Axios Watch: Axios Of Dullness

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Welcome to the first installment of my effort to document Axios’ cover of Trumplandia. Now, let me stress, I have no idea if this is going to last more than one issue. I may grow bored of it — and this blog in general — and all of this will be moot.

But if the late Gawker can do 500 days of coverage for a z list celebrity, then I can at least attempt to occasionally pick on Axios.

So, let’s look at what’s going on at our polar opposite. Axios makes it name, at least according to the sense I get from Twitter, for getting great scoops because it is something of a lapdog that uses access journalism to make a name for itself. Given that I have no money and have no access, it makes sense that I would see my self on the other end of the spectrum from Axios.

The site itself looks great. It’s got a clean, sleek design that is inviting and enjoyable. Having said that, the actual content — at least on the surface — seems pretty meh. I don’t know enough context yet to know how right I am on that.

Anyway, today, Axios the site leads with a story about Sec. of State Rex Tillerson’s diplomatic work relative to Jared Kushner. Dull. I don’t care. Boring. Give me something interesting about Trumplandia. Give me more detail about, like, why doesn’t Kushner speak in public? What is up with that, yo?

I guess I’m not the audience, because I am struggling to find one sold story that catches my interest. One that is interesting, however, is their article about Angela Merkel talking about the sorry state of Europe-American relations these days because of Trump. It’ an important story…and yet…it seems to me they could spin it with a little bit more pizzazz.

But, like I said, I have a feeling I’m not the audience. The audience is wonky people in D.C. not some broke ass writer in the middle of a fly over state.

I have to give them credit, they have at least one sold headline — ‘Raging Bull’ Trump shifts back into 2016 campaign mode That is at least a mildly interesting headline.

Overall, the content of the site is kind of like that scene in Wayne’s World where they end up in Delaware.

The Time Is Ripe For The Founding Of An Anti-Axios Startup

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

This is one of those instances where I can articulate a vision quite well, but given that I simply don’t have the resources, it’s not like anything is going to happen with it. In fact, absolutely nothing is going to happen with my vision for an “anti-Axios” of sorts.

As you may know, from what I can gather from Twitter, Axios is considered a prime example of lapdog “access journalism” in the age of Trumplandia. Off the top of my head, I honestly can’t think of a site that does the opposite online right now.

I can’t think of a site that attacks Trumplandia mercilessly with wit and snarkiness. I am writing this blog in large part because I want to get a lot of things about Trumplandia off my chest and I can’t do it in 140 characters.

I propose that if someone who did have resources were to follow the vision I wish to articulate, that there would be both the audience and the market for the site to be successful. All the ingredients for a site as I propose exist for it to be successful.

You have both a market and an audience that, as of right now, isn’t really being served. If someone like me can’t think of a single go-to blog to read about how horrible Trumplandia is, then obviously it doesn’t exist in any meaningful manner.

What I want is spread across several sites, most of which I don’t read. Vice, Wonkette and a few others do some of what I want, but really the site that as of right now does it is Twitter itself. So, maybe that’s why the site I want doesn’t exist.

I just get it from Twitter.

But it would be cool for a site such as I suggest to exist. Maybe it will eventually, but, alas, I doubt I will be involved in any way.

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He can be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.

The Fall Of The Fallon Empire & The Rise Of Colbert Nation

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

When Jimmy Fallon tussled Donald Trump’s hair in 2016, it marked the fall of a late night ratings empire that everyone expected to last for decades. This example of “Falloning” was one of many during the course of the 2016 campaign. It took a lot longer than it should have for people to take Trump, the demagogue, seriously.

Flash forward to 2017, and we live in a weird world where Stephen Colbert is now the late night campaign. Apparently it comes from time-shifting viewers, but still.

With the rise of Colbert Nation in the wake of Trumplandia, it raises some interesting questions. I know, at least from personal experience, that I only watch The Late Show for the monologue. It’s nice to have a place one a day where you get help processing how insane recent events have been. Colbert’s monologue serves a great purpose for American society as a whole and should Trumplandia prosper for a full eight years, it could produce some pretty high ratings for Colbert for years to come.

