Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich

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You can't get away from Donald Trump. He's the President. As with Barack Obama, Trump has those who worship his every move and those who hate his stinking guts.

But I am not here to praise him nor to bury him. No, I'm not even here to talk politics.

I'm here to talk books.

Regardless of your personal feelings, Trump is President. And it's always interesting, at least to me, to learn about our elected officials and see what makes them tick. Because, to be honest, one has to be a little touched in the head to want to go into politics. And so, I read (actually, listened) to two books about the man, one that painted him in a distinctly negative light, and another that was far more flattering.

Let's face it: Whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump is an interesting cat. And he did beat both a veritable army of GOP insiders and the most favored candidate in American history, to win the election.

[Full disclosure: I voted for the guy. Mainly because, as a reluctant Republican, I have grown so disgusted with the party as I have with the Democrats, and Washington in general, that I relished the idea of sending a giant, human middle finger to the entire establishment. Regardless, one does have to admire his ability to accomplish what he sets out to do, even if you dislike him politically or personally. I felt much the same about Barack Obama (whom I did not vote for, twice–but still, the man knows how to accomplish what he wants and is also an interesting guy. There's a lesson there for all of us.)]

First up, the more "negative" book, Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success by author and journalist Michael D'Antonio, published in 2015. I know that in 2016 D'Antonio updated the book and re-christened it The Truth About Trump, but I listened to the audio version, borrowed by my wife from our local library for me to listen to during my many long car trips between the D.C. Metro area and New England I had to make in the recent past.

Reviews of this book call it “A carefully reported and fair-minded account" (USA Today), “A brisk and entertaining read, drawing on interviews and documents and distilling decades' worth of news coverage to tell the story of Trump's childhood, family, business deals, and political forays” (The Washington Post), and "Balanced, well sourced, and perfectly timed" (Financial Times (UK)). Me, I find these claims of balance and a lack of bias laughable.

Let's get it out of the way: D'Antonio clearly does not like Trump. That said, the book is meticulously researched, well-written and constructed, and sheds a lot of light on Trump and what makes him tick.

Trump's family history is pretty fascinating, with his hellraising and, quite frankly, dishonest and kind of sleazy grandfather (who first built, and then lost, the family fortune), to his father Fred who, through hard work and good timing, nearly single-handedly rebuild the family fortune, to Donald himself, the story of the Trumps is one of sheer determination and will. No one will tell ANY of these men that they cannot do something, and they all have a knack for sniffing out an opportunity and exploiting it . . . even if that involves some unsavory steps along the way.

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What D'Antonio discusses definitely raises some red flags (and sensationally hints at far more sinister doings without much in the way of evidence, but I digress) about Trump's temperament and proclivities–his penchant for stretching the truth, if not outright lying; his habit of bending the rules to benefit himself and his family, if not outright breaking them; insinuating that he is a virulent racist and anti-Semite with no real proof; his cozy relationship with corrupt attorney Roy Cohn . . . but was it enough to make me pull the lever for his opponent? Absolutely not. For all of his vices–greed, arrogance, women, and a pathological inability to not fight back seem to be Donald's vices–to me at least, Hillary Clinton was far worse.

And yet, through it all, Trump comes across as an enthusiastic builder with an almost childlike sense of wonder about everything. One can imagine him looking at a building he fought tooth-and-nail to get built and being like, "Holy cow, can you believe it?" He clearly also believed in his designers and architects, going to the mat for many of them. And he, obviously, believes in himself.

He also tends to, let's say, exaggerate his accomplishments and disparage those of his opponents with stereotypical New York bravado. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich”

Perpetual Outrage Machine

There is so much to be upset about, isn’t there? It never ends . .  . the endless voices calling for your attention, the rising anger and boiling tension.

It can be exhausting, too. Every time somebody is called a racist this or a communist that, the effect of the word has just a little less impact, the power of the accusation chipping away each time so that even a boring, bland, milquetoast public figure who has likely never even so much as farted in public is called a bigot, a hater, a murderer, and so on.

The end result is: Nobody listens.

The process takes years, decades, but I think we are finally here. “Wolf” has been cried so many times that nobody believes those playing the part of the little boy anymore.

This is not a political blog. When I do talk politics, I enjoy talking about the macro issues, not the minutiae. And this seems like a macro issue because the perpetual outrage machine affects our moods and our well-being. I contend that the perpetual outrage machine that is the American media in all of its various forms–news, pop culture, sports, and so on–is designed to elicit strong emotional responses not only to get clicks and eyeballs, which equal money, but also to desensitize us to actual bad stuff perpetrated by people who want to pull a fast one on us.

What do I mean? Well, when the Overton Window is shifted so far in one direction, positions and ideas that were beyond the pale moments ago all of a sudden seem reasonable.

This isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes the Overton Window needs to be wrenched in one direction in order to start a conversation on things that we desperately need to have conversations about. But other times it can be used to overwhelm our emotional and intellectual bandwith to the point that someone or something truly despicable seems sane by comparison.

