"Donald Trump v the First Amendment" would actually be a better title for this post, since that's really the gist of it. As Trump has escalated his fight for freedom of (hateful) expression for himself and his frothing fan base -- and has lobbied against that same freedom for anti-Trump protesters and the journalists who have offended him over the decades -- I have added a few updates to this post since its initial publication on March 1, 2016, the original Stupor Tuesday. The stupor has deepened and spread since then.
~CC, March 17, 2016
As I've mentioned a few times, this is not normally a political blog, though I'm not averse to donning my extra-thick boots and gas mask and wading into the quagmire on occasion, such as on this 2009 piece and, marginally, on my most recent post. But since this is a Very Big Day in US politics, and the November presidential election is very much at stake, I felt a need to post some more thoughts about the orange-haired blowfish and clown prince of American xenophobia and racisim, Donald J. Trump, while it is still legal to do so. And I am only being partly facetious about the legality matter, in light of Trump's recent declaration that he wants to "open up libel laws" in this country, to make it easier for him to sue people who say or write bad things about him, and even, possibly to make it easy for an unspecified "we" to "win a lot of money" in these lawsuits.
In that respect, it could be argued that Trump is actually building on a tradition that is reflected in everything from the Church of Scientology's Fair Game policies and practices, to the dirty but futile tactics clumsily employed by the stupidest man in Scamworld, Leonard Coldwell, who has both outrageously defamed and unsuccessfully sued his own critics. At any rate, in light of Trump's long litigious history where his critics and perceived "enemies" are concerned, his pompous declarations are not really very surprising.
Never mind that he'd probably have an uphill battle re the whole "libel law" thing; what's worrisome is the declaration itself -- along with the fact that so many of the TrumpChumps enthusiastically embrace the idea (apparently not realizing that if we'd been under such Draconian laws now, many of these idiots would be thrown under the jail for sedition because of the lies about, and violent threats they've perpetrated against, President Obama).
Fred van Liew, longtime friend and mentor of now-imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, is a passionate Trump supporter. (If you don't mind a brief diversion, here's a January 2015 article where Fred defends Trudeau and says that Kevin made such good money as a used-car salesman because he knew that "most people are idiots"). Like so many other passionate Trump supporters, including the aforementioned Not-Doktor Coldwell, Fred seems to truly believe that Trump is the only hope to save America. And he appears to be supporting Trump's intentions to gut the First Amendment.
On another recent Facebook thread, Fred described me as a blogger who is not above publishing slander and distortions in order to increase my readership. Not true at all, but to his credit, Fred (unlike Coldwell and even Trudeau) does allow the occasion dissenter to post on his Facebook threads, though I don't think this was always the case. On his Trump/libel thread I wrote the following (note: although the non-embedded Salty Droid links in the text were in my original post on the Facebook thread, I added the embedded links for the purpose of this blog post):
Trump's implied threats regarding libel law are the words of a tyrant, not a leader of the free world.GIN, of course, is Kevin Trudeau's scammy brainchild, the Global Information Network, with which Fred van Liew was deeply involved back when Trudeau was at the helm. As you may know, I've written a lot about GIN on this blog over the past few years, but the post linked to at the end of the above text has a link to a document that explains exactly why GIN was such a big scam -- a pyramid scheme, to be more exact. So far Fred hasn't responded to that particular comment, but again, to his credit, he allowed it, so that's something.
I say this as a blogger who has been sued by a public figure (not a politician but a deranged self-help/alt-health guru who also happens to be an ardent Trump supporter). He claimed that I knowingly published false and defamatory things about him (ironic, in light of the actual falsehoods he has published about ME, some of which do not enjoy First Amendment protection). The lawsuit was later dropped at his own lawyer's urging, perhaps because the lawyer realized that his client was indeed doing the very things I had (supposedly falsely) accused him of doing.
