Monday, June 18, 2018

The Pinocchio President

I’ve been concerned about the Orwellian nature of the language espoused by Donald Trump and his administration and subsequently regurgitated by the media. If George Washington was the president who could not tell a lie, then Donald Trump is the president who cannot tell the truth. Trump’s lies as president began with his inauguration, a sparsely attended event compared to previous presidential inaugurations, which he described as having crowds that “looked like a million-and-a-half people”(there weren’t) and “went all the way back to the Washington Monument” (they didn’t). Trump sent his beleaguered press secretary Sean Spicer to launch the opening salvo in what was to become a never-ending attack on the press in an attempt to discredit the news media by arguing the press had deliberately misrepresented the size of the inauguration crowd and that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” It wasn’t. Not even close.

The media brought out photos of Trump’s inauguration’s sparse crowd and compared them to the jam-packed crowd at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Who are you going to believe, Trump or your lying eyes? On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway why President Trump would send his press secretary out to tell such an obvious “falsehood”. The ghost of George Orwell stirred in its coffin at the use of the word falsehood. For months, the news media employed every euphemism it could to avoid saying one simple three-letter word: LIE. The president of the United States lied. He did it repeatedly and compulsively. Donald Trump is a serial liar. He is a compulsive liar. Yet the media were slow to tell the truth about the liar-in-chief.

Kellyanne Conway’s response was “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.” Truth in the Trump Era was no longer absolute. A fact used to be something that was incontrovertibly true; under Trumpspeak, there are facts and there are “alternative facts.” George Washington did not have to lie about chopping down the cherry tree; he could merely have stated an alternative fact. The Washington Post reported President Donald Trump told more than 3,000 lies in his first 466 days as president — Which means on average Trump lies more often each day than he brushes his teeth. CNN reporter Chris Cillizza calculated Trump tells between six and nine lies per day.

Yet many in the media still resort to tired euphemisms to sugarcoat the Trumpspeak. “The president’s statement was factually inaccurate.” No, he lied. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman wrote “Trump told two demonstrable falsehoods.” No, he lied. The New York Times also referred to Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories as “unconfirmed accusations.” It’s time to call a spade a spade. Lies must be labeled as such or else many people will not accept them for what they are. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important to the state to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the state.” Words of wisdom from Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister.

The Pinocchio president uses his lies strategically to discredit the press, the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department, the American court system, and any other American institutions that serve as bulwarks against authoritarianism. And unfortunately the media have fallen into his Orwellian trap by adopting the Trump lexicon. Perhaps the Pinocchio president’s most famous phrase — even more famous than Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook”— is “There was no collusion.” Trump is referring to allegations that he and/or his campaign conspired with the Russian government to fix the election in his favor. Trump continually uses the word collusion and the media talking heads argue over whether or not Trump is guilty of collusion — thus allowing Trump to frame the question in his terms. Trump knows he can never be found guilty of collusion because there is no such thing as the crime of collusion. So argue about whether or not there was “collusion” all you want; in the end, even if there had been, collusion is not a crime. But conspiracy is a crime and there is ample evidence to conclude reasonably that Donald Trump and his campaign team conspired with Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 American presidential election. But no one is talking about conspiracy because Trump has phrased the issue as one of “collusion”… Thus proving Donald Trump is not only a liar, but a crafty liar. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Return of the Reluctant Blogger

My new book, Return of the Reluctant Blogger, has just been published (look for it on Amazon - It's the third book in my "Reluctant Blogger" series, a collection of social commentary and humor drawn from my blog essays. This volume focuses on the problems with modern American business, the first year of the Trump administration, and assorted humorous anecdotes.

About the cover:

He showed up at my door one day along with his sister. Both Muscovy ducks, the hen with a pretty, smooth red face looked as though she were wearing a colorful mask, while the drake’s red caruncles looked more like scarlet carbuncles. Frankly, he was ugly. So every day when they appeared at my doorstep I would feed the beautiful hen, who I named Red, and try to discourage her brother. But the drake was not to be dissuaded. He coaxed me into giving him food as well, and unlike his sister, even ate straight from my hand. He would stay with me on the porch to keep me company long after his sister had departed. His bumpy red face reminded me of a cobblestone road and I named him Cobblestone. He had a warm and friendly personality, and as time passed he didn’t seem quite so ugly. They both became daily visitors for the next three years. I’ve come to see Cobblestone is as beautiful on the outside as he is on the inside. And that’s as good a reason as any for him to grace the cover of this book.

Cobblestone has nothing to do with any of the essays within these pages. The Reluctant Blogger series, of which this is the third volume, aggregates disparate posts from my blog on a variety of topics ranging from social commentary to humorous anecdotes. Each essay has been deliberately penned to be read in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette so that non-smokers will finally have something to do during their cigarette breaks.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May is National Short Story Month

Did you know that May is National Short Story Month? Amber Book Company plans to celebrate by releasing a new volume of my short stories entitled Shards: The Omnibus Edition. Many of you know me from my social commentary posts appearing on my blog, while others are familiar with my young adult science fiction series The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer. Still others think of me as a novelist or epic storyteller, pointing to my four-book fantasy series Halos & Horns and my current ongoing fantasy series, Fangs & Fur. There are even some readers who think of me primarily as a nonfiction author because of my internationally top-selling book Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law, my two Web design books, and my Collected Essays of a Reluctant Blogger and More Essays of a Reluctant Blogger books. But the truth is, above all else, I’m a short story writer.

Shards may sound familiar to you. My first short story collection was entitled Randoms. It was lovingly crafted, published in a hardcover edition with a dust jacket. Unfortunately, the printer had tremendous difficulty printing the dust jacket. Every copy rolled off the printing press with a slightly different hue, making each book and instant collectible and the source of much aggravation and vexation. Ultimately, and with great reluctance, we replaced the hardcover edition with a paperback. My second short story collection, Careywood, was a charitable effort published in a limited print run to raise money to restore a historic mansion. Then, in 2011, almost all of my short stories were collected in a giant 450-page paperback entitled Shards. This mammoth collection included the best of Randoms, the stories from the limited edition Careywood, and a host of new short stories, many of which had been shared in public readings but never collected in print. Shards was to stand as my oeuvre: the complete collection of my short story output.

At the time, it was the largest book I had ever written… Ironically composed of the shortest of stories. But with each new edition over the course of 10 years, Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law grew to 680 pages. After I completed the four-book Halos & Horns series, the saga was collected in a single omnibus edition, The Halos & Horns Omnibuswhich clocked in at a whopping 904 pages. Suddenly, the 450-page Shards didn’t seem so big any more. And in the five years since its publication, I had written a few more short stories. I wanted to gather these new short stories into a brand-new collection but the Halos & Horns Omnibus had gone over so well that it was decided to create a short story omnibus.

We began with the original 450-page Shards and reorganized the stories by theme. Then we added 300 pages of new material. That’s right, 750 pages of short stories between two covers. Or 191,523 words if you’re counting. We kept the original front and back cover to Shards and christened it Shards: The Omnibus Edition. The themes in Shards: The Omnibus Edition include man’s inhumanity to man; technology in society run amok; freedom; conformity; slice of life; fear; prejudice; revenge; the inevitability of death; sadness and depression; darkness and light; lust; love; regret; repentance; pity; debauchery and selfishness; hubris; obsession; fusion fiction; Christmas; the quest; the trickster; discovery and wonder; alienation (stranger in a strange land); and farewell.

Admittedly Shards: The Omnibus Edition is a mixed bag. Some of the tales are downright hilarious. Some are frightening. And a few are disturbing. There are stories within this volume you will treasure… and others you may wish you had never read. Good writing isn’t about repeating hackneyed memes; it’s about pushing the envelope and extending the boundaries until the reader finds himself well outside his comfort zone. In Shards: The Omnibus Edition you’ll find stories that make you laugh and make you cry; stories you’ll want to share with your children; and stories so horrifying you’ll banish them to the deepest recesses of your mind. So join me in celebrating national short story month with Shards: The Omnibus Edition.