The president-elect’s unfiltered exchanges prompted the White House to urge him to seek the State Department’s expertise in his encounters with foreign leaders.
The Closer with Keith Olbermann - One of the most provocative voices in American politics is back! As GQ's Special Correspondent, Keith Olbermann turns his eye to the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election in “The Closer,” a series of political commentary and special interviews that's unlike anything else on the internet or on television.
This series is awesome! It’s almost as if Will McAvoy from the HBO series The News Room has come to life with even more vim and vigor! I see it as a far more serious version of The Daily Show with facts and reasoning that keep it relatively close to news while still working in the realm of punditry. I want to call it entertainment or even satire, but sadly the underlying facts are all too true.
In particular, it’s hilarious to see him subtly referencing Trump as “Donald John Trump”, a verbal trope that’s often used in the news to directly identify serial and other murderers, social deviants, and psychopathic sociopaths: John Wayne Gacy, Jared Lee Loughner, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, John Wilkes Booth, Paul John Knowles, Mark David Chapman, and Gary Leon Ridgway.
I also find it fascinating that there’s now finally someone who can rail against the right as well as any of the loud pundits on the right who’ve been lambasting the left for the past 20 years.
I’m slowly nearing the end of the entire Fletch series, but they still manage to stay relevant and interesting. Fletch and the Man Who is certainly no exception. In fact, I might argue that it is not only still very relevant to modern culture, but that it has actually ripened with age.
Caxton’s Technology Platform
The most interesting portions of the book were the prescience of the role of technology in modern life that were described within it. Mcdonald wrote this in 1983 long before the advent or ubiquitization of satellite communications, cellular phones, desktop computers, and even the internet. Yet somehow the discussion being pushed by the lead presidential candidate in the story feels very forward thinking and is highly relevant even today. Given the rise of Twitter and Facebook, it may actually be more interesting and relevant today than when the book was written in the early 1980s. Interestingly it feels like we have yet to figure out where technology is taking us. This book brings up a lot of philosophical ideas that we’re still heavily grappling with and on even deeper levels. Some of the mentions of religion and politics are all still alive and well in the modern political scene (though Communism/Marxism have died and disappeared after this book was written) and are just as touchy in their relation to technology. The recent presidential campaign certainly highlighted some of these technology issues, particularly with relation to the effect on political communication via fake news and Facebook. Mcdonald takes aim at the idea of “truth” within a political campaign and having a well informed electorate.
There is some really great satire on politics in the book. Oddly, not much of it originates with Fletch or his views on life. While there are a handful of good zingers that Fletch delivers in his wry signature fashion, this book seemed like a major departure in that the supporting characters take on the typical Fletch role of smartasses. This felt interesting and almost natural from a storytelling point of view as Fletch himself actually throws off his typical rebel character mantle to “join the establishment” and run interference for the presidential candidate’s press corps. Most interesting to me a lot of the mentions about politics still play as well today as they did 30+ years ago.
We meet one of Fletch’s old war buddies and learn a few new pieces of backstory that flesh out his character a bit more, which is something I didn’t expect as much of at this point in the series.
There isn’t as much sexual tension in this as in some of the past works, but Freddie Arbuthnot makes a reappearance and really forces Fletch to work overtime for her approval. This seemed more interesting to me than some of Fletch’s past sexual exploits which seemed to come too easily for him. It’s more interesting to see him have to work at creating a relationship, particularly with a woman who had previously thrown herself at him.
Of interest to me with regard to the plotting and the reveal at the end was that there were a nice number of potential suspects. Better, despite my decade+ affair with Law & Order and similar procedurals on television, there was just enough psychological subtlety and distance that the reveal of the killer was not only well motivated but also hidden enough to be entertaining right up to the end. (No spoilers here…)
One thing I did miss was the complete lack of phony characters invented by Fletch as cover stories. To my recollection there were none in this installment. I did however notice that a despicable character in the plot had the name Hanrahan which was (probably not coincidentally) one of the fictional names that popped up in a cover story Fletch spun in the film version of the first book:
Well now, you know that and I know that, but… somebody’s bucking for a promotion. Probably that pederast Hanrahan. I don’t know. All I know is if I don’t go back with something, you and your son-in-law are going to be the scapegoats of the week.
