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4Jan/161

Donald Trumps

Donald Trump by Greg Skidmore

Donald Trumps is what capitalism would look like, were it made flesh. Not the American ideal of it: Superman, Rambo or Henry Rollins or something. But a beady- and black-eyed carnivorous hamster in a suit so expensive it can only look cheap. A shameless, honking fart driving down the road in an open-topped car, smiling as it makes everyone vomit. A grotesque wad of dollar bills setting itself on fire so it can light its own Cuban cigar, rolled on the thighs of a young woman it hates. That's what Donald Trumps is.

Trumps is a disruptive force in American politics, just as capitalism is a disruptive force in economic markets. In the first case he is a reaction; a kick against something. An easy answer for soft minds. Trumps tells us that not only can we have whatever we want, we deserve it. And the only reasons we can't have those things are Muslims, the media, people in New York, homosexuals, Mexicans, women, the disabled, abortionists and people who want to ensure slightly fewer children are shot in the head while they're doing their PE lessons.

Capitalism also tells us that we can have everything - and that we deserve it. Like a virus we introduced it to Russia and China because we knew it would destroy them. And it sort-of did for a while. But what we never banked us was that it might destroy us - like mustard gas drifting back over no-man's land. It's being doing that for years, growing within us. And now we're seeing the lumps and boils on our body. And those lumps and boils are Donald Trumps.

Electing Donald Trumps as President of the Unites States would be like curing a cold by dropping a fireplace on your head. But it wouldn't even be as sensible as that. There's no causal relationship between identifying the problems America faces - nuns shooting up schools, black people mercilessly assaulting the bullets of white cops, corrupt politicians snorting fracking gas - and making a mad businessman president. That would be like having a dispute with your neighbour about a hedge and concluding the appropriate course of action would be to suicide bomb the local donkey sanctuary.

I talked to an American guy in an expensive holiday resort last year. We won a music quiz, swigged whisky and yee-ha!-ed to our victory. We talked about our work and holidays and families. Then he started talking about politics and I realised he was completely fucking nuts. And while there are plenty of people from the States who are just like me, he is not especially extraordinary among Americans in my experience. He was an intelligent, gregarious and amusing man. And he thought Donald Trumps was great.

Trumps wants to stop all Muslims entering the country. He wants to build a wall that's 2,000 fucking miles long - and make a foreign country pay for that. That's not politics - it's Age Of Empires. He makes fun of disabled people and when women ask him questions he doesn't like he suggests they're on the rag - or calls them ugly - although his greatest insult appears to be that his rivals are 'low-energy'. What sort of person derides another on the basis of how much, or how little, they fidget? There can be no other explanation - he's nuts. Or is he?

Well, yes he is. But nowhere near as nuts as he makes out. Trump reminds me of Clarkson, Katie Hopkins, Louise Mensch. These are all people who say controversial things in exchange for money, with varying degrees of wit, sincerity and spite. They have essentially captured the power of trolling. And that's what Donald Trumps has done. He has realised that nuts plays well in this day and age. In a field of Republican nominees who are so bonkers their very existence strains credulity, that's going some.

Our economic system, combined with rapidity of media and social media means that things that might have been unsayable, unthinkable 10, 20 or 50 years ago may now barely raise an eyebrow. We're not talking about the slow progress of minority rights over many decades. We're talking about a world in which people casually watch execution videos over their McFlurries, where kids' TV presenters can be seen on the web having a cock slapped around their faces. The incredible becomes normal so quickly it's numbing.

The BBC, the NHS, Great Britain, the EU. Whether you like these things or not it seemed unthinkable a very short time ago that they might disappear. Just as it might once have seemed impossible that Jeremy Corbyn might be leader of Labour; the SNP and UKIP would surge in popularity. Or that Donald Trumps might actually be the POTUS by 2017.

In a world where we get what we want when we want it - and blame someone else if we can't have it - Donald Trumps is merely the logical end-point. And in a country that seems to have forsaken science, common sense and empathy; flirted with racism, religious fruitcakery and outright insanity Donald Trumps is about to prove de Tocqueville correct: America deserves him.

• Original image by Greg Skidmore, Flickr used via Creative Commons

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7May/1513

The Tory Press

Someone complained recently when I took a pop at the Tory party and its breathless cheerleaders in the right-wing media. That much of the UK print media is biased is not news, nor is it news that it usually tells its readers which way they should vote. But the black propaganda employed by the Tory press in this election has been extraordinary, not only that but the interests of the billionnaire - often foreign - owners of the newspapers has been nakedly evident. Essentially, these newspapers are trying to force their readers to vote in the explicit interests of their owners, which is to say they are being instructed to vote Conservative.

