I Blame O.J Simpson

Last month’s Oscar ceremony will be remembered for the controversy and farce that was inevitably called ‘Envelopegate’ by the press. Despite the Best Picture award eventually being handed to the most deserving of the nominations: Moonlight, the most notable other winner of the night in the documentary category. O.J Simpson – Made in America was for me, despite its 8 hours of running time, the most watchable. Hard to believe it is more than 20 years since America was gripped by what would be called the trial of the century. I spent three weeks in Florida during the eight and a half month long event and remember that everywhere you went, especially bars or restaurants the trial was unfolding on TV.

OJ Simpson, Time Cover
Photo by Hendrik-Jan Grievink

To be absolutely honest I was not really interested back then, I was in Florida for the sunshine not some boring TV court case, although even I was a little surprised when the not-guilty verdict was announced some weeks after I returned to London. I will not spoil it for anyone who wants to watch the documentary if I say it showed how escaping justice by manipulating a jury was possible in America if you had enough money and you know how to play up to the media. Simpson, who had brutally murdered his ex-wife and her lover, left footprints, his own blood at the scene and had famously even carried the blood of his victims back to his house on a single glove that became the most important piece of evidence for both the inept prosecution and the defence team.

Despite O.J Simpson having very few black friends and seemingly no interest whatsoever in the civil rights movement, his team of high priced lawyers shamelessly and relentlessly played the “Race Card” to the predominantly black jury. Almost all of the jurors came from the parts of Los Angeles that had been beset with racial unrest and riots – most notably after the video recorded beating of Rodney King just a few years earlier. So the trial verdict was never about whether Simpson did or didn’t cold bloodedly murder two people. It became, under the careful manipulation of the Jury by the top lawyers in the land, nothing less than all oppressed black people verses LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department). The most nauseating part of which, was during the summing up where the civil rights lawyer Johnnie Cochran all but told the Jury that this was probably the only time in their life that they could give the LAPD a bloody nose and also suggested that if they found Simpson guilty then they would have probably sided with Adolf Hitler in World War Two.

O.J Simpson was acquitted but the jubilation of the legal dream team did not last long as it dawned on them that outside of black dominated city downtown areas, the rest of the country rightly believed that Simpson was as guilty as hell. This would to a certain degree tarnish these lawyers reputations, mark them out as a little bent. But what happens when you completely control the media and have no worries about attracting future business or qualms that most of your lies and embellishments will ever be exposed?

If the media machine in Russia is to be trusted about 80% of Russians believe Vladimir Putin is doing a good job… that is 80% of Russians approached in the street by strangers asking them, usually in front of a small crowd of people waving patriotic flags: “do you or don’t you approve of our president?” Nothing untoward affecting the impartiality there then… Such is the careful manipulation of Putin’s macho image that an online poll of Russians in January suggested that almost half of the people questioned believed that the photo below was not actually photo-shopped!

Putin on  Bear
Photo care of The Noyendov Trust

However, what is more surprising in a country where most forms of dissent and criticism are ruthlessly crushed is the result from the question asking about the next presidential election. When asked by GALLUP: “Are you confident about the honesty of elections in Russia?” less than 36% said they were, and this despite the above flag waving scenario playing out around them. So what I wonder would be the answer if people were asked these same questions and allowed to answer anonymously like in a secret ballot or any other normal election around the world in countries whose leaders are not ruthless dictators? My suspicion is they would be just the same, because it is often not the voter that counts in a dictatorship but rather how the votes are counted and by whom.

Dictatorships often thrive under the legitimacy afforded them by a thin veneer of democracy. Even Saddam Hussein had elections, albeit with only one name on the ballot, but elections that in 2002 returned almost 100% support for him. A lot of African dictators do the same thing, perhaps most notably Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who despite turning his country from the breadbasket of Africa into a basket-case economy for decades, still holds onto power by winning apparent landslide majorities. This is because crucially he clings onto the election process by banning foreign journalists and the election monitors he cannot manipulate. Such is the man’s megalomania and arrogance that only last month his wife declared, with some confidence that Mugabe, who at 93 displays clear symptoms of age related degenerative mental illness, would still win the next election even if he was dead.

Mugabe, Abuse of Power
Photo by j-No

Turkey, despite its ongoing state of emergency and its ever more polarised population remains a democratic country. However, with mainstream media cowed by draconian government restrictions in recent years most news channels seem to be saturated by appearances and speeches by President Erdogan and other government ministers hectoring Turks to vote ‘Yes’ in next month’s referendum, which could see parliament’s executive powers handed over to the President. So with most opposition media effectively shut down or gagged the battle for votes is increasingly being waged online. “Unfortunately the ‘No’ supporters don’t have much opportunity to get their message across on television channels or other media,” said actor Baris Atay, who was castigated by pro-government newspapers for a social media video in which he says “no to one-man rule, fascism and dictatorship.” It seems “Saying ‘Yes’, siding with Erdogan, and being a nationalist is thinking of the country’s future, but saying ‘No’ is being a provocateur, a traitor and a terrorist – this is the perception they’re trying to establish,” he told Reuters.