I’ve written about this before a while ago in the context of manufactured racial division:

The insidious thing is that black America’s problems are normalized, celebrated, and encouraged by forces that want to keep them poor and angry, as long as they pull the lever for the right candidates.

Here’s another thing that pisses me off: Seeing blacks and whites at each other’s throats. 

Time for me to put on the tinfoil hat yet again, but this is also being done on purpose. Why else are black and white, man and woman, religious and atheist, Republican and Democrat, being pitted against each other at every turn?

Sickening, isn’t it? And things only seem to be getting worse.

Or are they?

The amazing thing about the world is that, when you go off-line, things aren’t nearly as dire as they seem. If you walk around most of America you’ll find that it hardly resembles the dire war-zone our lovely outrage culture makes it sound like. People do manage to get along pretty well.

Are there problems? Of course. Will they get worse if we don’t do anything about them? Of course. But the perpetual outrage machine, which focuses our attention on insignificant things, makes it difficult to do anything about what really matters.

There is good news: It’s relatively simple to alleviate some of this heightened emotional tension. Just log off. Just go. Start small: Take an hour-long break. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

Social media can be fun. It can even be useful. And it is important to be informed.

But be aware that many of these stories are emotional weapons designed to elicit certain responses in you.

You are supposed to hate this group, fear these people, never take anything those guys say seriously.

You are encouraged to be incurious and accept what is given to you in pre-digested chunks.

This is no great revelation. However, even stuff you’re predisposed to agree with has the same purpose and needs to be passed through the same filter. Continue reading “Perpetual Outrage Machine”

Weaponized Sanctimony: What to Make of the Piety Police (and How Not to Join Them)

There’s a pretty famous saying that goes “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” You’ve probably heard of it.

You probably also think it means that you should accept everything that everyone, everywhere does without so much as a thought of disapprobation.

But there’s more to it. As with most things, context is key:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

So besides the comical imagery of a guy walking around with a gigantic beam of wood sticking out of his eye, the takeaway here is a warning against hypocrisy: don’t accuse others of doing what you yourself do.

I think about this when I pay attention to current events. I don’t write about politics here unless it’s in a big-picture, conceptual way, mainly because (1) there are plenty of political blogs out there, and this isn’t one of them; (2) politics is actually really boring; (3) I talk about it enough on Twitter and Gab to get it out of my system, and (4) I don’t want to alienate any readers who might otherwise want to hear what I have to say.

But the media in this country, which has been derelict in its duty to both inform and hold the government accountable, continues to sink to new lows, and the lesson of the day is one in abject hypocrisy.

I don’t care who you’re voting for, but the furor over dirty words spoken about a certain candidate before their presidential run is both hilarious and astounding. I’m not talking about valid concerns that such words raise–it’s important to know everything about a potential president. I’m talking about the media’s hyperventilating over them.

These same people who, whether it’s in news, entertainment, or other areas of pop-culture, who push all kinds of lewdness, impiety, degeneracy (apologias for pedophilia, anyone?) are now incensed that somebody said rude words, and they expect us to take them seriously?

 

The same people who defend certain types of naughty words and behaviors actual actions towards members of a certain sex are now pretending to be the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live, and we’re supposed to believe they’re being sincere?

The same media establishment that, let’s be real, does not like religion, God, and particularly Christianity, is now appealing to our sense of morality about things?

Please. Continue reading “Weaponized Sanctimony: What to Make of the Piety Police (and How Not to Join Them)”

Reverse Chronological Snobbery

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It’s a common refrain for lots of us to lament that we were born too late. “Things were better, then,” we say, without specifying much beyond some vaguely defined “golden age.”

“There are no more good girls!”

“Where are all the real men?!”

“Nobody has any respect for anyone or anything these days!”

“What happened to our leaders?”

And here’s a classic: “Our grandparents never had to deal with this stuff!”

I call this reverse chronological snobbery. Conventional chronological snobbery holds that everything now is better than what those less-enlightened folks had then. You’re all smart enough to know what the inverse of that is.

But not so fast. While it’s true that some things are worse, mostly the fact that we’ve been discarding tried-and-true human things that have worked for millennia in favor of fads cooked up by faculty Marxists, and that older generations, particularly the Boomers, have royally screwed over Gen-Xers and Millennials, this really is the best time to be alive in a lot of ways.

In fact, I think I was born too early.

Don’t believe me? Let me explain.  Continue reading “Reverse Chronological Snobbery”

Why the Future Is Bright

The world is a cruel, crazy place, but don’t despair! Despite all of the evil and insanity, we have every reason to be optimistic for the future.

Am I crazy? Nope. I just recognize the fact that chaos creates opportunity. It’s the principle of creative destruction: Creation of the new and better oftentimes requires the destruction of what no longer works. And while nature abhors a vacuum, I don’t think that this time the forces of command and control have the upper hand. Here’s why: Continue reading “Why the Future Is Bright”