The Day Donald Trump Went Gray

After years in office, US Presidents go gray. Whether the stress gets to them, or it’s their age, or they choose to stop dyeing their hair, or some combination of the above, it happens.

It happened with Presidents Clinton and Bush II. It even happened to Reagan, the former movie star with a suave demeanor and witty sense of humor.

Among other things, now that the 2020 campaigns are over, President Trump’s unique hairdo appears poised to grant him the curious distinction of being the first non-assassinated President since color photography to leave office without showing any gray hair.

At the time of this writing, the color of President Trump’s hair indeed appears to have changed somewhat during his presidency, although it is decidedly non-gray.

Trump’s hair is less intensely yellow than than in the recent past, though it appears just now to be picking up some of the autumnal, oranger hues from Trump’s complexion, resulting in a faded-blond-pinkish-whispy-something-or-other attached to a psychotic 74-year-old with dementia.

As the 2020 US Presidential Campaigns fade into the distance, and as the celebrations of Biden supporters in cities subside, this may be a fitting moment to remember the day Trump did go gray.

In late March of 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump appeared in his daily press conference suddenly gray-haired, projecting an image of calm, poise, dignity, respect, and seasoned wisdom in the face of an emerging public heath threat.

Strangely, it happened again for a day in July 2020, after the US failed to control the novel coronavirus.

The first report of a gray President comes from Vogue; second comes from the New York Post, a one-time mouthpiece for long-time Trump associate Roy Cohn, and media property of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (along with Fox News).

Thus, despite keeping his “natural” hair color throughout the final days of his presidency, Trump may turn out to be the only president to have gone gray twice in office.

Whether his brief tenure with gray hair was an advisor’s suggestion for projecting the image of a wise elder during the COVID pandemic, or whether it was something more like a focus group survey for his intended second term can’t be determined, but if the second possibility has any validity, we may still have an opportunity to find out.

The election results have been available for a week now, and Trump is refusing to concede the election. We don’t know what happens if two men show up to be sworn in as President on January 20, 2021.

Is Trump delusional, or is this reality television for his fans? Do his lawsuits and recounts and allegations of election fraud have any chance of changing the election result? Maybe, but not in the way one might expect at first glance.

The 2020 Presidential campaigns are over, but the States don’t send delegates to the Electoral College until the December 8, 2020 “safe harbor” deadline, and the Electoral College doesn’t vote until December 14. If the Electoral College cannot convene, cannot decide, or if the State Governors disagree with the Delegates nominated by the State Legislatures, the election may be resolved in the House of Representatives by a Contingent Election.

If a Contingent Election in the House determines the next President, the votes will cast by States, not by individual Representatives. And although the Democrats backing Biden have more individual Representatives in the House, the House represents a greater number of Republican States. This is because Republicans control a greater number of less-populous States.

Although Trump has promised to demand a number of recounts in closely-contested states like Georgia and Wisconsin, it seems unlikely his team will be able to invalidate enough ballots to secure the election. Litigating the vote count, however, may not be the ultimate objective of these lawsuits.

Trump has a history of protracted litigation. If the Trump strategy is to angle for a Contingent Election in the House, all the State recounts might really be about dragging out litigation, buying time to propagandize to his base about the “stolen” vote, sowing disagreement between how the State Governors and Legislatures think Electoral College delegates should be picked, and pressuring the Supreme Court to intervene as the “safe harbor” deadline approaches.

After the contested Bush v. Gore election in 2000, the Supreme Court intervened in the Florida recount precisely because the “safe harbor” deadline was imminent. Should Trump face such a scenario at the end of the month, he will have the advantage of having chosen three new Supreme Court nominees on the bench, all three of whom worked for Bush’s legal team in the Bush v. Gore lawsuit.

His actions of late certainly don’t resemble those of a man planning to leave the executive residence: in July 2020, Trump took down the official portraits of Presidents Bush and Clinton, having never unveiled President Obama’s official portrait; in late August, First Lady Melania Trump unveiled a renovated White House Rose Garden; his executive branch is refusing to formally acknowledge the election results and his staff has been instructed not to cooperate with Biden’s transition team.