As I have mentioned before, comedians are at the forefront of American civil society’s reaction to Trumplandia. That, right now at least, is the primary method through which we process the existence of Trumplandia in the first place.

Some observers, however, see the rise of Colbert Nation — and similar popular anti-Trumplandia comics — to have a dark side. They think by being “too mean” to Trump, it causes people who are conservative, but not Trump supporters, to make the conscious decision to throw their lot in with Trump. I don’t know how much to read into this to be true.

Trumplandia is such a cancer on American civil society, that there has to be a point when eventually such arguments will be see as bullshit. It doesn’t work being nice to Trumplandia, to normalize it and they definitely don’t mind people being assholes, so why can’t we give them a taste of their own medicine?

A lot of this has to do with how “serious” commentators simply don’t know what to do with Trumplandia. They want things to go back to the way they were. Vanity Fair, for instance, at one point all but begged the ratings gods to make Jimmy Fallon number 1 again. This revolution caused by the rise of Trumplandia is something we’re going to have to get used to.

What will be interesting to see is what happens should the Tsar-a-Largo scandal grind on for years and finally produce some sort of result that no one can deny. (Yes, that may still be possible despite tribal politics.) When will we run out of jokes and begin to take Trump a lot more seriously than we have in days past.

I think give the earnest edge of Colbert’s monologue we’re about reaching that point. It seems as though people are beginning to wake up to how serious all of this is and soon enough we’ll stop laughing and get down to the serious business of The Resistance.

Fight The Power: Will Trumplandia Force Millennials To Rock?

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It goes without saying, at least relative to where I sit, that pop music is pretty boring these days. The closest we have to rock music, oddly enough is not even rock at all: it’s EDM and Rap. The complete absence of rock music of any sort for about 10 years now is really strange.

Which makes me think back to the last time we had really good mainstream music being churned out on a regular basis — the turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s. Now, I am not suggesting that even the existential threat to the Republic known as Trumplandia could cause, say, a new Beatles to pop up.

But I am suggesting that “woke pop” as practiced by the likes of Katy Perry, might be the first stirrings of something far more significant — “protest pop.” Woke pop is about as subtle as it comes when it comes to talking about issues of the day. It’s like a tap on the shoulder or a wink, when I want more of bitchslap. I guess what I want is a revival of the type of music that Public Enemy was producing back in the day. That was the last time I can think of where you had politics directly spoken about in music, though Rage Against The Machine had elements of it as well.

Yet, as I keep saying in different ways, really all this boils down to the marketplace. Given how docile Americans are in general, it takes a lot to rile them up. The protest music of the Civil Right Era and Vietnam Era happened gradually as 1967’s Summer Of Love became, well, 1968.

Some of what happened during that period obviously had something to do with demographics. The Baby Boomers were hitting the brick wall of the Great Generation’s power in society and they weren’t having any of it. I keep thinking that the current dearth in good music is also the result of demographics. Eventually, at some point, my logic goes, the people who were born around 2000 — Millennials — will pick up an electric guitar and discover the joys of punk or rock or rap or whatever.

But as I keep saying, Americans are extremely docile. It takes a huge amount to rile us up, but once you do, watch out. The question, of course, is Trumplandia unto itself enough to bring back politically charged protest pop. Right now, the jury is definitely out. I just don’t know.

It’s one of those things that could go either way. If Tsar-A-Largo grinds on for years and it becomes pretty obvious to everyone that Donald Trump is, in fact, compromised by the Russians, then it’s possible what I want to have happen, will happen. But nothing comes of it or if Trump leaves office significantly sooner than any of us expect, then we’ll have to continue to suffer bad music.

Really, what has to happen is people start writing protest songs and throwing them against the wall. Eventually one of them might stick and open the floodgates of great music. I guy can hope, can’t he?

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He is a writer and photographer in Richmond, Va. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.

Waiting For The Movie Industry To Strike Against Trumplandia

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It takes time for movies to gestate. From conception to release, it is usual about 18 months as best I can understand. So, the fact that there haven’t been any major movies produced that are meant to serve as metaphors for Trumplandia should not be surprising.