This book would have been out and available well in advance of the May 31, 1985 release of the film.
There were a few tidbits that could have been better resolved at the end (what was Caxton really doing during those disappearances?), but overall, this was a very satisfying and interesting read. It’s certainly made me think about politics and the philosophy of technology in a different way than I have been recently, and for that this may have been to me the most interesting book in the series so far. Some of the philosophy in particular deserves additional thought and study, and may motivate me to actually re-read this one.
- 08/7/16 marked as: want to read; “The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series.”
- 11/03/16 started reading
- 11/03/16 02.0% done
- 11/05/16 03.0% done
- 11/08/16 04.0% done
- 11/11/16 08.0% done
- 11/20/16 18.0% done
- 11/21/16 21.0% done; “Fletch has a new job, and like usual, the first few minutes of the book throw us right into a riveting high concept. Where we’re ultimately headed is anyone’s guess…”
- 11/22/16 22.0% done
- 11/23/16 35.0% done; “Usually Fletch is the one with all the sharp, ascerbic statements, but in this installment I’m noticing that he’s the tame one and everyone else is somehow playing the part he usually does.”
- 11/24/16 56.0% done
- 11/25/16 Finished book; “There’s some great stuff in the last half of the book about Wheeler’s platform that is eerily prescient of the situation we now find ourselves in with regard to a heavily internet connected world and who owns it. It’s also an odd feeling reading this after experiencing what’s recently happened in the 2016 presidential election and it’s ensuing results.”
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
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“No,” she answered. “I’m on my way up.”
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“My dentist doesn’t subscribe.”
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“Not on crime. Gross stuff, crime. Reports on what the coroner found in the victim’s lower intestine. I don’t even want to know what’s in my own lower intestine.”
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“Funny,” said The Man Who. “I thought the government is.
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“On an American western artist. You know: Edgar Arthur Tharp, Junior.”
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:39:22 PM
“Who said that?”
“I did. I think.”
“You’re wrong. But it has a nice ring to it.”
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“You can save a lot of money by not smoking.”
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:48:09 PM
“Just one, for now.”
“And what would that be?”
“To be loyal to you.” Fletch grinned. “Until I get a better offer. Isn’t that what you just said politics is all about?”
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“Had to spend some time in the bar, Mother. Something happened. This girl—”
Doris Wheeler slapped her son, hard.
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 9:58:41 AM
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“Now you’re leaving out Arbuthnot!” said Joe Hall.
“All creatures great and small?” asked the governor.
“Why’s that man up there calling us a bunch of animals?” Stella Kirchner asked Bill Dieckmann loudly. “Trying to get elected game warden or something?”
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“That’s another thing,” Fletch said. “I will never evade any of your questions.” He turned the microphone off and hung it up.
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:06:40 AM
“Some people,” announced Fletch, “think I always have been.”
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:07:28 AM
“You’ll never make it.”
“I know it.”
“That’s all right.” She patted him on the arm. “I’ll destroy you as painlessly as possible.”
“Great. I’d appreciate that. Are you sure you’re up to it?”
“Up to what?”
“It will be easy,” she said. “Because of all those conflicts in yourself. You’ve never tried to be a member of the establishment before, Fletch. I mean, let’s face it: you’re a born-and-bred rebel.”
“I bought a necktie for this job.”
She studied his solid red tie. “Nice one, too. Looks like you’re already bleeding from the neck.”
“Got it in the airport in Little Rock.”
“No. They had five or six to choose from.”
“That was the best?”
“I thought so.”
“You only bought one, though, right?”
“Didn’t know how long this job would last.”
“Glad you didn’t make too big an investment in your future as a member of the establishment.”
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“Yeah,” Freddie said. “Everyone in the country who can’t read, reads Newsbill. Big deal.”
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“You don’t like lawyers either?”
