The Source of Trump’s Fortune

apprentice logo image

Trump Derangement Syndrome is real, and very widespread.

Its cardinal symptom is perceiving this highly predictable product of market totalitarianism (itself a highly predictable product of corporate capitalist normalcy) as an anomaly, rather than an outcome.

TDS has two main strains.

One is the absurd, Clinton/Democratic Party-promoted idea that Trump, who is both patently incapable of holding complex thoughts and also the very definiton of unreliability, is somehow a Russian agent.

The other is what I call the “Doorstep-of-Fascism” hypothesis. This variant of TDS paints Trump as somehow about to unleash state totalitarianism in this increasingly progressive, structurally ungovernable, and thoroughly couch-potatoed society.

The New York Times‘ reporting this week on Trump’s long-hidden tax returns, however, shows the real truth about the origins of this mega-cretin:

The Times calculates that between 2004 and 2018, Mr. Trump made a combined $427.4 million from selling his image — an image of unapologetic wealth through shrewd business management. The marketing of this image has been a huge success, even if the underlying management of many of the operating Trump companies has not been.

Other firms, especially in real estate, have paid for the right to use the Trump name. The brand made possible “The Apprentice” — and the show then took the image to another level.

NYT, September 27, 2020, emphasis added

Trump inherited his daddy’s ill-gotten fortune, and used his privilege to sell himself, at a lucky early moment, as Reaganism’s Ideal Man. Commercial television, which exists to promote the sale of corporate products, then eventually hired Trump to continue peddling this sick fantasy — and it worked, all around, as the Times story reveals.

So, the obvious main fact is this: The bulk of Donald Trump’s fortune — half a billion dollars — came from the entirely normal and logical workings of mainstream American corporate media, meaning the normal and logical workings of “our economy.” Trump, in other words, is as American as Ronald McDonald, Nancy Pelosi, and the CBS Evening News.

Liberal and radical physicians, heal thyselves.

New Media

addiction spoof on Facebook logo

“Facebook might have won already, which would mean the end of democracy in this century,” [Jaron] Lanier said. “It’s possible that we can’t quite get out of this system of paranoia and tribalism for profit—it’s just too powerful and it’ll tear everything apart, leaving us with a world of oligarchs and autocrats who aren’t able to deal with real problems like pandemics and climate change and whatnot and that we fall apart, you know, we lose it. That is a real possibility for this century.”

A major hypothesis.

Nota bene: New media are new, but also not new. Both the incessant expansion of data-harvesting and the shift away from print-dominated media are major marketing (read: corporate capitalist) imperatives.

Shameless

Ah, Procter & Gamble corporation, you know no limits. Truly and completely shameless.

Some actual human beings worked on this campaign to literally turn forests into corporate dividends by researching — can you imagine doing this?!?! — and promoting this uber-self-parody for an entire late-imperial overclass. These people will do absolutely anything for another dollar.

The Engine of American Unreason

Many wonder about the sources of the profound irrationality of contemporary U.S. culture and society. The main modern engine of this continuing trend has long bragged about what it does, and why, and how:

SAP Chief Marketing Officer Alicia Tillman made the point that this is also good business. She said “humans experience 27 different kinds of feelings and today consumers are using emotions more and more to drive purchasing decisions. In a study of 1,400 ad campaigns, those with purely emotional content performed twice as well as those with purely rational content.” But from there her message got a bit more, well, transactional. “We need to get experiential data to help us understand those 27 feelings,” she said.

Reported in Advertising Age, October 7, 2019

Wealth and Delusion

Frau Klatten spricht…

Sociology’s cardinal hypothesis is that circumstance affects human perception and behavior, often to a degree that rivals or excels biological factors.

There are interesting empirical tests of this claim here and here.

One thing modern researchers seem to be confirming is that too much money is quite bad for individual mental health.

With this hypothesis in mind, get a load of this excerpt from an interview of Suzanne Klatten, the German heiress who became a billionaire by accomplishing the extremely difficult task of being born to the majority owners of the BMW corporation:

Q: The concern is that society is breaking up into poor and rich people…


A: Klatten: There is a degree of mistrust in the social space that worries us as entrepreneurs. We know that redistribution has never worked. 
I think fairness is when everyone can take advantage of their abilities and develop their full potential. And if you actively promote that, then many people can get very far. Our [own] potential reveals itself in [our] having inherited and developed a legacy. We work hard every day. 
This role as guardian of fortune also has personal sides that are not so beautiful: you are constantly visible and at risk, must protect yourself. 
Added to this is envy, a trait widespread in Germany in particular. 
That’s why I feel misunderstood, to be honest: they focus on dividends. 
The rest that connects with it, is hidden. My brother pointed this out in an interview and asked: Who would want to trade with us?

This, of course, is straight-up Marie Antoinette. In a supposed meritocracy, noblesse oblige is alive and well, with the usual psychotic analysis of what constitutes the noble.

Meanwhile, would that the German people were given an actual chance to answer Madame Bimer’s question about trading places…

Farewell to an Empty Soul

Lee Clow image Very sorry, but TCT just has to ask it: At what point did he drop the “n”?

The marketing press just now is abuzz over the retirement of Lee Clow, the Chiat/Day agency bigwig whom Advertising Age breathlessly describes as “the creative mind behind ads like Apple’s ‘Think Different’ and Adidas’ ‘Impossible is Nothing.'”

Marketing honchos provide an interesting window into the psychopathology of excessive privilege. Having spent their years creating particularly shameless forms of propaganda, they are usually, upon such occasions, extra loquacious about their own endeavors.

To celebrate his own retirement, Mr. Clow, who obviously fancies himself something of a hippie/rebel, has released a “love letter to advertising.”

What’s in it? Apart from triteness and narcissism, very, very little.

Fascinating, meanwhile, that the big farewell of a supposedly major brain who retires the same week as scientists warn about the impending extinction of all insect life on Earth has nothing to say about the various wider effects of an industry that exists to “make people…maybe even buy something.”

History, should we figure out how to continue it, is very unlikely to smile upon the solipsism of such multi-millionaire clowns.

Meanwhile, it would be interesting if we were somehow able to debate how much creativity really went into “Think Different” and “Impossible is Nothing.” Doesn’t seem all that impressive, does it?