Friday, November 22, 2019

Triggered: Traitor Tot touts his own Trump-branded whine

As you're no doubt aware, among his numerous other enterprises #NotMyPresident Donald J. Trump, aka #Dolt45, sells Trump-branded wines, which his Number 2 (in more ways than one) son Eric was hawking recently during the impeachment hearings. But more than his wines, Trump is known for his whines. In 2015, just as his presidential campaign was picking up steam, he proudly embraced his whiny ways when "New Day" host Chris Cuomo asked him to respond to a National Review article by Rich Lowry, which began:
Donald Trump is given to superlatives, so let’s do him the honor of pronouncing him the most fabulous whiner in all of American politics.

By Trump’s own account, he’s the baddest, smartest thing going, except if you ask him a challenging question, in which case he kicks and screams and demands to know how anyone could treat him so unfairly.
Unfazed, Trump told Cuomo, "I think [Lowry is] probably right. I am the most fabulous whiner. I do whine because I want to win. And I'm not happy if I'm not winning. And I am a whiner. And I'm a whiner and I keep whining and whining until I win," he said. "And I'm going to win for the country and I'm going to make our country great again."

Well, here we are in 2019, in the midst of an
impeachment process that may or may not be entering the next phase, and Trump is still whining, and whining, and whining. He may be "winning," but every time he "wins," the country loses a little more of its soul.

And now comes the next-generation Trump whinemaker: Number 1 son Donald J. Trump Jr., aka DJTJ (as late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel likes to call him), aka Traitor Tot.* Earlier this month Junior's first book, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us was published by Center Street, a conservative imprint of the Hachette Book Group. In light of the fact that the book is given over as much to Junior's whining about how tough he has had it as it is to grousing about how the left is oppressing the right, Triggered might more accurately be titled, Poor Little Rich Boy.

Whines notwithstanding, Don the Younger apparently couldn't be more thrilled,
tweeting excitedly about the book's rise to number 1 on the prestigious New York Times Best Seller list for print hardcover "nonfiction." (This despite the fact that Junior and Daddy both have repeatedly excoriated the NYTimes for being "failing" and "fake news.")

But there's a but (and also a butt, but that goes without saying). The "but" is that Daddy's chums at the Republican National Committee have so far made a nearly $100,000 bulk purchase of the book.
From today:
Don Jr.’s opus — Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Usshot up to No. 1 on the hardcover nonfiction charts right when it dropped last week. But observers noted that Jr.’s title was the only one on the list accompanied by a symbol indicating sales boosted by a bulk purchase. The Trumps, and their compadres at the RNC, pushed back at the idea that the Trump son had a leg up.

haven’t made a large bulk purchase, but are ordering copies to keep up with demand,” said Mike Reed, an RNC spokesman, after the group sent an email fundraising off the book, according to the New York Times. “Each book is sold to an individual who supports the Republican Party.”

But it’s clear the RNC did exactly what they said they didn’t do — that is, they made a whopping bulk purchase. A Federal Election Commission disclosure revealed the RNC spent $94,800 on pre-order copies of
Triggered, purchased from Books-A-Million as “donor mementos.”
And from The Washington Post:
The purchase, disclosed in a recent Federal Election Commission filing, could explain the caveat that accompanied the bestseller listing for “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us” — and prompted speculation about what propelled Trump Jr.’s book to the coveted spot. A small dagger next to the book’s blurb in the ranking indicates “institutional, special interest, group or bulk purchases,” which the Times says are factored into rankings at editors’ discretion....
The RNC is reportedly making money hand over fist with this magnum dopus. Also from WaPo:
“Triggered” attacks Democrats and Trump critics and bills itself as “the book that leftist elites don’t want you to read.” The RNC has offered signed copies of Trump Jr.’s book to those who donate more than $50; spokesman Michael Joyce told BuzzFeed News that the RNC has “netted $500,000 for the party fundraising off the book.”
The fundraising campaign was helped along by fake-personal messages from Junior himself.