“Even lawyers’ mothers don’t like lawyers. If you do a survey, I think you’ll find that lawyers’ mothers are the strongest advocates of legal abortions in the land.”
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:08:02 AM
“Anything your heart desires. You know a man more from his questions than from his answers. Who said that?”
“You just did.”
“Let’s not make a note of it.”
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“Oh, yes,” the governor said. “They couldn’t have played ‘America’ that badly without practicing it.”
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:34:41 AM
“You don’t know?”
“Some press rep. you are. You ever been on a campaign before?”
“You’re cute, Fletcher. But I don’t think you should be on this one, either.”
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:36:05 AM
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“The answer is yes,” she said. “Anytime. You don’t even have to bring a bottle of wine.”
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“What’s a rum toff?”
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I read this little snipe at Fletch (and the ubiquitous mention of his disliked first name) as a blatant reference to the Gelett Burgess nonsense poem Purple Cow first published in 1895. One will note the reference comes via verbal transmission rather than direct as the line is slightly modified.
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one. 
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:53:41 AM
The bus driver said: “Just guessed.”
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“Yell with the toothache,” Paul Dobson said. “They’re yelling because it makes their teeth hurt!”
“Make ’em hypertensive with sugar at breakfast,” Phil Nolting intoned, as if quoting, “then slap ’em down at school.”
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“Who was he?”
“Cooked for Henry the Eighth.” The governor gave him a weird look. “Buried under the chapel at the Tower of London. Forgot to take the poultry lacers out of roast falcons.”
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:10:20 PM
Fletch said: “Wow.”
“… The Third World, as it’s called, is no longer something out there—separate from us, inconsequential to us. Whether we like it or not, the world is becoming more sensitive. The world is becoming covered with a network of fine nerves—an electronic nervous system not unlike that which integrates our own bodies. Our finger hurts, our toe hurts and we feel it as much as if our head aches or our heart aches. Instantly now do we feel the pain in Montevideo, in Juddah, in Bandung. And yes, my friends in Winslow, we feel the pains from our own, internal third world—from Harlem, from Watts, from our reservations of Native Americans …”
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“Well,” Fletch said, “roughly he said the world is getting it together despite man’s best ideas.”
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Doris Wheeler’s voice became that of a reasonable lecturer. “Caxton, you know damned well the farmers and merchants of Winslow, of the U.S.A., do not want to hear about the Third World. They want to hear about their taxes, their health programs, their Social Security, their defense, their crop subsidies. The voter is a totally selfish animal! Every time the voter hears the name of a foreign country, he thinks it’s going to cost him money.”
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:08:02 PM
“I take a cold shower in the morning.”
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“Unreal, man. Totally unreal.”
“I believe you. On television you were wearing a coat and tie.”
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:36:02 PM
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“Two yesterday. No outstanding warrants on you, though. I check first thing every morning.”
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:41:16 PM
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“Tits for that,” Judy said.
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Slowly, carefully, Fletch said, “No. That’s why the chicken crossed the road.”
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“Am I wrong to think that most of the bad things that happen on this earth happen because people don’t have the right facts at the right time? It’s all very well to believe something. You can go cheering to war over what you believe. You can starve to death happily over what you believe. But would wars ever happen if everybody had the same facts? There is no factual basis for starvation on this earth,” Governor Caxton Wheeler said softly. “Not yet, there isn’t.”
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“Yeah,” Fletch said. “That’s the difference between boys and girls.”
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:03:34 PM
“I never wear that jacket.”
“Then why do you carry it?”
“That’s the jacket I carry.” He pointed to one on the unmade bed. “That’s the jacket I wear.”
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:06:12 PM
“I live out of a suitcase, Fletcher. All the time. Anything that doesn’t fit in the suitcase can’t come with me.”
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“Oh, I see,” Fletch said brilliantly. “That’s why people refer to what you write as questionable. ’Bye, Mike.”
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“Politically, it’s suicide. As I said last night. You can knock the institutions on their goddamned asses,” her voice grated, “as long as you always give them lip service. That’s the only reality.”