Although I know that some writers and even some organizations make a sport of deliberately publishing distortions and lies -- in fact , that is one of the bases of the Church of Scientology's "Fair Game" policy -- I have never knowingly published anything false about anyone. But I have published strong opinions based upon my subjects' very public words and actions, and their publicly advertised products and services. However I have always offered to correct or clarify or even retract inaccuracies when pointed out to me -- provided that I have reason enough to believe they are inaccurate or that my opinion was totally misguided.
In the US defamation is based upon KNOWINGLY uttering or publishing falsehoods about someone or something. That is as it should be. Do you really want to change this?
For months I have been expressing my fear that under a Trump presidency a new form of "political correctness" would emerge and that Trump (and his lackeys and loyal supporters) would attempt to chill criticism of Trump. This article and others seem to substantiate that fear.
Now, he could just be blowing smoke. But consider this: Trump has a long history of suing people who write or say things that he thinks make him look bad. Do you really want a president who is willing to gut the First Amendment, especially after winning over thousands by decrying "political correctness?"
Also consider all of the vicious, ugly, hateful lies that have been published about Obama. I support people's right to spread these ridiculous lies even though I disagree with them, because this is, after all, still supposed to be the Land of the Free.
I even support the right of someone who doesn't like me to publish a "Connie Schmidt Exposed as Big Pharma Whore" blog. This happened last year (although in fairness, I should say that guy is in Belgium, not the US).
Finally, there's a lot of stuff coming out now about Trump U because, as Fred pointed out, it is indeed election season. But at least one blogger (not I) was really on the ball and has been pointing out Trump's Scamworld creds for years. These two posts are from 2013:
And the issue about Trump U isn't really that he was using the word/concept "University" as a marketing tool. The core issue was that he was running a scam, and lots of folks did feel that they squandered money on it. Just like GIN ...
But this is about Trump, not about Fred. And although I do realize that part of the complaint against Trump U did indeed center around the dodgy use of the word "University," that was far from the crux of the matter. (See PS below for a link to an article about the latest (as of this writing) court decision regarding Trump U.)
And just so you don't accuse me of being blinded my my own liberal bias -- which I fully acknowledge I possess -- here's something from a well-known old-school conservative, George Will, mulling over Trump's intentions to slash freedom of speech in the US.
And here is a good summary from The Federalist, regarding some of my own most pressing concerns about Trump. Of Trump's vows to tighten up on free speech, the author writes:
Freewheeling, raucous debate is an essential part of what makes democracy work. Having to look over your shoulder before criticizing a public official is exactly the kind of culture of suspicion and fear that the American Founders believed to be un-American.And number 5, "Trump Is an American Fascist" really resonates with me.
The case against Trump, then, is that he is an autocrat in democrat’s clothing, a tyrant in the wings, a bully who admires the “strength” of tyrants and butchers, who finds a free press to be an inconvenience that he intends to tame with legal force once elected, a man who demonizes opponents and romanticizes violence, especially against minorities, who pines for the day when government could have its way with people without the trouble of constitutional law getting in the way.For those who think "it can't happen here"... well, don't be so sure. My pal Shel Horowitz at the Green and Profitable blog made some good points on this January 2016 post.
In other words, Donald Trump is a fascist. Or, at least, as close to a fascist as America’s political culture is ever going to produce. As Wehner rightly said, Trump is “a demagogic figure who does not view himself as part of our constitutional system but rather as an alternative to it.” It is startling how few of the contributors to the National Review symposium—David Boaz and Ben Domenech excepted—got this right.
Some readers will dismiss my argument right off as alarmist nonsense. Trump is no Hitler, they say. Calling Trump a dangerous autocrat and quasi-fascist only shows how paranoid and unhinged I and other Trump critics have become.
Maybe. But you don’t have to go full Hitler to be a danger to the culture of a free society. Most dictators in history, in fact, have not stooped to Hitlerian levels of barbarism and madness.