As I have mentioned before, that doesn’t mean there isn’t material out there for some great movies. I’m thinking specifically of The Mule portion of The Foundation Saga. It is just too timely for someone not to do something with it. I can think of at least one scene in the novel that would make audiences gasp with how relevant it is in the age of Trumplandia.

And, yet, maybe I’m expecting too much. The Watergate scandal generated pretty much one movie at the time and that was All The President’s Men. I guess I see Trumplandia as even more serious than Watergate. I see it more existential than Watergate. I see it more along the lines of Prohibition or the Vietnam War. That’s why I keep expecting someone to pull out all the stops and do an epic metaphor for Trumplandia like a modern day Apocalypse Now.

But maybe I am expecting too much. Maybe the eerie silence within much of pop culture when it comes to Trumplandia has more to do with economics than any decline and fall of the Republic. From the perspective of the market, you don’t want to offend have the marketplace by taking a stand against Trumplandia.

So, the Tsar-A-Largo scandal will grind on and we’ll having nothing to show for it other than lasting damage to the American body politic and a few hundred thousand jokes. That’s one possibility. And, yet, because of how strong America’s civil society is, I’d like to think the Kraken will eventually be released.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say we’re in a pretty big existential crisis right now in American history and if things got so bad that movie producers felt comfortable churning out movies that were obviously a wink-and-a-nod to our dire political straights, then maybe that might be the type of thing to subtly influence people to hit the streets.

And, yet, things are really up in the air right now. I think the most likely scenario is a particularly “woke” sleeper movie will be produced and it will be a huge success and that will cause other, similar movies to be produced. At least, that’s typically how things have happened in the past.

But we’ll see. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. It could go either way, I guess.

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He is a writer and photographer in Richmond, Va. He can be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.

Short Story Draft: Trumplandia

This is a rough first draft of a short story that I hope to turn into a novel about Trumplandia. It’s a decent start, but I continue to struggle with a plot of the scope needed for a novel.
Continue reading “Short Story Draft: Trumplandia”

What Hath Trumplandia Wrought: The Seth Ritch Tragedy

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

While generally I think Olivia Nuzzi, at least on Twitter, is one of the more annoying scribes out there, she does deliver a powerful piece on New York Magazine’s website about the tragic attack on the memory of Seth Rich by the forces of Trumplandia.

It continues to blow my mind that anyone with an IQ above room temperature would give the Seth Rich conspiracy theory any credence. It makes my skin crawl even thinking that otherwise “respected” media and political figures would give the Seth Rich conspiracy any respectability.

As Nuzzi writes:

To Trump supporters, Rich came to represent their belief that the president was innocent and the Russia narrative was a creation of the media-deep state industrial complex. Adding fuel to this bewildering fire were claims that Rich had been a secret, devout Bernie Sanders supporter — this, based on curious edits made to Reddit posts from an account belonging to Rich made after he died, and the existence of another Reddit account called “pandas4bernie” (recall the panda suit) that became inactive around the time he died. The people behind “pandas4bernie,” who are also behind a similar Bernie-themed Twitter account, denied Rich was connected to their Reddit, and a coworker of Rich’s told me that although he’d never openly expressed a preference for Sanders, he thought it would be unlikely that Rich was a fan, since the Sanders campaign feuded so publicly with the DNC, something that aggravated everyone there. What’s more, when Rich died, he was planning to move to Brooklyn to work for the Clinton campaign.

If anything gives you insight into the mentality of the typical citizen of that nation of the mind known as Trumplandia, it is the Seth Rich conspiracy. I have spoken to more than one Trumplandia person and they are quick to jump on any conspiracy. One person Trump supporter I’ve spoken to was absolutely sure that the Access Hollywood tape was an elaborate conspiracy on the part of evil liberals to end the Trump campaign.

And, given that Donald Trump himself loves nothing more than a good conspiracy, such bizarre thinking is at the core of the Trumplandia mythos. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest you can’t understand Trumplandia without understanding the psychological underpinnings of the appeal of conspiracy theories. I am no shrink, but obviously Trump has tapped into something by being so ready to believe random conspiracy theories. It obviously helped him politically. Got him the presidency, if nothing else.

One of the interesting takeaways from the article is that Rich wasn’t even all that technologically proficient. As the New York Magazine article puts it:

And for some coworkers, an irony of the entire conspiracy – which hinges on Rich being the one who leaked the DNC documents to Assange’s organization — is that Rich wasn’t much of a tech whiz. “One of the hilarious things about this whole thing was the idea that he was somehow the master hacker behind Wikileaks, is that he was fundamentally, like, not that great of a programmer,” a coworker told me. “He’s like a very smart guy, but he was not — that wasn’t his thing. He wasn’t a computer person first and foremost, he was really interested in politics and solving problems but he came to the computer part as a tool.” Another friend noted on a memorial page that her funny memory of Rich was having to explain to him that his Twitter account, which he used often to complain to companies, was private—which is why those companies never responded to his gripes

But the greatest tragedy of Seth Rich is people like Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich trying to use it as leverage to defend Trump on charges of collusion — or worse collaboration — with the Russians during their meddling in the 2016 election cycle.

I wonder, perhaps, that when it comes to Hannity, this is all an effort to get fired from FOX News so he becomes a martyr for Trumplandia and ends up as Communications Director at the White House, or an anchor for InfoWars. Something like that. Anything, at this point, seems possible.

What I fear is two things. One, I fear that as the Tsar-A-Largo scandal grinds on over the next few months and years, that we will pretty much hear about poor Seth Rich on a constant level until Trump’s fate is decided one way or another.

Additionally, I fear for the safety of John Podesta. I really worry that Trump will pick up on the Seth Rich conspiracy theory and some nutjob will come after Podesta in a physical manner. I really hope I’m being spooked for no reason, but it is something to worry about, given that a crackpot went to Rocket Pizza looking for proof of a conspiracy there.

Anyway, this is not over by a long shot. The stakes are too high and Trumplandia is too deluded for them not to cling on to the Seth Rich conspiracy with all their might, hoping to score as many points and gain as may votes as possible.

Shelton Bumgarner is The Trumplandia Report’s editor and publisher. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.

Keeping Receipts In The Age Of Trumplandia

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

In a sense, we may mark the beginning of the Age of Trump, or Trumplandia as I call it, with the firing of FBI Director James Comey. That marked the moment when Donald Trump used his executive power in a manner we had feared and been warned about.

It was the worse case scenario become reality.

Soon enough, however, we learned that Comey had “kept receipts” of his interactions with Trump and, in a sense, had proof of what Trump had actually done. As Trumplandia continues to morph and expand its reach across the American experience, it’s possible that the notion of “keeping receipts” will grow to have heavy historical import.

What else can you say in this situation, given that we have a president who seems completely disconnected from reality. People who are actually good at their job are now forced to prove that they’re telling the truth, and the only way to do that is to keep receipts.

As an aside, it is interesting the difference between where Twitter is and where the mainstream media is when it comes to Trumplandia. Twitter is like a mob with pitchforks, while most mainstream media outlets take a significantly more measured approach.

If I wanted to get all nerdy and wonky on you, I might suggest that we’ve reached a creeping Singularity of sorts, with the more measured mainstream media simply unable to cope with the speed at which news is breaking. Or maybe I’m overthinking things, it’s something to ponder.

But to go back to the subject at hand, 2017 could eventually be seen as the Year of Receipts. Things have gotten so bad that we now can’t trust anyone in power. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s the world we live in.

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He welcomes your comments at migukin (at) gmail.com.

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation & ‘The Mule’ As A Metaphor For Trumplandia

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It is eerie how quiet the movie industry has been when it comes to producing metaphor’s for Trumplandia. It’s weird that no major movie — that I know of — is now in production that is supposed to be the Apocalypse Now of the rule of Trump.

Maybe one is in production right now and I just don’t know about it.

But I would like to gently suggestion that of all the stuff out there for potential creative strip mining there remains one motherload left untouched by the movie industry: The Foundation Saga. Specifically, I am thinking of the subset of the Foundation Saga known as The Mule.

The reason why The Mule is perfect to be turned into a movie is it deals with a comic character who turns out to be the villain. In short, The Mule completely destroys the presumed course of history and I think that would resonate with audiences.

I have heard that at one point HBO was working on turning The Foundation Saga into a TV series similar to Game Of Thrones, but I have not heard any more about it recently.

It’s not like I could do anything about this given that I am not very adept at writing screenplays and I definitely don’t own the rights to any part of the series. So, for the time being, this will be just an idle daydream.

But it would be a shame if nothing came of this.

American Civil Society’s Reaction To Trumplandia

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

One of the more crazy aspects of Trumplandia is how it’s completely stirred the pot when it comes to the traditional Left-Right divide, at least online. You have people like me, a center-Left moderate liberal agreeing with people like David Frum when it comes to one subject: Trumplandia.

The United States probably has the strongest civil society of any nation on earth, and so it’s interesting how the rise of Trumplandia has played out. The first shockwave of reaction against Trumplandia has come from comics, specifically late night comics. Stephen Colbert’s monologue has become appointment viewing since Trump became president in large part because there’s not really any other outlet right now for our society to process Trumplandia.

Our first reaction as a civil society to Trumplandia, then, is to laugh. We laugh at all these crazy things happening because they’re happening so fast and it’s all so surreal relative to the eight years of “No Drama Obama” that we enjoyed, that we simply don’t know what else to do.

I have suggested that there needs to be a site devoted specifically to picking apart Trumplandia in a snarky manner, like Spy Magazine, Late Night With David Letterman or Gawker.com, but it could be that the energy that the creative energy that would otherwise be put into that is being done on Twitter. At least, that’s one explanation for what’s going on.

Or it could be that I’m just too impatient. Maybe the media ecosystem that would otherwise on a Darwinian level bring rise to an site devoted to Resistance news and commentary takes a little bit more time to develop than I am giving it credit for.

So, it could be that the instability caused by the rise of Trumplandia is summoning the mythical Kraken, it’s just taking a lot longer than I expect. Maybe a year from now, American civil society will be so upset with Trumplandia that any number of different creative forms will be attacking it. That’s my hope.

If you were a bit more dystopian in your inclinations, you might say that we’re totally fucked. By that I mean, we may be on course for a Russian style “managed democracy.” And, yet, I would like to think that goes against the very nature of the American experience. I would like to think that maybe America is better than that. Americans are really docile by nature.

It takes a whole lot to rile Americans up. Once they get angry, though, watch out. Real change happens in America when the populace gets riled up. It happened in the late 60s and early 70s and it could potentially happen again. People talk about how we’re in a Constitutional crisis, and I am apt to agree. We’re in kind of a chronic Constitutional crisis that flares up occasionally without warning.

At the core of this is the Vichy nature of the Republican Party. As I mentioned, Trumplandia has completely ripped up the traditional Left-Right spectrum. We need to keep an eye on that. That is significant in the context of American civil society. When you have people in the intelligence community agreeing with people on the other end of the political spectrum, something significant is afoot.

The prime question, of course, is where does this all end. How will we look back upon this era of Trumplandia. Is this a blip in the overall history of the United States, or something significantly more important and dire. Is Trumplandia more of a Prohibition mistake or is it the death rattle of the traditional American Republic.

Much of what will determine which one of those it is will be what happens next. If Trump manages to right the ship of state and not only survive but thrive, then we may be in a new epoch in our nations history. All the ingredients are there, at least. We have the supine Vichy Republicans giving Trump all the power he likes and we have Trump himself who has a unique ability to connect to the “common man” while at the same time screwing over that very base by destroying the nation’s safety net.

And, yet, at the same time, a fish rots from its head. So, it’s possible that we’re in for an extended period of instability whereby Trump isn’t able to fully consolidate his power for no other reason than his own gaping character flaws.

Should that happen, the thing we will be able to credit is civil society. The political system has failed us dramatically and now the the we have left is comedy, art, drama, music, what have you. That’s pretty much the only thing protecting us from not a dystopian future, but a very real dystopian present.

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.