Things have changed dramatically since the days of the O.J. Simpson trial and one only wonders how his ‘dream team’ of lawyers would have harnessed today’s 24/7 online media if it was around then. There was a time many, many weeks ago, when free thinkers and people opposed to the worlds troubling slide into Putinesque dictatorships, would have looked to the US President for a calm and measured lead. But it seems Donald Trump has failed to cure himself of the Twitter incontinence/ incompetence that was a feature of his election campaign. He still uses it to distract us from his many failings and bullying nature with an avalanche of fake news. Back In the old days… (2016) we used to call fake news, what it really is: lies.

When we hear more and more disturbing revelations about his ongoing ‘bro-mance’ with Putin or how Donald and his family are cashing in big time like at his Florida club, where he spends most weekends, by doubling its membership fees; all he has to do is create yet another smoke screen, with 140 characters of Twitter nonsense to throw the media off the real story yet again. Last week he sent the ever more gullible US press corps down yet another rabbit hole chasing a ridiculous story that tried to suggest that Barack Obama had conducted a covert Watergate style surveillance operation against him without offering a sliver of proof. So with that in mind I was almost surprised that he didn’t at least attempt to spin that silly Envelopegate saga around until it somehow implicated Obama… although in this un-Brave New World of lies, fake news and wannabe despots, there is still plenty of time of course.


The President with Two Brains

Next Friday the world plunges into the uncertainty and probable chaos of a Donald Trump presidency. It is still hard to believe how America – how We got to this. I no longer have the stomach to go over the machinations, accusations and lies that got him into the White House as that is rapidly becoming a book genre all on its own that will surely spawn thousands of titles trying to offer explanations to the bewildered, the frightened and let’s be honest: the downright stupid who were duped into voting for him. No I prefer to keep out of that fray and simply examine how he is likely to perform based on nothing more scientific than the way he uses the media and in particular social media like Twitter and the safe assumption, which few dispute that he is a megalomaniac with clearly defined sociopath and psychopathic tendencies.

The Two Trumps
Photo care of mediasalon.com

What is very interesting is that Donald is at his most active on Twitter in the morning. On an average day before many of us have even had breakfast Trump has probably threatened China again cosied up further to Putin or much more likely – ignoring the expectation people have of their president to be measured and not abuse the power of the office – he has carried out some personal attack on a critic or expressed a view about some TV show or other related to his media persona, which he just cannot seem to shake off. As a salve to the critics, the Republican hierarchy tell us it will all change when he is in power and that the Tweets regarding matters of state or foreign affairs will reduce drastically. Notice how they did not say stop. How do they know? They have shown for the past two years that they have absolutely no control over him. As far as the Republicans were concerned he was nothing more than a loose cannon, a huge embarrassment who for a long, long time was regarded as someone who could only further damaging a party in terminal decline, with many predicting imminent extinction… Until he ‘won’ of course and instantly became the saviour of the party. However, Trump has shown time and time again that he has no real allegiance to anyone but Team Trump and only used the Republican’s lack of any natural leader as a convenient route to mount a credible assault on the Presidency to boost his ego and offset a few million of his billions so that he could continue to pay no taxes. The fact he won probably shocked him more than anyone else. So how is he going to do it? How is Donald Trump going to fill the most powerful position in the world?

It has been a quarter of a century since Julia Cameron published The Artist’s Way. Running through the book, which was written as a self help aid using tips and strategies to help people with their creativity, was the core idea that humans use different sides of their brain at different times of the day. Nothing about the dark workings of our most sensory organ can be presented as conclusive. Although there is enough scientific research to suggest that the two hemispheres of our brain operate quite differently from each other. The right hemisphere is responsible for our creativity and our ability to understand none verbal cues and images, while the left side is much more in control of language, problem solving and self criticism and editing. Can you already see where there might be a problem?

Left and Right side of brain

In the book it is suggested that during the first few minutes after waking our brains right hand creative side is in command because the editing left hand side is not so good at waking up. So in that golden 10 to 20 minutes or so – you should express yourself in writing in an un-edited way, ignoring punctuation or sentence structure in favour of getting whatever your right brain is giving you in a creative stream of consciousness, without judgment. These are referred to as the Morning Pages in the book, and I can testify to their effectiveness. The real value is going back to them a little later, perhaps after breakfast – when your left brain has kicked in – and reading them almost as if they came from someone else, someone unconstrained by rules or ego. At that moment you can actually find some wonderful nuggets of ideas; however, you can also see that there is a lot of it that verges on nonsense that should be excluded from any further consideration for future use in your work.