Another possible endgame we might be witnessing stems not from Trump’s grandiosity, but from his pettiness: if America can’t be his, then nobody gets it. Maybe he knows his days in office are numbered, and he’s just planning to burn everything to the ground on his way out and poison the water.

This could be a clue as to why — after the election — Trump replaced Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who publicly disagreed with Trump on the use of force and the Insurrection Act to subdue the BLM protests breaking out during the summer of 2020.

As Trump has stoked racial tensions while courting white nationalist groups, militia, and violent insurrectionists, he could be planning to go out with more of a bang than a whimper, popular caricatures notwithstanding.

Vintage Dick Cheney Trading Card

During the first Gulf War, The Topps Company (best known for selling baseball cards) engaged in a bit of war profiteering by selling Desert Storm trading cards.

One card featured a young Dick Cheney — then Secretary of Defense — with his menacing grin intact:

A dashing young Dick Cheney with menacing grin.

 

The back of the card gives biographical details for the military-industrial complex ringleader:

desert-storm-dick-cheney-back-details

 

A relevant feature of the military-industrial complex is its relationship with the rise of the managerial society: note that, as Secretary of Defense, Cheney controlled “budget allocations.”  Since his position was appointed rather than elected, the military resources he controlled were essentially outside the realm of democratic accountability.

Terrorists Try to Steal Free Energy Technology

According to reliable sources, “G.I. Joe is the code name for America’s daring, highly trained special mission force. Its purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.”

In this clip from the 1987 film, “G.I. Joe: The Movie,” America’s elite fighting force is preparing to test the Broadcast Energy Transmitter, a new technology that promises to deliver free, wireless energy to the whole world.

While America is trying to deliver free energy to the world, the terrorist organization Cobra tries to steal the technology, and keep it for itself.

File Sharing is the Way of the Future

Since Apple switched its hardware line over to Intel architecture, Intel Insider CPU-level digital rights management (DRM) may soon be coming to the Mac.  Soon the transition will be complete, and the cloud will turn us all into the digital equivalent of tenant farmers: we’ll never actually “own” the software and music that we “buy” and, since we need to pay for network access indefinitely to “have” the things we pay for, whatever we have can also can be “taken” from us at any time.

There was, though — once upon a time — a Golden Age, when information came on floppy disks, and file sharing was a key selling point for personal computers.  Back when, corporations encouraged us to copy files freely between ourselves, and it raised nary an eyebrow to hear that “a hobbyist in Michigan starts a local Apple Computer Club, to challenge other members to computer games of skill and to trade programs.”

Brands and Branded Identity

Consumers identify with their products.  Sigmund Freud and Marshall McLuhan both theorized about the role of technology as a prosthesis — as an extension of the body — but many consumers today take this a step further, and internalize the messages used to market the products they purchase.

Video game controller as prosthetic and umbillical

Through marketing, technology is not externalized, but internalized, and incorporated into the psyche.  As such, it is less obviously an intrusion into the lives of consumers.  Coming from the inside, it is less liable to be viewed in any way as an obstacle, and is thereby rendered a more effective means of manipulation, insofar as its influence is more difficult to discern or resist.

consumer behavior and addiction

When consumers talk about how they “need” different products, they mean different things by this.  Many people are quite dependent on technology generally: most products most consumers buy are products of industry.  Food is no exception, even if it is served up at a locally-owned restaurant: most food comes from industrial agriculture.

In many cases, however, once a product has “gotten inside” the consumer, the consumer develops a psychological dependence on a product.  Although addiction is a common metaphor used to describe this relationship, familiarity is also comfort.  For most of human history, very little ever changed.  In this era of planned obsolescence and pop culture, the brand — and, identification with branding — offers a source of continuity.

Consumers frequently purchase particular products because some symbolic quality of the product’s marketing provides a sense of comfort.  While a particular smoker may describe himself as “a Marlboro man,” people also identify as “a Coke drinker” or “a Pepsi drinker.”  Coke and Pepsi are both cola drinks, sold in cans and bottles, sold at an identical price point: they compete based on symbolism, not by offering more product at a lower cost.  Consumers internalize the symbolism of marketing, and are conditioned to accept material products as related to these symbols — even if the connection between the symbol and the product is quite tenuous.

consumers identify with their products

To the extent that consumers accept as their own views various messages offered up by marketers, individuals become little more than purchasing patterns: collections of brand preferences and demographic data.  Individuals are branded by marketing, as with a branding iron.  The degree to which this understanding of the individual has become normalized in contemporary society is revealed by the phraseology of politicians in describing the population: politicians talk about consumers with far greater frequency than they talk about citizens.

The phenomenon of brand-identification has social consequences as well: the “Twitter revolution” has seamlessly spread to the American social realm.  That #Occupy Wall Street incorporates into its name a convention specific to a particular commercial service quite easily goes unnoticed, and is therefore accepted without question or objection.  The revolution is an advertisement.

the revolution is an advertisement

Definitely Not Brainwashing

 

newspaper clipping regarding controversy

In 1992, when the fictional TV character Murphy Brown encountered a common real-life situation — that of conceiving a child out of wedlock — there was a national uproar.  The vice president of the United States even chimed in, saying that this was an example of the moral deterioration of society.

When Bristol Palin, the real-life daughter of former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, conceived a child out of wedlock as a teenager, she was treated as a celebrity, and subsequently earned a spot on the reality TV show “Dancing with the Stars.”  Due to audience voting, Bristol Palin remains in the competition while superior dancers are eliminated.

 

Source of newspaper clipping: Milwaukee Journal, May 24, 1992.

 

When Did World War III Really Start?

Here, Rambo is welcomed by the Taliban at a terrorist training camp:

Rambo is in Afghanstan to lend material support to Osama bin Laden’s friends, the CIA (under State Department cover):

 

Source: Rambo III

Human Obsolescence

Old Navy Aerobix Victims.
Comprising a long-running series, these advertisements depict consumers of the advertised clothing brand as lifeless mannequins — or maybe ventriloquist dummies.  Decorated with brand-name images of historical pop stars, this particular ad culturefucks an intergenerational youth-cult theme by subversively depicting the heroes of the rockstar mannequins as mannequins also.  Different figures exhibit various classic iconographic hand gestures throughout (such as members of a crowd holding Bic lighters in the air at a rock show).

Machine and Inventornator.
Progress means that we exist to invent.  Also, new inventions are better, and as long as the future brings us new inventions the future means everything is better.  We are unique among the animals because we can plan for the future, and we are best off planning for the best possible future.  In the future, our planning will bring us technology that does much of what we do better than we can do it ourselves.  “Microsoft gives me the family nature never could.”

Google Will Make You a Robot in 13 Easy Steps.
During a boardroom meeting, a young, hip, executive meatbag’s telephone transforms him into a machine.  Given the genealogy (or demonology) of the public relations industry and the freudian characteristics of technological prosthetics, the emphasis on this particular Brand of efficiency facilitated by connectivity is perhaps not incidental to the iconology of the advertisement.  Agents swarm the cloud.  “Whose brain are yours today?”  Google have been secretly working on an automobile that drives itself through traffic.  Progress is when the car decides where to drive.
An ad for a psychiatric medication that depicts the patient as a mechanical wind-up doll.
This same visual metaphor has appeared in other ads for the same pill.  The first third of the spot is about the symptoms this psychotropic drug is meant to treat. The second two-thirds are about how this advanced pill can make you into a robot even if science doesn’t really know how, and what side-effects you might expect from ingesting this substance regularly.  The visual subtext says: you will feel better when you stop being a robot and start treating life like the Game modern sociologists say it is.  Ask your HMO for a list of licensed drug dealers in your family-friendly neighborhood.