It is a particularly insidious, vicious undemocratic form of advertising imaginable - and this blog is frequently about the sinister aspects of the advertising industry. So to those who want to have a whinge that a blog that occasionally makes them laugh is detouring into politics, I say this: you haven't been paying attention.

As the Tory press has seen its power wane - due to disruption from the internet and other sources of information - it has grown increasingly shrill in its demands that its readers do their bidding. The prospect of Ed Miliband as Prime Minister seems to drive newspaper proprietors to the edges of sheer terror - not, as they'd have you think, because they think he'll ruin the country but because they think he'll ruin it for them. Which is to say that people who could literally roll around in aircraft hangars of cash might be asked to pay more money, and they government might consider whether it's actually a good idea that our press is run to protect the vested interests of a load of evil wizards from Westeros. Ask yourself why these people want you to vote Conservative; ask yourself why they hate Ed Miliband; ask yourself why they are attempting to derail the choice of millions of British people.

Like a caged animal, they have grown more vicious and the rise of Russell Brand here is instructive. Whatever you make of him, the shamanistic shagger has an uncanny ability to command the interest of young people, when virtually no-one else can. Brand's Youtube Channel, The Trews, has over a million subscribers and is growing. The Sun has a readership of under a million - and it's falling.

The notion that these people may be on the brink of losing the influence they have wielded to suit their own purposes for decades is inconceivable to them, so the whole kitchen sink has been thrown at Ed Miliband. A tiny cabal of rich old white men is trying to influence the outcome of our democratic general election.

Not only that, they're prepared to challenge our constitution should they not get their own way and have been pushing the narrative that a Miliband government, run with the assistance of the SNP, would be illegitimate. It would not - and challenging such as government would be to challenge hundreds of years of Parliamentary democracy. It would be a coup.

They have stoked nationalism in an attempt to prevent people from voting Labour. Fear the Scots, they tell the English; hate the English, they tell the Scots. It's a scorched Earth policy that will almost certainly pave the way for a second Scottish referendum that will almost certainly be an Aye vote. No matter that the Tory party is actually called The Conservative and Unionist Party, the Tory press and the Tory party will willingly break the United Kingdom if they have a shot at stopping a Labour government. It's the ultimate political act of cutting your nose off to spite your face.

They've told a deliberate lie, along with the Tory party, that says Labour ruined the economy. They've told us that we need austerity, when we demonstrably don't. Miliband stabbed his brother in the back; he looks funny eating a bacon sandwich, he'd get rid of nuclear weapons and he had some girlfriends.

I'm not blind to the faults of the Labour Party or Ed Miliband, but I've looked on in horror at the increasingly crazed attempts to influence a democratic process; the sort of rampant partisanship that caused US media advisors to state they even they have never seen anything like it; for right-wing commentators and politicians to question whether things have got out of hand.

The Tory press is famous for complaining about the BBC being a 'state broadcaster' - the irony is apparently lost on them in an election where they have explicitly acted as the mouthpiece of the Conservative Party, from repeatedly pushing the lines dreamed up by Tory strategist Lynton Crosby, to publishing letter drafted for them by Conservative Party headquarters (above) to even emailing readers directly to plead with them.

In this situation I've felt the need to be part of an alternative narrative - on that confronts these hideous vested interests and the lies they will go to any lengths to tell. They are trying to fool voters to return a government that is probably not in the interests of the majority of people; to return a government that has ruled - and will continue to rule - in the interests of a minority.

Screenshot 2015-05-07 15.08.37

It's outrageous political sleight-of-hand, audacious politicking. It's also deeply sinister - and it increasingly alarms me. Trying to get people to buy unflushable bog roll, or featuring an unworldy arse in an advert is one thing - trying to influence how a nation is governed is in a different realm altogether. Yet the methods are the same.

The political spinners are the greatest magicians in the world - and some of the most dangerous. They act at the behest of people who are enemies of fairness; people who see the cost of everything and value of nothing; people who will act to protect their business interests at the expense of institutions that the rest of the world envies: the NHS, the BBC, libraries, museums, forests, coastlines, judiciary, parliamentary democracy. To them, these things are collateral - either a resource to be exploited, bought, shut down or eradicated. They see Ed Miliband threatening to stand in the way, so he must be destroyed.

The press - The Sun, the Mail, The Times, The Telegraph - are the means by which they convince us that these things must fall, that we must bow to their will. Do not see them as newspapers, see them for what they are. The most dangerous adverts for the most dangerous people inside - and outside - our country.

EDIT: Don't simply take my word for it - have a look at this independent academic report on the media's coverage of the 2015 General Election

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