So what happens when you are the President and after waking you find your phone in your hand, instead of a pen, and your Twitter account open? In a world where few people have ever succeeded in stopping you doing anything you may be tempted to believe that anything you think about or decide to say in those early morning moments, perhaps while you are sitting on your toilet, is so important that its essence is unlikely to change or be challenged by anyone around you so you just type in the first thing that pops into your head – press the Tweet button and hey presto the worlds press has another juicy surprise to get its teeth into. And your team have what some describe as another ‘sh*t sandwich to deal with.

Kellyanne Conway, Trumps final campaign manager, who was given the title of Counselor to the President for Christmas was widely credited with rescuing a disorderly, dramatic campaign. She has been described as ferocious, razor sharp and a sufferer of no fools (well all but one maybe?) and also the person who got Trump into the White House. On top of the endless lies, filthy tricks, the proven interference of the Russians and a spectacular shot in the arm of the campaign by the director of the FBI – which in itself has launched a whole raft of ‘What did Putin or Trump have on James Comey to make him do it?’ conspiracy theories – it was perhaps only her tenacity that finally swung it in Trump’s favour. It seems that Conway was the only person, man or woman capable of reining in the famously vindictive and tempestuous candidate by focusing his energies away from his more destructive impulses and knee jerk announcements, which often proved to be downright lies and distracting him instead with a near-constant stream of rallies across the country. She admitted that she had to treat him as she would one of her four children. In a recent interview she described the way she finally convinced Trump to stop tweeting inflammatory things. Instead of blocking him from Twitter altogether, “I would say, ‘Here are a couple of cool things we should tweet today.’ It’s like saying to someone, ‘How about having two brownies and not six?’”
However, In the weeks since his election after Kellyanne let go of the day to day control of him as the campaign wrapped up, Trump quickly fell back on his dangerous impulses.

Kellyanne ConwayPhoto care of politico.com

With just days to go few people truly believe he is fit or ready for the office with some simply holding onto a hope that once he is inaugurated things will quickly normalise. But dealing with Trump as if he will one day be normal and constrained by the usual conventions, including embarrassment at being caught in a lie, would be to kid yourself. Trump is not a normal politician. He has no shame. While most politicians blush if exposed as inconsistent, let alone dishonest, Trump like most sociopaths is totally unembarrassable and simply attacks whichever little boy dares say he’s wearing no clothes – before going on to accuse the child of being a “failing pile of garbage”.

Is there hope? Maybe. But if things stay the same he is almost certainly going to have a short and volatile Presidency that will end because of some national or International crisis or scandal, or the isolation of America from the rest of the world for a generation or much, much longer if he feels cornered enough to go all Kim Jong Un on the world with the nuclear codes! One hope we might have is if Trump’s picks for the big jobs like James “Mad Dog” Mattis and other alt-right facists like chief strategist Steve Bannon are quickly shown the door as many people hope. Although who is to say that he doesn’t just put another nut job into the same position? So the presidency, the security of America and quite possibly the rest of the world may stand a better chance if one of two things happen. On a day to day basis Kellyanne Conway takes complete control of his Twitter accounts and other media interactions from his phone at least until mid-morning and effectively becomes the editor that Trump is clearly incapable of being. Or, as the only person he listens to: she continues to let him keep his Twitter account but also moves into the White House and actually shares an adjoining bedroom next to him and his wife. Only in this way can she be on hand, and bang on the bathroom door at the moments he is at his most dangerous with his Tweets. She could say in her firm, motherly voice ‘Now Donald we have agreed that you don’t Tweet until you have had your medication and eaten all your breakfast (and your left hand side of the brain has kicked in).

The word Counselor (spelled Counsellor in Europe and the UK ) most often means therapist. Someone who helps you recognise and see where your negative, repeated patterns and bad impulses may be destructive so she can then help you find a way through to making a rational decision about something.

In many ways it is not if but when Trump does something so spectacularly ill thought out that he not only destroys himself but also compromises the security and safety of countless others, maybe all of us? However, no matter how bad things get – and they are going to be terrible – we can at least console ourselves by thinking that if Kellyanne Conway wasn’t doing probably the second most important job in America as Counselor/Therapist in Chief to Trump and coaxing him, soothing him and most importantly being the editor of his worst impulses, which he seems wholly incapable of doing for himself… things could have been so much worse.

Picture of nuclear explosion
Photo care of deadlyplanet.com