UPDATE: According to a November 28, 2019 article in the New York Times, the Republican National Committee is far from the only Republican/conservative org to have bulk-purchased Triggered. Included among at least nine other bulk purchasing entities are the conservative student group Turning Point USA; conservative activist group Citizens United; the National Republican Senatorial Committee; and various state G.O.P. orgs. While the NYT article acknowledges, as others have (and as I do below) that bulk purchases for fund-raising purposes are neither illegal nor uncommon, there is a difference with Triggered:
But the breadth of the Republican establishment’s effort behind Mr. Trump is striking for a noncandidate whose most significant claim to fame remains his parentage, and who has sought to deflect criticism of his recent attacks on impeachment witnesses by asserting that he is merely a “private citizen.” And it underscores the unusual cross-pollination between the Trump family’s political ambitions, its business ventures and the party President Trump now leads.
A few potholes on the road to stardom
Don't imagine for a moment that it's been all easy for the proud author. Shortly after Triggered was released, pranksters sneaked into a New York City Barnes and Noble bookstore, replaced its dust jacket with a parody cover bearing a new title, Daddy, Please Love Me, and moved the display to the "Young Adult" (ages 12 and up) section of the store.

And a few days later,
DJTJ got booed out of one of his own book-launch events not by the "easily triggered" libs and lefties, but by his own supporters, a group of angry white nationalists who were apparently ticked off that he wasn't taking questions. Barely 20 minutes into an event that had been scheduled to last two hours, Junior and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, left the stage. So it was actually right-wing haters who had effectively silenced Junior, while, as The Guardian piece linked to in the first sentence of this paragraph notes:
...if Trump Jr was expecting a small army of “triggered” leftwingers to clamour for his silence, he did not get it. No more than 35 protesters showed up and, despite making a lot of noise with drums and whistles and shouts of “Trump-Pence Out Now!”, resisted taunts and insults from provocateurs in Make America Great Again hats from across a line of metal barriers.
Then there was the (well-deserved) blowback that Junior got for an anecdote in his new book in which he described driving past Arlington National Cemetery the day before Daddy's inauguration. He wrote that the "gravity of the moment" filled him with a "deep sense of the importance of the presidency and a love of our country." Had he stopped there it would have been no big deal. But being his father's son, he felt compelled to pivot back to his own family's "suffering."
“In that moment, I also thought of all the attacks we’d already suffered as a family, and about all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed—voluntarily giving up a huge chunk of our business and all international deals to avoid the appearance that we were ‘profiting off of the office,'” he wrote, later adding, “it was a big sacrifice, costing us millions and millions of dollars annually. Of course, we didn’t get any credit whatsoever from the mainstream media, which now does not surprise me at all.”
When that bit was publicized, there was a loud collective "Give me a break!" from veterans and non-veterans alike. Granted, Junior's story may not be quite as insulting to service members past and present as Daddy's claim, in an interview years ago, that his own promiscuous rutting years, when he constantly dodged the STD bullet, were his "personal Vietnam." (Of course that was intended to be a joke, but it's a sick one, particularly since Trump Sr., aka Cadet Bone Spurs, was infamously also a draft dodger.) And certainly the Arlington/Trump family sacrifice tale is not on the scale of atrocity as Daddy's recent pardoning of service members accused of, and in some cases convicted of, war crimes.

Frankly, I doubt that either the Junior or Senior DJT is particularly bothered by blowback on any of the military matters just described, and the Trumpanzees are clearly not bothered by any of it either, but for folks who still have a moral compass, all of this actually matters.

Notwithstanding Trumpian complacency and pride, though, Triggered has not had a completely easy time of it. Months before the book was even published,
it was a popular subject for jeering memes.

Then there's the fact that the reviews in the media have not been especially kind. For instance, there's this from a November 16, 2019 piece by Slate senior writer Ashley Feinberg:
While Jr.’s entry on the list is marked with an icon indicating bulk purchases, at least a few people have purchased the book of their own volition and with genuine interest. Technically, one of those people was me. Ever since the 2016 campaign, I’ve been fascinated by Don Jr., a fully grown father of five with the sensibility of a not-particularly-bright 13-year-old, and his visible public effort to prove himself as his father’s son...

...Fortunately, for Don Jr.’s readers, there is indeed plenty of arguing on behalf of his father in the nearly 300-page denunciation of his family’s enemies. There’s also the sort of awkward writing and clunky metaphors endemic to campaign trail books of all stripes (even if Jr.’s not technically personally running for anything—yet). This particular cash grab, though, transcends the ordinary campaign-publishing vanity project. It’s the work of an author so nakedly self-conscious—or so in need of self-soothing—he constantly breaks off his message to assure the reader he’s proud, confident, and doing fine...

...Actual Don Jr. fans likely won’t be too bothered by [inconsistencies and distortions in the book]. Coherence and attention to detail are not features of any Donald Trump brand experience, whether junior or senior. Still, you can’t make an entire book solely out of father-defending. So what exactly is Don Jr.’s book about?

After reading the book twice, I’m still not entirely sure...
Feinberg then goes on to list what she thinks may be the core messages in Junior's tome, all of which center not around issues vital to America but instead around those that are central to Don Jr.: (1) He's not really angry; (2) His dad loves him; (3) He's the real victim; (4) He has a girlfriend; and (5) He's one of the real reasons that Daddy won. DJTJ seems pretty taken with his own rising stardom, overall, though he appears to be trying as hard to convince himself of his greatness as he is trying to convince his readers. But as for the general veneer of boastful arrogance and the propensity for two-bit, cliched insults to perceived enemies, the orange doesn't fall far from the diseased tree.

Putting it all in perspective 
In light of the widely reported news about the contrived boost of Triggered to bestseller status, I would be remiss were I not to mention a couple of points. This isn't an attempt to let Trump the Younger or Trump the Elder off the hook -- as you may be able to discern just from the way I frame point number 1, below. But it is some necessary perspective.

1. Bulk-purchasing and other, shadier ways of
gaming the bestseller lists are common in Scamworld (and beyond).
Look, most of us can see that
Trump and sons (and son-in-law and daughter) are scammers. I get that it was the Republican National Committee [and other Republican/conservative organizations] that made the bulk purchases and not a Trump per se, but since the Republican party has for all practical purposes degenerated into the Trump Party, it's still all in the scamily.

And going back slightly further in American political history: according to
an August 2016 piece on the Daily Beast site (which was updated in April 2017), Donald Trump Sr. himself used more than $55,000.00 in campaign donations to buy thousands of copies of his own book, Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, at retail cost from Barnes & Noble. The Daily Beast article elaborated:
Executives, celebrities, and politicians have long purchased copies of their books in bulk; many publishers even get high-profile authors to agree to buy a certain number of copies before a contract for the book is even signed. But Trump’s arrangement appears to be very different. Ben Bruton, who has worked in publishing public relations for 25 years, called the way in which the books were bought “suspicious.”
Suspicious as in possibly violating federal campaign laws, that is. It's maybe not quite the same thing as paying $130,000 to buy a porn star's silence, but still possibly a bit naughty.

But the Trumps and the Republican groups that enable them certainly didn't invent the bulk-purchase strategy. When I shared an article on my Facebook feed the other day about the RNC purchase of Junior's Triggered, a Facebook friend of mine remarked, in the context of noting how common bulk purchasing is, that imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau bulk-purchased his own books back in the day to sell them on his TV infomercials. This may not be quite the same thing, though, since Trudeau's books -- at least his first two Natural Cures books -- were self-published, and he did actually sell millions of copies over the years via his infomercials, landing him spots at various times on the bestseller lists of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the New York Times.

Another point is that Trudeau's books and other info-products were almost always vehicles either for forced-continuity schemes or for upselling (e.g., his 14-CD set Your Wish Is Your Command, which was promoted via infomercials and online, was a very aggressive upsell for his massive scam, the Global Information Network, or GIN). Having said all of that, it's always appropriate, in a general turds-of-a-feather sense, to bring up
career con artist Kevin Trudeau in the context of just about anything related to the Trump scampire.

But the larger point is that artificially pumping up sales figures, and making a book seem of more import than it really is, are things that are done pretty regularly, not only by Trumps and anyone else whom you'd normally think of as a scammer, but by "regular" folks (and their publishers and/or publicists) as well. In fact, as a September 2017 Vox article expressed it, the world of bestseller lists is convoluted at best. This has been the case for many, many years. In a sense, the game of book promotion and selling has long been rigged.

For instance, it was pretty widely known for years in the publishing industry, if not among consumers, that major publishers paid big bucks for premium display space in the major chain bookstores, as
this 1996 piece from the New York Times shows. At the moment I can't seem to find information on the extent to which this might still be the case; the role of brick-and-mortar book stores has changed drastically over the past couple of decades, and there's been a big shakeup in the publishing industry overall with the explosion of electronic media. But I hope my point is clear.

And to cite another example that brings us back to the topic of bestseller lists, people have been finding ways to game Amazon's bestseller lists, and for that matter their review system as well, in various ways ever since Amazon came on the scene. Professional scammers as well as amateur authors eagerly promoting their first book have often fallen to temptation, and a range of parties from publicists to publishers have also taken advantage of the system over the years.

I wrote about the problem way back in March 2007 (though unfortunately the specific SHAMblog post link is no longer valid), but folks were complaining about those issues with Amazon years before this blog was born. Just as people are constantly trying to find ways to game the search engines, those who are selling books or other info-products -- whether they're individual authors and their cronies, or big publishers -- are going to try to find as many ways as possible to make it at least appear that their products are bestsellers. As is true in the business world in general, many folks will use any tricks they can get away with, no matter how ethically questionable. Maybe that's just one of the less admirable aspects of human nature.

I remember that when Triggered was first announced, months ahead of its publication, I casually predicted on a Facebook thread that there would be bulk purchases. But it didn't take any great gift of prognostication to figure that one out.

Understand this: I'm not claiming that efforts to manipulate or exaggerate sales figures are ethical, no matter how many "regular folks" do it, and no matter how institutionalized the subterfuge may be. But this is hardly the worst offense committed by a Trump, and those anti-Trumpers who see some kind of Russian plot behind it all are nearly as silly as the pro-Trumpers for whom the Trumps can do absolutely no wrong.
Besides, bulk purchases do not account for all of the sales of Triggered. Which brings us to the next point...

2. Triggered very likely would have been a bestseller anyway, even without the bulk purchase(s).

After all, Trumpism is now for all practical purposes a cult with a large, and fanatically devoted, membership. The Son has been granted an enormous platform in which to bask in the reflected light of The Father. Of course people are going to buy his book, even if they don't read it, just because it was excreted from a Trump.

As I write this on November 22, 2019, Triggered is #16 on
Amazon's Books bestseller list (right ahead of the latest anti-Trump work, A Warning by Anonymous). [Subsequently, as I mention below, A Warning overtook Triggered. ~ CC, 11-30-19.] It's also #1 in several sub-categories, including Censorship & Politics (directly ahead of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which was originally published in the mid-1980s and which is, interestingly enough, a work of fiction that describes a frightening theocratic dystopia much like Trump's cronies are trying to create today). Triggered is also #1 in Political Commentary & Opinion; and Political Conservatism & Liberalism.

And what do actual Amazon purchasers (and, presumably, readers) think? Well, for what it's worth, at the moment Triggered boasts a 95% five-star review status on Amazon, though I should note that the top-rated positive review, voted "helpful" by more than 2,800 folks so far, is an an all-caps mockery.
DisneyDenizen HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER 5.0 out of 5 stars
THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN November 6, 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There's a lot of (apparently) sincere praise too, of course, but the mocking one is by far the most popular.

I'll acknowledge the possibility that manipulation of book reviews could still be going on at Amazon, as it was years ago: that perhaps the publisher or some others with vested interests have been able to persuade Amazon to remove most of the negative reviews, and/or that there have been other efforts to flood the page with praise for Triggered. Honestly, I have no idea.
(There is definitely some serious gaming going on with some of Amazon's third-party sellers, though; see this November 20, 2019 piece from BuzzFeed, for example. And if you're still not convinced to take online reviews with a grain of salt, this November 28 article in the New York Times references not only Amazon but also other online retailers, and the ease with which their reviews can be manipulated. Caveat emptor!)
But since Amazon has reportedly taken steps in recent years to clean up their book review system, I'll take at face value the ratio of positive to negative reviews for this title until and unless I receive evidence to the contrary, keeping in mind that most of the positive reviewers seem to like the book chiefly because it reinforces their Trumpism and hatred of "liberals," rather than because of any deeper merits.

UPDATE: According to the November 28 New York Times piece I linked to above (here's that link again), Triggered had dropped to Number 2 among nonfiction books on the November 27 NYT bestseller list. Taking over the Number 1 spot was another Hachette Book Group release, A Warning, by Anonymous -- you know, that infamous book that depicts Junior's daddy as being totally unfit for office.
Among the few critical comments for Triggered on Amazon is this bit of constructive criticism:

XXX 2.0 out of 5 stars
This is simply not well written, regardless of whether you agree with it November 7, 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Whether you agree politically with the content of this book or not, it is impossible to look past the fact that it is very poorly written. It reads more like a rushed draft than a finished work, and it would have benefited from the input of an editor at any time during its production
or maybe a ghostwriter, like Daddy has always used. ~CC]. I will give it two stars instead of one as it does appear to be an honest attempt at writing by the author, but the author needs to understand in future attempts that even a mediocre book needs more effort and consideration than simply putting a lot of words in order.

... By the time a reader gets to the end of this book, they will have much more of an idea of who the author believes he is - and how the author feels about his father - than they will have any sort of new insight on its purported subjects.

Should the author write any more books, my suggestion would be to put more effort into their production and the depth of their content. This book as it stands attempts to rely on witty insults and attempts at humor to bridge the content together, but that content has no depth, provides no new or fresh insight, and is not presented in an organized manner. If readers want superficial content used as a vehicle to move cheap insults, they can get content of that quality for free just by reading the comments on any news article posted to Facebook. There is no real value gained by paying money to get that same caliber content out of this book.
Good recommendations, XXX, and I say this as someone who hasn't read Junior's entire book, but has read enough of the available excerpts to agree with the criticisms. But more than likely it doesn't matter, since ridiculously sub-par writing doesn't appear to be keeping the Trumpstruck masses from happily glugging down Junior's whine just like they do Daddy's. The more they drink, the drunker they get. And no doubt scads of them will stumble, tipsy on Trumpism, to the voting booths in November of next year. It's up to us sober folk to counter those votes with our own.

Related on this Whirled:
Related off-Whirled:
  • 16 April 2019: The Far Right Doesn't Want to Beat the Left; It Wants to Exterminate It
    Yes, this is an opinion piece and yes, it's from
    Pacific Standard, which has been rated by the Media Bias Fact Check site as having a left-centered bias, but -- and this is crucial -- the site was given a high rating for factual reporting. (Many conservatives will dismiss Pacific Standard because of its emphasis on social justice, which is a derisive term in some circles, but as far as I'm concerned, that's a plus.)
  • "Oh, poor boy, so sorry for himself..." A song to celebrate Don Jr.'s first official contribution to the Trump whinery.

* I should note that I am not accusing DJTJ of actual treason. Generally speaking I think that this accusation is far too widely used by both the right and the left, libs and cons, Dems and repubs. Seriously. But I rather like the alliteration of "Traitor Tot," and as you may know I'm a sucker for alliteration, which is one reason I named myself Cosmic Connie years ago. In any case, while DJTJ is probably no more traitor than I am cosmic, he's still a putz.

NOTE: This post has been amended several times since first published on November 22. Among other things I've added more information regarding the manipulation of Amazon reviews and other ways of gaming sales and promotion of books and other products; I've fleshed out several other points throughout the post; and have, with no insult whatsoever intended to a much-loved singer whose life was tragically cut short in 1974, embedded one of my favorite Nick Drake songs.
~ CC

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