The American Way? Yap Loudly and Pack a Big Shtick

The House of Donald’s Populist Tweetocracy instructs us daily how sharing doesn’t matter and that taxes are for losers, those impecunious citizen-suckers who can’t afford a lawyer who charges less than the claimed deductions. Tax Avoidance 101. No need to share with the “little people,” a.k.a. socialism. Of course, in Socialism American Style, the protected class siphons the spoils their way, a purposefully designed “trickle-up” system of wealth management that even shelters the losses from any storms. Some say we are born equal, at least until the moment of conception.

There is an old statistics joke that goes, “There are 3 kinds of people in the world. … Those who can count and those who can’t.” Not so funny when the counting is how many billions one can sock away without paying a whit of tax. Thanks to a bought-and-paid-for political class, the division between owners and the rest of us has never been more stark as a handful of people now own half the world, while the billionaires keep getting richer by the day. We may ever be divided into givers and takers, but today’s takers now want us to believe they are givers, dancing to Uncle Don’s ever-discordant tune.

Perhaps the anger and toxic rhetoric will be dialled down a bit, now that the world’s number-one patient-in-chief has been infected with Covid-19, amid a global pandemic that has seen more than 1 million people die. At least, until the next debate. A Damascene conversion is unlikely, even as the presidential myths are being rewritten at Twitter speed. Some see Icarus, the boy who cried hoax too many times, or Chauncey Gardiner running out of make-believe, anti-intellectual, drivel as he sinks in the rising waters.

As intended, hate is parroted from every orifice of social media, duelling hot takes competing for 15 seconds of fame as we type out our rage against each other, urban hermits expressing ourselves in a growing hyper-individualist world. Virtual Hatfields and McCoys, left/right, us/them. Will hate be America’s epitaph after 250 years of life, liberty, and the pursuit of furniture? One wants to see virtue in the vice, but how can one see past an ever-yapping junkyard dog?

The ready-made inanity comes with Reality TV-dinner monikers to distract from the Fifth Avenue Hillbilly looting and to stir the basest of the base – Crazy Nancy, Sleepy Joe, Crooked Hilary, Pocahontas, Shifty Schiff, Mini Mike, Fat Jerry, Low Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, …. The schoolboy behaviour is beyond embarrassing for a grown man let alone an elected representative. Such venom. Such Angry American bile. Wash your mouth out with soap. I, Donald knows how to pit the disenfranchised against each other so no one looks at the Music Man stealing their money behind the curtain as he fills the airwaves with brain cramps until all that remains is to give up or give in and finally say “Uncle Don.”

Alas, what if Yapping Don is not the exception, but the ideal, a reflection of a deeper, selfish, libertarian soul that doesn’t need to explain its me-first, Ayn-Randian, macho-Christianity. The United Gates of America. Stay in your lane mister. First Rule: “Say anything about anything, but admit nothing about nothing.” Second Rule: “Pretend to negotiate and then take what you want.” Third Rule: “God helps those who help themselves.” Whoof, whoof.

All the while, walk and talk at the same time, so no one can pin you down. Point to another journalist for a new “question” before answering the last. Rotate through the same banalities. Consume and pollute with impunity, never worrying about any excess or waste. Half-truths, quarter-truths, zero-truths. “I really don’t care. Do U?” Arrogant, bullying, win at all costs. The American Way.

We can forgive Thighland, unpresidented, 7/11, Melanie, Covfefe as Dan Quayle small-potato(e) slips of the typing finger. Those 5G Huawei keyboards are so tiny. But the nauseatingly inane, say-anything rhetoric, trotted out daily, is not a slip of the tongue or a fat finger, but a purposeful distraction. How else to explain the rank incompetence: exploding trees, herd mentality, swallowing UV light, injecting bleach, the hydroxy (apparently no good), stigmatized virus names, dark-shadow thugs on planes, Socialist Joe, MoCA-test elephant recognition, A+ self-grading, inland hurricane paths, nuclear-bombing hurricanes, water-bombing Notre Dame, World War II ending the 1917 influenza pandemic, Revolutionary War airports, aircraft carrier directions, Two Corinthians, upside-down Bibles, no India-China border, Covid-19 will be gone by Easter, in a few weeks, like the regular flu, under control, turning a corner, a vaccine in 2 weeks (like the health care bill), …. I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Each utterance more laughable than the previous.

Most of the shtick is so vapid it should come with a Hollywood laugh track. “It’ll start getting cooler, you just watch” (September 14). Yes it will, during the next ice age, due about now, but postponed by ever-increasing industrial growth as we continue to pave paradise. We may be hard-pressed to stop heating our geo-engineered civilization, which has seen an increase in human population from 1 million at the start of farming about 10,000 years ago to 500 million in 1500 to almost 8 billion today, or the increase in associated greenhouse gases and toxic industrial waste.