It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that, apart from his apparent tyrannical leanings, one of my main objections against Trump has been his Scamworld connections. As usual Salty Droid was way ahead of the curve here; see the two blog posts linked to my Facebook comment, quoted above.
As I'm getting ready to publish this post, Stupor Tuesday is winding down, with the polls in my state set to close in less than 15 minutes. At this point I have little doubt that Trump will come out ahead of the other loathsome autocrats/plutocrats/theocrats in his party, at least nationwide, but for now, if you haven't done so already, enjoy John Oliver's brilliant takedown of Donald "Drumpf."* Watch it while you still can.
* Drumpf, as many now know, was the former Trump family name, changed by his German immigrant grandpa, so it was never Donald's own legal surname. (And speaking of toxic, racist German immigrants who felt it necessary to change their name...)
PS ~ This won't make much difference to Trump's faithful followers, especially those who are scammers or wannabes in their own right (some of them that I know of have heartily condemned Kevin Trudeau as a scammer but they can't see that their political idol is an even worse one)... but it appears that the lawsuit against Trump U is going forward. Here is a direct link to the decision.
PPS added March 15, 2016: Well, here we are on yet another Very Important Tuesday, and I'm not just talking about the Ides of March, a day on which we can celebrate the entertaining ways that various political players who are now supposed to be allies continue to stab each other in the back (Carson stabs Trump while Trump stabs Christie). I am also referring to the fact that it is "Mega Tuesday," and some Very Important States are at stake.
Meanwhile, in news that is especially pertinent to this blog post, information continues to emerge about Trump's attempts to stifle free speech. The non-disparagement clause that even his lowliest volunteers are reportedly having to sign probably wouldn't hold up in court, but isn't the fact that he is going to such lengths to stifle criticism more than a little scary? You think that "political correctness" is cramping your style? Try living in a country ruled by "Trump correctness." Also see this piece on Salon.com regarding the right's hypocrisy/double standard regarding Trump protesters. Now get out there and vote, if you're in a state where that's happening.
Addendum March 16, 2016: Mother Jones speaks out about Donald Trump's "media enemies list, once again demonstrating that Trump = cowardice plus tyranny in one loud, smirking, bloated orange package. The MoJo piece is an important read from one of the media on Trump's enemies list. And yes, I know that MoJo is a "liberal" outlet, but for those of you who claim to care about the Constitution, doesn't this raise any red flags to ANY of you? What about you Trumpsters who support your candidate because you say he is fearless? Or you who have been screaming about President Barack Obama's supposed "tyranny?" Or you who are hollering that Trump's -- and your own -- rights to "free speech" are being trampled by "political correctness" or Obama or "libtards" or Black Lives Matter or Muslims or the New World Order or anyone else on your imaginary "enemies" list?
Whether or not one agrees with the Trump/Hitler comparisons (and the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, does not, for several reasons), Trump has so far shown us a pretty scary and potentially tyrannical aspect to his demagoguery. His attempts to control the media around him, in an effort to quash criticism of him, are quite telling and an indication of what he is capable of. I can envision even harsher efforts should he be elected. He might frame his efforts as an attempt to restore respect to the office of the presidency, a respect that he will of course say was destroyed by Obama.
But however you look at it, the elements for a prospective Trump dictatorship seem to be present, even without genocide or work camps or a "final solution," as this September 2015 piece, framed around a retrospective look at Sinclair Lewis' classic 1930s novel It Can't Happen Here, so eloquently insinuates. And even though he may not be actively advocating things such as pro-Trump militias to "protect" his fan base from those evil protesters, Trump hasn't condemned them either. So the Lyin' Guard marches on even as Trump is quite clearly going overboard in an attempt to control the conversation about him -- bringing to mind everything from Scientology's efforts to shield its members from external influences, to Kevin Trudeau's infamous "rats in your head" admonition regarding critics (an admonition still being embraced by GIN loyalists). Turds of a feather...