“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.
“They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”
Through The Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll.
Dan Boyle writes:
One thing we can be sure is that Donald Trump hasn’t deliberately styled himself on the character of Humpty Dumpty, however apt that character can be related to his use of language or its veracity.
We can be sure that Trump himself wouldn’t make that link because of how he celebrates the fact that he doesn’t read books. If he were a reader it is probable that a fantasy novel might appeal to him. His superficiality though, would make it unlikely he would want to interpret any allegory attached.
There are some, many, who see genius in Trump’s loose approach to language. His phraseology is deliberate, they believe. It seeks to evoke a response. A response that distorts reality and seeks to distract from the actual.
The alternative, the more obvious, is less likely to be believed. He does want to evoke a response. He wants us to believe that what he is saying is true. That he does so in the most inarticulate, ill informed and insincere manner, is not an affectation, it is how he wants to communicate what he thinks.
It is child like in its application. Perhaps a children’s nursery rhyme character is a fair comparison. A more recent cultural reference might be the character ‘Chauncey Gardiner’ played by Peter Sellers in the film Being There (1979)’. In this he plays a simple soul, who comes close to the US Presidency, by stating inane comments that are taken as pearls of unique wisdom.
How should we respond to this conscious stream of inanity? Are we being trolled? Do we give the unwelcome attention he so desires for his every utterance? If we ignore him does that allow him, and those around him, to construct an alternate reality that comes to be believed by his followers with religious intensity?
The answers might be found in identfying what angers Trump most. He is notoriously thin skinned. He possesses an enormous ego. He hates being contradicted, or being stymied. He is never amused at being made fun of.
These should be our weapons of choice in seeking to overcome Trumpism. Each piece of Fake News (that which we used to call lies) he produces must be countered by verifiable facts that undermine the intent of the myth makers.
Although it could yet be the merry makers who have the best laugh. The Trump team are their own satirical script writers. What they presume to be strength of purpose comes across as a cartoonish approach to government and to diplomacy. Today we giggle nervously. Eventually they will realise we are laughing at them, not with them.
The truth about Donald? There is no truth about Donald.
Illustration by Chloe Cushman