Skip to content

Hypocrisy Rules

From deregulation to Guantanamo, the threats to democracy in the first year of Trump

You have to hand it to America: when they said anybody can be president, they really did mean anybody. Even Donald Trump, a man who looks like God twisted some hemorrhoids into a balloon animal, and who summons his advisers just by flushing his medication down the toilet. This is who they have chosen to lead them: an anthropomorphized kneecap peeking out from under a marmalade croupier’s visor; with the diet of a pub bin, more personal issues than Batman, and the body of a waterlogged teddy bear rescued from a drain. I honestly didn’t think he would last a whole year, or that we would. Trump is an enigma: loved by the KKK and Christians, when he seems like the ultimate argument both against white supremacy and for abortion. 

Trump enjoys a bit of tough talk, despite the fact that the only thing he’s avoided more assiduously than foreplay is military service. He recently got himself into a war of words with North Korea after they test fired a missile that went over Japan. In a war of words you do not want to be on Trump’s side: he speaks like he’s on shuffle and has a smaller vocabulary than an upturned calculator. It’s certainly been bracing to see the United States take the moral high ground about, of all things, nuking Japan. 

In a war of words you do not want to be on Trump’s side: he speaks like he’s on shuffle and has a smaller vocabulary than an upturned calculator.

Authoritarianism needs out groups, which requires hatred, which is often projection. This extends to foreign policy where North Korea is targeted for threatening its neighbor to the South, promising to expand its nuclear capability, and assassinating people abroad, despite the fact that this was pretty much Trump’s election manifesto. Trump rages about countries having to respect the United States while he constitutes a singularity of disrespect to the United States. Surely not far away from beginning a presidential address with “Hail Hydra!”, he is outraged by protests in a nation founded by, well, Protestants, and continues to encourage a Civil War about the Civil War. 

We live in a time where the most powerful interests want to reverse the remaining gains made by previous generations through the medium of widespread deregulation. Despite decades of propaganda to the contrary, being against regulation generally involves little more than supporting the rights of business over those of your citizens. In this sense, Trump is quite an effective wrecking ball, as he has always hated regulation, focusing most particularly on the Ten Commandments. Any intellectual component to the case for untrammelled free markets has had to be abandoned, as Trump wouldn’t be able to articulate it, or even understand it. In many ways Trump is as badly informed on U.S. law as a state senator visiting a prom pretends to be. So protections are just vanishing, with all intellectual justification jettisoned. His campaign pledge, repeated in office, was to lose two old regulations for every new one. This attitude to regulation among elites is symptomatic of the fact that the corporations whose interest they represent are entering a struggle to ascend to their final form, more powerful than nation states, and free from oversight. 

In this sense Guantanamo is very interesting. It’s a unique situation: alleged threats to Western Democracy are being sent to an actual threat to Western Democracy by surely the biggest threat to Western Democracy. There are of course many good arguments against the use of overseas island prisons, not least Australia. Another one is that ISIS uses Guantanamo as a recruitment tool, much as the Trump campaign uses maternal alcoholism. I suppose the United States and Castro just had very different visions for Cuba. Castro offering communism, the United States offering locals the chance to become the human components of a combined casino and ultra-brothel.

The freedom elites seek to reclaim is their own freedom from the rule of law, which is something which they have been trained as a class to feel above.

By all accounts Guantanamo Bay is run with the sincere belief in American moral superiority and general lack of irony you’d expect in a place that has banned the book Nineteen Eighty-Four.  They’ve also banned Runner’s World magazine in case it helps prisoners to escape. To be fair, Runner’s World is notorious for its long reads on how to run in ankle shackles. Interestingly the Harry Potter series is very popular with inmates and is allowed, despite one of the books being about a jailbreak from an island prison. Much as Guantanamo is a moral sinkhole for successive U.S. administrations, it is also surely another symptom of this desire to be free of regulation. The freedom elites seek to reclaim is their own freedom from the rule of law, which is something which they have been trained as a class to feel above, and they will offshore everything from cash to untried prisoners to escape it.  

Trump is like a fat bee bashing around inside a greenhouse repeatedly failing to understand why the world doesn’t work as he thought it did, and the chances of this unrepentant lunatic starting World War III are surely very high. Often, when I hear him talk even the most egregious garbage about wanting to strip people of their health care, or exile children, I’m actually just glad that he’s talking about the future, weighing his words like I would those of a possible suicide. With a Democratic establishment now almost defined by a patrician contempt for the public, we may well be weighing his words for seven more years.