Cosplaying competence

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If Josef Stalin decided to torture you, and your luck was good, you ended up at the Lubyanka getting your nipples twisted off by an NKVD goon with a pair of needle nose pliers. If you were unlucky, Uncle Jo invited you to dinner. Stalin’s dinners were grotesque, punishing marathons, with the maximum comrade forcing his terrified guests to gorge themselves on his favourite dish, a gluggy casserole of slow-cooked sheep’s rectum, while necking twice their own bodyweight in fiery pepper vodka and Georgian wine.

His biographer, Simon Sebag Montefiore describes hardened Russian drunkards staggering away to vomit profusely into a cupboard, emptying their stomachs again and again for the next wave of glutinous arse mutton and revolutionary merlot. Many passed out and soiled themselves, while Stalin, sipping at watered down champagne chuckled to himself.

Still, those softcocks never had to sit through a Donald Trump presser on the coronavirus. The sick fear, the dizzying headspins, the inevitable loss of bladder and bowel control? Yeah, tell us something we’re not intimately familiar with these last few months. At least Stalin’s buffet hostages could hang on to some hope that they might survive.

Probs not an option for the rest of us.

The pressers are on hiatus for now, having threatened to kill nearly as many people as the ‘rona, but quicker. (A cleansing dose of household bleach mainlined into the medial anti-brachial vein will not take a fucking fortnight to put out your lights).

The press conferences were probably the wildest live demos of Tangerine Hitler’s feral id running free, unconstrained by Twitter’s 280-character limit. But they were also of a type with the protests by Trump’s ammo-sexual super fans, the heavily armed angry Aryan crisis actors gatecrashing various state legislatures across the US. Trump’s two-hour nightly slam poetry happening was a stream of consciousness riff on Orwell’s warning that if you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever. But with infomercials for hydroxychloroquine enemas.

It was also cosplaying competence, a performance art you start seeing everywhere, once you know what to look for.

The prepper fascist aesthetic of the anti-shutdown militia is, of course, primarily designed to intimidate. But the intimidation isn’t simply about the threat of some Red Dawn spank off turning kinetic and bloody. The promise of all that ballistic hardware and army surplus prêt-â-porter is a promise of competence.

It says, yes, we might look like an introvert support group that morphed into a surprisingly murderous paintball cult… but we done been practising our favourite tactical moves and if you subscribe to our YouTube channel you can see my cousin Darrel recreate Cap’s awesome elevator fight scene from Captain America 2 with my other cousin Darrel because we are that good.

Even better, you don’t need to subscribe to the Cheezel Demon’s personal feed to watch Trump’s delusions of adequacy rendered into a dress up version of what adulthood looks like. Even three years into our shared psychotic break, the news media will do it for you.

Example?

On May 1, The Washington Post reported that:

Senior U.S. officials are beginning to explore proposals for punishing or demanding financial compensation from China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to four senior administration officials with knowledge of internal planning.

The move could splinter already strained relations between the two superpowers at a perilous moment for the global economy. … Officials in American intelligence agencies are also involved in the effort.

WaPo’s bit reads like a totally normal report on a totally normal president, referencing ‘intelligence agencies this’ and ‘economic advisors that’, but the reality beneath that bland prose is a force ten sharknado of mayhem and blind panic as all of the B-List grifters, psychopaths and enablers try to mollify the tantrums of a giant orange manbaby.

It’s not competence, it’s fucking dangerous.

As Jay Rosen says, “The plan is to have no plan.”

Even the rapidly evolving scheme to blame China for everything, is less a scheme than a despairing scramble. It will feel oddly comforting and familiar to Trump whose whole life has been a long series of frantic scams and pleas to creditors for one last chance to make good on yesterday’s frantic scams and special pleading. And while it’s interesting that the other Five Eyes allies are finally pushing back as Mike Pompeo tries to elevate to strategic doctrine a deranged subreddit conspiracy about Wuhan’s secret labs and weaponised viral programs, it won’t matter.

If Trump thinks it looks good, he’ll go for it. And if he starts a war it will be just another chance to get back on TV every night and start ramming his own particular version of rancid sheep’s arse casserole down everyone’s throats.

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