­a­zine, Trump Steaks, GoTrump. com, Trump

sed an old type­writer t his thoughts when­ever

d with any­one. Whene dis­agree­ments within would re­treat to his bedpe long let­ters – he kept all copies – to those who had t is au­thor­ity. Even Mother ed.

any con­fronta­tions with t r ev­ery one, he would leave

ed telling me my be­hav­com­ing. I tore up count­less him for be­ing abu­sive. ting from col­lege, I joined stry and was glad to be on. I was too head­strong to rtho­dox views. Yet, as the e to years, I be­gan to look eiv­ing let­ters from Father. to trust him with mat

om made e


On the sev­enth an­niver­sary of Father’s demise, Mother sold the an­ces­tral prop­erty and moved in with me, bring­ing with her two suit­cases con­tain­ing sen­ti­men­tal valu­ables. Father’s per­sonal ef­fects were mostly cor­re­spon­dence neatly filed in fold­ers, and or­gan­ised by date and sub­ject mat­ter.

I cringed at the thought of be­ing the owner of th­ese con­fi­den­tial let­ters. Much as I wanted to sort them, I could not bring my­self to do it and kept putting it off.

I fi­nally had to deal with them when Mother wanted to find her long- lost son whom she had not seen for over 20 years. She said I should be able to find the an­swers in the let­ters be­tween father and son. Cu­rios­ity got the bet­ter of me and I be­gan read­ing them.

I found a folder with my brother’s name. In­side were copies of Father’s replies to Brother’s let­ters. Father had used his hard- earned sav­ings to send im

b o for high stu ie . let­ters

l Mort­gage and even Trump Casi­nos,

But who cares about silly things like facts and a track record? As Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Ger­many’s pro­pa­ganda min­is­ter, once said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep re­peat­ing it, peo­ple will even­tu­ally come to be­lieve it.”

Hu­mans tend to be lazy about analysing com­plex ideas; it’s the sim­ple slo­gans that stick in our minds. For ex­am­ple, a great YouTube video ( bit. ly/ 1Vn1pfg) shows how Trump re­peats the word “win” 12 times in 17 sec­onds – this is how ad­ver­tis­ing jin­gles sell stuff.

Next, he plants fear that Amer­ica is “un­der threat” from Mus­lim fa­nat­ics or Mex­i­can rapists. Fear is a very pow­er­ful emo­tion. It makes peo­ple fo­cus on sur­vival and they switch off from ask­ing ques­tions.

The fi­nal in­gre­di­ent is for a “Strong­man Saviour” to emerge. Here, it helps that Trump insults the other Repub­li­can can­di­dates (“oh, those losers”) like a school­yard bully.

“Yes, I may be an *** hole,” he seems to de­clare, “But I am a strong *** hole that will keep you safe from Mus­lims and Mex­i­cans.” Or, to para­phrase his cam­paign line, “Make ( White) Amer­ica Great Again”. No won­der a for­mer leader of the white su­prem­a­cist or­gan­i­sa­tion Ku Klux Klan has en­dorsed Trump for Pres­i­dent. Sieg Heil, mein Führer?

So how are this show­man’s tac­tics rel­e­vant to Malaysia? Per­haps we can look at those us­ing racial fear as a tac­tic to rally sup­port­ers. In July last year, Shahrul Anuar Ab­dul Aziz, a 22- year- old al­leged phone thief, was trans­formed into a sort of “hero” against “cheat­ing Chi­nese traders” by a crowd at Low Yat Plaza, Kuala Lumpur.

Never mind the CCTV footage cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia show­ing him run­ning off with a phone. Once the crowd was stirred up by in­sti­ga­tors to “pro­tect” racial “dig­nity”, it didn’t mat­ter whether Shahrul had ac­tu­ally stolen a phone or not. To them, all that mat­tered was what they wanted to be­lieve.

But Shahrul is a “hero” with clay feet. On Feb 12, he was con­victed of tak­ing drugs ( in a po­lice sta­tion toi­let, and just one day af­ter be­ing de­tained for the Low Yat in­ci­dent). Later, he was charged with slash­ing a man’s head with a parang.

Af­ter the Low Yat in­ci­dent came the Red Shirts rally in Septem­ber ( where a cer­tain race was equated with a cer­tain un­holy an­i­mal) and then the Kota Raya brawl, also in KL , in De­cem­ber ( again over al­leged cheat­ing on phones).

There was no need for sup­port­ers to ask deeper ques­tions about eco­nom­ics, education or why Malay­dom­i­nated govern­ment agen­cies didn’t clamp down on ( al­legedly)

I al­ways won­dered why my par­ents never at­tended Brother’s grad­u­a­tion. From the let­ters, I learnt that they were never in­formed or in­vited. There were 12 let­ters from Brother over five years. Father’s let­ters were hurt­ful and lacked love and guid­ance. I won­dered if Mother was aware of the sit­u­a­tion.

She knew of Father’s frus­tra­tion over their son. She loved all her chil­dren re­gard­less of their weak­nesses and fail­ures. It broke her heart when we could not con­tact Brother when Father died. We were un­aware that in his last let­ter, Brother had bro­ken all ties with the fam­ily. He felt that his ac­tions were con­stantly scru­ti­nised, doubted and judged harshly. I can re­late to Brother’s feel­ings.

It took me sev­eral months to read all the let­ters, which in­cluded those I had writ­ten and those from other fam­ily mem­bers. His let­ters touched on dis­ap­point­ment with all his chil­dren and the hard­ship he en­dured to ful­fil his role as f h a d and­fa­ther. Pu ing t ese

- dis­hon­est Chi­nese traders. All that could be heard, like a Trump speech, was the sim­ple mantra: “we” are un­der threat from “them”.

But it may be hard to change the fixed minds of peo­ple. An ar­ti­cle in the Wash­ing­ton Post news­pa­per ( wapo. st/ 1Rm­mjrf) looked at how peo­ple from the cam­paign of ri­val Repub­li­can can­di­date Ted Cruz showed ru­ral vot­ers news videos of Trump’s neg­a­tive com­ments about a cru­cial is­sue. But most re­jected the video as doc­tored.

“They were in­oc­u­lated to any truth that ran con­trary to their be­liefs. Data be damned,” as the ar­ti­cle put it.

What can be done to counter peo­ple like Trump? Sen­a­tor Bernie San­ders, who is seek­ing the Demo­cratic Party nom­i­na­tion, says the first step is to ac­knowl­edge that peo­ple have ev­ery right to be fear­ful for their fu­ture ( bit. ly/ 1SVuxuC).

He says the real so­lu­tion is to deal with the root prob­lems of political cor­rup­tion and eco­nomic in­equal­ity. But San­ders points out that dem­a­gogues like Trump are of­fer­ing an “easy so­lu­tion” by turn­ing Mus­lims and Mex­i­cans into scape­goats to cover up the real prob­lems.

So whether we laugh at ( or loathe) the guy they call The Don­ald, we’d bet­ter take a closer look at some of his tac­tics. They could be sur­pris­ingly close to home. reclusive and depre fought to over­come hi ally had de­men­tia. A ings sapped him of en en­joy­ing a com­forta life in his later years, died sud­denly.

I was re­lieved to be book on Father’s do es. Wher­ever Brother like to re­mind him that pair of par­ents in our i have been scarred by t their par­ents, rel­a­tive ever, through self- pro­tec guid­ance and for­givenes , t worked through the diffi l

Dis­cov­er­ing Father’s ed con­tempt made me re oc­ca­sional vin­dic­tive dile then I have tried to find struc­tive al­le­giance wi think that comes from im or nt in fe. You



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