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“You’re good at that.”
“I think it’s what I do best.”
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Guide to highlight colors
Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Red–Example to work through
His administration might revive a Bush-era program that registered thousands of immigrants — most of them Muslim.
The mayor of Clay, West Virginia, has resigned and another county official is out following their exchange over a racist Facebook post that compared first lady Michelle Obama to an "ape in heels." The county employee, Pamela Taylor, worked as director of the Clay County Development Corporation and wrote on Facebook: "It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House. I'm tired of seeing a (sic) Ape in heels," according to a screengrab obtained by CNN affiliate WSAZ.
I just finished reading Jay Rosen’s fantastic piece on his reactions to the 2016 Presidential election which he wrote just before the election itself. It has a stunning take on what was going on before the election and indicates to a great extent why things have gone so drastically wrong. For those who are heavily concerned with what has happened, it also directly indicates a large part of what was missed and therefore provides the base problem so that we might all do a better job of protecting against it in the near future.
In part, he discusses the concept of fact checking and why Trump didn’t appear to care if anyone was fact checking his statements. Personally, the blatant lies that he was telling on a regular basis were even more disconcerting to me than some of this less than civil behavior. Rosen goes into some reasonable depth on this particular issue and its recent history which is very illuminating. Sadly it doesn’t make me any more happy about our present situation.
Yesterday I read something by a philosopher, Jason Stanley, that illuminated what I mean by “a miss bigger than a missed story.” Beyond Lying: Donald Trump’s Authoritarian Reality. Stanley made the point that fact checking Trump in a way missed the point. Trump was not trying to make reference to reality in what he said to win votes. He was trying to substitute “his” reality for the one depicted in news reports.
“On a certain level, the media lacked the vocabulary to describe what was happening,” Stanley writes. And I agree with that. He compares what Trump did to totalitarian propaganda, which does not attempt to depict the world but rather substitutes for it a ruthlessly coherent counter-narrative that is untroubled by any contradiction between itself and people’s experience.
I find large portions of the Trump narrative similar to the story of “The emperor with no clothes.” Reality may be what you can manage to get others to believe, but in a reasonable democracy truth must manage to win out. While I think that it’s almost certainly the case that a small minority of the populace really wanted to vote for Trump, how did he manage to capture the remainder? The “I won’t vote for Hilary segment” certainly gave him an additional fraction of the vote. Then people who were traditional Republicans who couldn’t bring themselves to vote Democrat added another piece of the pie. (Sadly, some of those who repudiated him during the end of the campaign seem to be falling right back in line for their piece of patronage.) Many are simply hurting and want to believe anyone who will give them someone to blame for it and a possible glimmer of a solution. Sadly, I expect these last people to be hurt the most at the end of the day when they realize too late that the emperor is naked.
But other than outright lying, how did Trump connect with some of the electorate? I’ve written before on Trump’s use of doubletalk, which I still feel is a significant factor in his capturing a large part of the populace. See also: Complexity isn’t a Vice: 10 Word Answers and Doubletalk in Election 2016 for this argument. Rosen’s discussion of facts is, to me, the other major missing piece.
I also wonder if it’s possibly the case that in an ever sub-specializing world that people have somehow lost the time, effort, or even inclination to attempt to put all of the facts together themselves to create a cohesive whole? Instead they rely on others to manufacture these stories on their behalf and thereby make it easier for such totalitarian propaganda to insert itself.
Perhaps the working men and women of the country aren’t spending time reading the paper anymore? It’s certainly easier to read third and fourth party stories on Twitter, Facebook, or listen to infotainment in the later hours on Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN. Why try to follow more direct sources when we can read Facebook and worry about who’s going to win this season of The Voice or The Bachelor?
As the workforce of the world continues to subspecialize, we’re going to need to be able to trust our political leaders more and more, not less and less.
[Totalitarian propaganda]’s open distortion of reality is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness.
The question is: how can we exploit the weaknesses to make the problem apparent to those who are too easily willing to believe?
What’s unusual about Trump is he’s a leading candidate and he seems to have no interest in getting important things factually correct.
It’s one thing to lie for political advantage. It’s another to keep lying to prove you have the power.
I’m hoping that some of the electorate realizes that things aren’t improving for them any time soon before too much significant damage has been done. Just because you believe a thing doesn’t make it true or even a fact.
I’d highlighted the concept before, but perhaps it’s a good time to remind people again:
Before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion you need to ask yourself two questions: 1. Is this actually an opinion? 2. If it is an opinion how informed is it and why do I hold it?
Mrs. Clinton said on Saturday that the announcement by James B. Comey 11 days before the election that he had revived the inquiry into her use of a private email server caused her to lose.
Nothing brilliant or illuminating in this article, but I suppose it was something that at least needed to be said even if it doesn’t really further the conversation.
A Problem with Transcripts
In the past few weeks, I’ve seen dozens of news outlets publish multi-paragraph excerpts of speeches from Donald Trump and have been appalled that I was unable to read them in any coherent way. I could not honestly follow or discern any coherent thought or argument in the majority of them. I was a bit shocked because in listening to him, he often sounds like he has some kind of point, though he seems to be spouting variations on one of ten one-liners he’s been using for over a year now. There’s apparently a flaw in our primal reptilian brains that seems to be tricking us into thinking that there’s some sort of substance in his speech when there honestly is none. I’m going to have to spend some time reading more on linguistics and cognitive neuroscience. Maybe Stephen Pinker knows of an answer?
The situation got worse this week as I turned to news sources for fact-checking of the recent presidential debate. While it’s nice to have web-based annotation tools like Genius and Hypothes.is to mark up these debates, it becomes another thing altogether to understand the meaning of what’s being said in order to actually attempt to annotate it. I’ve included some links so that readers can attempt the exercise for themselves.
Recent transcripts (some with highlights/annotations):
- Fact Check: Trump And Clinton Debate For The First Time
- The first Trump-Clinton presidential debate transcript, annotated
- Transcript: The most important exchanges of the presidential debate, annotated
- Transcript: Donald Trump’s full immigration speech, annotated
- Transcript: Here are words Trump just used to talk about ‘the cyber’
Doubletalk and Doublespeech
It’s been a while since Americans were broadly exposed to actual doubletalk. For the most part our national experience with it has been a passing curiosity highlighted by comedians.
n. (NORTH AMERICAN)
a deliberately unintelligible form of speech in which inappropriate, invented or nonsense syllables are combined with actual words. This type of speech is commonly used to give the appearance of knowledge and thereby confuse, amuse, or entertain the speaker’s audience.
another term for doublespeak
see also n. doubletalk 
Since the days of vaudeville (and likely before), comedians have used doubletalk to great effect on stage, in film, and on television. Some comedians who have historically used the technique as part of their acts include Al Kelly, Cliff Nazarro, Danny Kaye, Gary Owens, Irwin Corey, Jackie Gleason, Sid Caesar, Stanley Unwin, and Reggie Watts. I’m including some short video clips below as examples.
A well-known, but foreshortened, form of it was used by Dana Carvey in his Saturday Night Live performances caricaturizing George H.W. Bush by using a few standard catch phrases with pablum in between: “Not gonna do it…”, “Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture”, and “Thousand Points of Light…”. These snippets in combination with some creative hand gestures (pointing, lacing fingers together), along with a voice melding of Mr. Rogers and John Wayne were the simple constructs that largely transformed a diminutive comedian convincingly into a president.
Doubletalk also has a more “educated” sibling known as technobabble. Engineers are sure to recall a famous (and still very humorous) example of both doubletalk and technobabble in the famed description of the Turboencabulator. (See also, the short videos below.)
Doubletalk comedy examples
Al Kelly on Ernie Kovaks
Rockwell Turbo Encabulator Version 2
And of course doubletalk and technobabble have closely related cousins named doublespeak and politicobabble. These are far more dangerous than the others because they move over the line of comedy into seriousness and are used by people who make decisions effecting hundreds of thousands to millions, if not billions, of people on the planet. I’m sure an archeo-linguist might be able to discern where exactly politicobabble emerged and managed to evolve into a non-comedic form of speech which people manage to take far more seriously than its close ancestors. One surely suspects some heavy influence from George Orwell’s corpus of work:
While politicobabble is nothing new, I did find a very elucidating passage from the 1992 U.S. Presidential Election cycle which seems to be a major part of the Trump campaign playbook:
In the continuation of the article, Jacobs goes on to give a variety of examples of the term as well as a “translation” guide for some of the common politicobabble words from that particular election. I’ll leave it to the capable hands of others (perhaps in the comments, below?) to come up with the translation guide for our current political climate.
The interesting evolutionary change I’ll note for the current election cycle is that Trump hasn’t delved into any depth on any of his themes to offend anyone significantly enough. This has allowed him to stay with the dozen or so themes he started out using and therefore hasn’t needed to change them as in campaigns of old.
Filling in the Blanks
These forms of pseudo-speech area all meant to fool us into thinking that something of substance is being discussed and that a conversation is happening, when in fact, nothing is really being communicated at all. Most of the intended meaning and reaction to such speech seems to stem from the demeanor of the speaker as well as, in some part, to the reaction of the surrounding interlocutor and audience. In reading Donald Trump transcripts, an entirely different meaning (or lack thereof) is more quickly realized as the surrounding elements which prop up the narrative have been completely stripped away. In a transcript version, gone is the hypnotizing element of the crowd which is vehemently sure that the emperor is truly wearing clothes.
In many of these transcripts, in fact, I find so little is being said that the listener is actually being forced to piece together the larger story in their head. Being forced to fill in the blanks in this way leaves too much of the communication up to the listener who isn’t necessarily engaged at a high level. Without more detail or context to understand what is being communicated, the listener is far more likely to fill in the blanks to fit a story that doesn’t create any cognitive dissonance for themselves — in part because Trump is usually smiling and welcoming towards his adoring audiences.
One will surely recall that Trump even wanted Secretary Clinton to be happy during the debate when he said, “Now, in all fairness to Secretary Clinton — yes, is that OK? Good. I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me.” (This question also doubles as an example of a standard psychological sales tactic of attempting to get the purchaser to start by saying ‘yes’ as a means to keep them saying yes while moving them towards making a purchase.)
His method of communicating by leaving large holes in his meaning reminds me of the way our brain smooths out information as indicated in this old internet meme :
I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg: the phaonmneel pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rseearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Scuh a cdonition is arpppoiatrely cllaed typoglycemia.
I’m also reminded of the biases and heuristics research carried out in part (and the remainder cited) by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow  in which he discusses the mechanics of how system 1 and system 2 work in our brains. Is Trump taking advantage of the deficits of language processing in our brains in something akin to system 1 biases to win large blocks of votes? Is he creating a virtual real-time Choose-Your-Own-Adventure to subvert the laziness of the electorate? Kahneman would suggest the the combination of what Trump does say and what he doesn’t leaves it up to every individual listener to create their own story. Their system 1 is going to default to the easiest and most palatable one available to them: a happy story that fits their own worldview and is likely to encourage them to support Trump.
Ten Word Answers
As an information theorist, I know all too well that there must be a ‘linguistic Shannon limit’ to the amount of semantic meaning one can compress into a single word.  One is ultimately forced to attempt to form sentences to convey more meaning. But usually the less politicians say, the less trouble they can get into — a lesson hard won through generations of political fighting.
I’m reminded of a scene from The West Wing television series. In season 4, episode 6 which aired on October 30, 2002 on NBC, Game On had a poignant moment (video clip below) which is germane to our subject: 
Moderator: Governor Ritchie, many economists have stated that the tax cut, which is the centrepiece of your economic agenda, could actually harm the economy. Is now really the time to cut taxes?
Governor Ritchie, R-FL: You bet it is. We need to cut taxes for one reason – the American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does.