In The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene, UCL earth scientists Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin think we are in for an “unusually long super-interglacial” with “much future suffering” if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels. Yes, it will start getting cooler, someday, alas not in anyone’s current lifetime. (Typical glacial/interglacial ranges are 180–280 ppm for carbon dioxide and 350–700 ppb for methane. We are already over 412 ppm and 1,875 ppb.)

Yapping Don knows all that from his Pentagon briefings and from his coastal properties, including in the west of Ireland, where Irish planning authorities rejected a Trump application to build a sea barrier to stop the rising sea levels from wiping out his Doonbeg golf course. If just 10% of the cryosphere melts, we can expect a rise in sea level of about 9 metres, swamping coastal cities and low-lying islands, while a 1-metre rise would affect 3% of global land area, one-third of croplands, and inundate more than 80% of U.S. coastal wetlands. Say goodbye to Miami, Bangladesh, low-lying island nations in the Pacific, and the back nine at Doonbeg. Physics 101 to a stable genius. Misdirection to a no-money-down salesman.

No one should be in any doubt as to who is responsible. As calculated in Oxfam’s latest report, Confronting Carbon Inequality (September 21), the wealthiest 1% (about 60 million people) emitted more than twice as much carbon as the poorest 50% (about 3.1 billion) in a 25-year-period from 1990 to 2015, and were responsible for 15% of emissions. The GHG contaminators and polluters are exacerbating global warming to the point of no return. Throw in a few feedback loops (decreased Arctic albedothawing tundraincreased water vapor) and the next 25 years won’t be better.

I, Donald’s version glosses over the science, making health a transactional economic issue for his anti-intellectual party collaborators: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” In fact, lack of action on global warming is rendering the U.S. economy non-competitive. At least, we’re not stuck in the ‘80s, when Reagan said “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do,” but we need much more than “forest management” and “science doesn’t know” to sort out this mess. We need more than a 24/7 Snake Oil Medicine Show.

One shouldn’t expect much from a Reality TV star, hooked on ratings. Who cares if the endless trolling is virtual violence, delivered like an ICMB at a safe distance from the target? It’s the American Way. A Brown University study (September 21) calculated that at least 37 million people have been displaced by the “global war on terror,” a.k.a. endless American oil wars. Terror abroad, terror at home, and terror on the keypad. All to ensure we keep guzzling more gas.

Peacenik Don says wars are “stupid” and yet the violence continues. The average American may not be able to find Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, or the Philippines on a map, but Captain Don and the Justice League of America can sell weapons to those stupid enough to try. Good for business to sell to both sides. Bad for 37 million poor displaced souls. Our beautiful Pale Blue Dot may be too vast to comprehend on the ground, but can’t we see life as other than permanent war?

Chastising those who present a “three-handkerchief tear-jerker scenario about Big, Bad, Ugly America” in Sex, Art, and American Culture, Camille Paglia cites the United States “as the most open, dynamic, creative nation on God’s green earth.” You can’t say American exceptionalism any better than that. America is right and America will fight, even if it means destroying the world.

It may be simplistic to divide the world into two, when there are many stripes to us all, but the middle is fast disappearing as we rock SS Democracy. Sorry Camille, God’s green earth is turning brown in a hurry. There is nothing radical about fixing the world to keep the convenience of the wall plug while discarding downstream damage. There is nothing radical about living within our means, economically and environmentally.

We’ve been warned about hollow horses since Cassandra, but some just won’t hear. In North by Northwest, Roger O. Thornhill, spells out a simple American truth, “There is no such thing as a lie; there is only an expedient exaggeration.” Lip-syncing TikTok superstar Sarah Cooper notes that one doesn’t need to embellish Trump’s screed, because “Everything he says is so ridiculous that it is hard to heighten it.” We may have graduated from “speak softly and carry a big stick,” but there must be more to truth, justice, and the American Way than “yap loudly and pack a big shtick.”

Be wary of people who think things because they believe them to be true, doubly so for those who make things up to suit their politics. Time to change the dealer. Time to stop polluting the airwaves and the world. We had better get our house in order and soon.


John K. White, a former lecturer in physics and education at University College Dublin and the University of Oviedo. He is the editor of the energy news service E21NS and author of The Truth About Energy: Our Fossil-Fuel Addiction and the Transition to Renewables (Cambridge University Press, 2024) and Do The Math!: On Growth, Greed, and Strategic Thinking (Sage, 2013). He can be reached at: