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Will Donald Trump Make ‘1984’ Seem Like a Nursery Tale?

Posted on Dec 26, 2016

By Tom Engelhardt / TomDispatch

Keoni Cabral / CC-BY-2.0

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Can you doubt that we’re in a dystopian age, even if we’re still four weeks from Donald Trump entering the Oval Office? Never in our lifetimes have we experienced such vivid previews of what unfettered capitalism is likely to mean in an ever more unequal country, now that its version of 1% politics has elevated to the pinnacle of power a bizarre billionaire and his “basket of deplorables.” I’m referring, of course, not to his followers but to his picks for the highest posts in the land. These include a series of generals ready to lead us into a new set of crusades and a crew of billionaires and multimillionaires prepared to make America theirs again.

It’s already a stunningly depressing moment—and it hasn’t even begun. At the very least, it calls upon the rest of us to rise to the occasion. That means mustering a dystopian imagination that matches the era to come.

I have no doubt that you’re as capable as I am of creating bleak scenarios for the future of this country (not to speak of the planet). But just to get the ball rolling on the eve of the holidays, let me offer you a couple of my own dystopian fantasies, focused on the potential actions of President Donald Trump.

There is already an enormous literature—practically a library—of writings on our unique president-elect’s potential conflicts of interests. He does, after all, own, or lease his name to, various towers, elite golf courses, clubs, hotels, condos, residences, and who knows what else in at least 18 to 20 countries. That name of his, invariably in impressive gold lettering, soars to striking heights in foreign skies across the planet. These days, in fact, the Trump brand and its conflicts are hard to escape, from Bali, the Philippines, and Dubai to Scotland, India, and the very heart of Manhattan Island. There, in my own hometown, at a cost to local taxpayers like me of more than a million bucks a day, the police are protecting him big time, while the Secret Service and the military add their heft to the growing armed camp in mid-Manhattan. They are, of course, defending the Trump Tower—the very one in which, in June 2015, to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” he rode that escalator directly into the presidential campaign, promising to build a “great wall,” lock out all Mexican “rapists,” and “make America great again.”

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That tower on busy Fifth Avenue is now fronted by dump trucks filled with sand (“to help protect the Republican presidential nominee from potentially explosive attacks”) and, with the safety of the president and his family in mind, the Secret Service is reportedly considering renting out a couple of floors of the building at a cost to the American taxpayer of $3 million annually, which would, of course, go directly into the coffers of a Trump company.  (Hey, no conflict of interest there and don’t even mention the word “kleptocracy”!)  All of this will undoubtedly ensure that New York’s most Trump-worthy building, aka the White House North, will be kept reasonably safe from intruders, attackers, suicide bombers, and the like.  But much of the imperial Trump brand around the world may not be quite so lucky.  Elsewhere, guards will generally be private hires, not government employees, and the money available for any security plans will, as a result, be far more modest.

With rare exceptions, the attention of the media has focused on only one aspect of Donald Trump’s conflict-of-interest issues (and they are rampant), not to speak of his urge to duck what he might do about them, or dodge and weave to avoid a promised news conference to discuss them and the role of his children in his presidency and his businesses.  The emphasis has generally been on the kinds of problems that would arise from a businessman with a branded name coming to power and profiting from, or making decisions based on the money to be made off of, his presidency.  Media reports have generally zeroed in, for instance, on how foreign leaders and others might affect national policy by essentially promising to enrich Trump or his children.  They report on diplomats who feel obliged to stay at his new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue just down the street from the White House; or foreign heads of state reaching out to him via his business partners in their lands; or Trump brand deals that are now going through in various countries thanks to his election victory.


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