Moderator: Mr. President, your rebuttal.
President Bartlet: There it is…
That’s the 10 word answer my staff’s been looking for for 2 weeks. There it is.
10 word answers can kill you in political campaigns — they’re the tip of the sword.
Here’s my question: What are the next 10 words of your answer?
“Your taxes are too high?” So are mine…
Give me the next 10 words: How are we going to do it?
Give me 10 after that — I’ll drop out of the race right now.
Every once in a while — every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that there aren’t very many un-nuanced moments in leading a country that’s way too big for 10 words.
I’m the President of the United States, not the president of the people who agree with me. And by the way, if the left has a problem with that, they should vote for somebody else.
As someone who studies information theory and complexity theory and even delves into sub-topics like complexity and economics, I can agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. Though again, here I can also see the massive gaps between system 1 and 2 that force us to want to simplify things down to such a base level that we don’t have to do the work to puzzle them out.
(And yes, that is Jennifer Anniston’s father playing the moderator.)
One can’t but wonder why Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to have ever gone past the first ten words? Is it because he isn’t capable? interested? Or does he instinctively know better? It would seem that he’s been doing business by using the uncertainty inherent in his speech for decades, but always operating by using what he meant (or thought he wanted to mean) than what the other party heard and thought they understood. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Idiocracy or Something Worse?
In our increasingly specialized world, people eventually have to give in and quit doing some tasks that everyone used to do for themselves. Yesterday I saw a lifeworn woman in her 70s pushing a wheeled wire basket with a 5 gallon container of water from the store to her home. As she shuffled along, I contemplated Thracian people from fourth century BCE doing the same thing except they likely carried amphorae possibly with a yoke and without the benefit of the $10 manufactured custom shopping cart. 20,000 years before that people were still carrying their own water, but possibly without even the benefit of earthenware containers. Things in human history have changed very slowly for the most part, but as we continually sub-specialize further and further, we need to remember that we can’t give up one of the primary functions that makes us human: the ability to think deeply and analytically for ourselves.
I suspect that far too many people are too wrapped up in their own lives and problems to listen to more than the ten word answers our politicians are advertising to us. We need to remember to ask for the next ten words and the ten after that.
Otherwise there are two extreme possible outcomes:
We’re either at the beginning of what Mike Judge would term Idiocracy. 
Or we’re headed to what Michiko Kakutani is “subtweeting” about in her recent review In ‘Hitler’ an Ascent from ‘Dunderhead’ to Demagogue  of Volker Ulrich’s new book Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939. 
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) September 28, 2016
Here, one is tempted to quote George Santayana’s famous line (from The Life of Reason, 1905), “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” However, I far prefer the following as more apropos to our present national situation:
If Cliff Navarro comes back to run for president, I hope no one falls for his joke just because he wasn’t laughing as he acted it out. If his instructions for fixing the wagon (America) are any indication, the voters who are listening and making the repairs will be in severe pain.
s I watch the unfolding of the 2016 presidential election, I find myself wondering more and more where I can register to vote for the “scientific party?”
The electorate seems to want to focus primarily (only?) on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our country was founded. Though I have no qualm with these principles, they seem to miss the firmer and primary base upon which the country was built at the dawn of the Age of Reason.
Happy Birthday Henry!
The more I read of Henry James Korn‘s work, the more I love both it and him. Nothing pleases or honors me more than to be part of the process of not only re-releasing several of his prior works, but to be part of the team releasing his debut novel. Toward that end, I’m happy to announce (on what I hope to be his best birthday yet) the availability to pre-order his forthcoming novel Amerikan Krazy on Amazon.com! If anyone loves it half as much as I do, it’s guaranteed to be a best seller.
I’ve helped him to edit and shape it for several months now and somehow never tire of reading his characters, his plot, or re-experiencing his never-ending wit or his truckloads of snark. Somehow, between the two of us, I think I’m always getting the better end of the deal in working on his book. Either way I’m proud to call him my friend.
Happy Birthday Henry!
This is definitely the quote of the week: