A Literary Analysis of Tweets by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
If Trump is dystopian pulp fiction, then Clinton is insipid middle-brow literary fiction. Neither of them is literature.
Tilopa (988-1069) – born in Bengal (Chittagong or Jagora) – after a long wandering life of spiritual learning and the practice of Anuttarayoga Tantra of the Buddhist tradition – left behind the most briefest of teachings: ‘six nails of key points’ (gnad kyi gzer drug in Tibetan) pertaining to a technique of meditation called Mahamudra and 28 verses of spiritual philosophy called ‘The Ganges Mahamudra’. Tilopa had distilled all his vast spiritual knowledge into the slimmest, yet one of the most illuminating teachings in the history of Indian Philosophy by any individual philosopher. The teachings have survived time, and now are easily available for the world on the Internet. This has providentially happened due to his disciple Naropa (also from Bengal), who had studied at Nalanda University, written extensively and collected the teachings of his guru Tilopa. The teachings of Tilopa – like the most advanced thoughts of Indian Philosophy – are free of religious references, and concentrate on timeless wisdom.
One of the verses in The Ganges Mahamudra says the following: the most majestic of behaviours is open-minded and impartial.
It is an utter lack of open-minded impartiality that plagues most of the reportage and analysis of the enormously crucial U.S Presidential Election of 2016. What we are largely getting from mainstream media and the press is hyper-emotive propaganda without any calm objectivity. The world looks different when viewed through different channels, newspapers and webzines; but mainstream journalism largely has become about taking sides and attempting to manipulate the thoughts of the readers or the viewers. Every event is distorted to fit the narrative they want to propagate. Our world is plagued by polarisations of every kind and countless battles of minds between different mindsets take place every day. In such a charged climate, open-minded impartiality – a pre-requisite for unbiased balanced reporting or analysis – has largely gone down the drain.
When we come across unbiased intelligent reporting and analysis from few journalists, writers and intellectuals, we find those views are seldom brought in within the mainstream discussion. The articles appear on non-mainstream sources i.e. alternative media, which then are shared in the social media by the people, who value them. This is how they spread, and they challenge the mainstream narratives which invariably have vested interests in what they report, prioritize and analyse.
Truth seeking for public good has largely been replaced by ‘truth’ thrusting for vested interests. People should realize that all ‘news’ is not truth – but perceptions of truth that are deliberately propagated. When profit seeking corporations with political nexus control press and media, the ethos of journalism sinks.
The open-minded impartial objective view that seeks to go behind the rhetoric, emotional reactions and shallow witticisms is seldom included in the raucous studios of popular mainstream news channels. The ‘theatrical and sensational’ reality TV formula they employ is to invite people who are ‘for’ or ‘against’ something or someone; and the anchor who is supposed to be the neutral voice amidst the competing arguments, is already compromised and displays an obvious bias to one line of narrative. Other channels often bring groups of people who are already united with a common ‘for’ and ‘against’ narrative, and they try their best to brainwash their unfortunate viewers.
So your view about the world – processed through your own memory and mindset – is largely influenced by which channels you watch, which newspapers/ webzines you read and follow and what is shared by your friends and followers in the social media. The narrower the window, narrower is your view. It is also a truth that wider the view, more diverse is the source of your information and knowledge. So instead of taking in information and analysis from few sources, one should be smart enough to broaden one’s perspective by enhancing the number of diverse sources; this can easily be done via subscribing to more newspapers, changing channels and following alternative media webzines in social media. This strategy will keep you well informed.
Tilopa’s open-minded impartiality is crucial for anyone who wishes to learn and to understand something. Pre-existing ideas and conceptions have to be abandoned, in order to derive a new insight. Within the clamour of articles about the US Election, I thought of doing something different and yet remember the ‘open-minded impartiality’ teaching of Tilopa.
I will not take sides but: fraudulently sabotaging Bernie Sanders, stifling the rising anti-establishmentarian sentiment and ignoring the idealism of the youth who overwhelmingly backed Sanders, has caused the DNC establishment to make a historical blunder and has handed the Presidency to Donald Trump on a platter.
But my intention is not to explore and explain the reasons of my analytical-intuitive prediction that I have derived by using my left and right brains, heart and gut – the prediction could prove to wrong as well in November; hence I call it a prediction. Nor do I wish to offer you my subjective analysis of who is the lesser evil between the two Presidential candidates – a very hard choice that the American citizens will have to make for them and for the world. I wish to present to you an objective view from a new window. I will do an open-minded impartial literary analysis of the two Presidential candidates by reading what they have tweeted recently, and derive a narrative.
Some literary agents have already asked unpublished writers to pitch their manuscripts to them by Tweeting the synopsis; if an entire novel can be condensed to 140 characters, and its fate decided by reading a tweet, then the attempt to write a political article by doing a literary analysis of tweets, doesn’t sound that preposterous, but sounds rather cool and innovative.
In order to do that, let us briefly suspend what we already know, or rather what we ‘think’ we know about Trump and Clinton, and read their recent tweets with open-minded impartiality.
A few days ago, Trump called his campaign a ‘movement’: he has appropriated the progressive ‘movement’ idea from Bernie Sanders, and is wooing his young supporters. Trump is placing himself as an outsider who knows the system and has taken up the anti-establishmentarian space, vacated by Sanders. Trump is holding no bars against Clinton, hitting her where it hurts the most and bringing out all the discomforting and awkward skeletons out of the closet. Trump repeats his messages, again and again, and has taken up issues made popular by Sanders and even, Jill Stein. Trump is speaking against mainstream liberal media, Wall Street, TPP/NAFTA and Wars of ‘Crooked Hillary’ – all issues raised by the democratic socialist Sanders. Trump is seeing all the elephants in the room and pointing out the struggles which the people are facing, which are ignored by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment.
Trump’s world is a dystopian pulp fiction full of crooked politicians, greedy bankers, corrupt officials, phoney media, bad economy, existential threats, Islamic terrorists, malicious corporations, fearsome immigrants, unfair globalism, violence, despair and suffering. The Republican Presidential Candidate presents himself as the anti-establishment ‘winner’ who will rescue his country from the clutches of the Dark Side, and ‘Make America Great Again’.
It is rather difficult to figure out what Hillary Clinton is really offering to do. She speaks against the bigotry, bombast and dangers of having Trump as US President, she has broken the glass ceiling and is standing up to the bully Trump, she is Re-Tweeting her endorsements from the establishment, she is displaying her long association with the government, she is defending Obama’s handling of the economy, she wants to make the economy work for all and create manufacturing jobs in America, she is offering family values, togetherness, assurances, embraces and warmth.
Clinton is seeing the Election as a battle between two personalities – and she is presenting herself as the much better person than Trump. She is accusing Trump of painting a dark divisive picture of her country, wishes to stop Trump and her slogan is ‘Hillary for America’ and ‘Stronger Together’.
The literary analysis of Clinton’s tweets speak of a world that we find in the insipid middlebrow literary fiction – family centric, insular, full of characters, women facing challenges from brutes, characters written in a way to arouse the reader’s sympathy, anxiety of the ‘status-quo’ world that is about to crumble when brutes arrive, the sentiments of love, loss and belonging and so on. Those character driven unintelligent middlebrow novels of ‘no-ideas’.
Literature has died in America; by catering to the market for over three decades, by supplying to people what they want to hear, America has killed literature, and replaced it with literary fiction, middlebrow literary fiction and genre fiction that includes the dystopian and the pulp. America has sacrificed the deep, the difficult and the profound from its culture, and is paying a price for it. A dark dystopian world is upon them, and no one had seen it coming.
Alexander Nazaryan wrote an illuminating article published in 2011 titled, Why American novelists don’t deserve the Nobel Prize. Nazaryan wrote: ‘The following are words from citations for recent winners and runners-up of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, inarguably our most prominent commendation for a novelist: tender, warmth, heartbreaking, celebration, polished and sensuous. It’s all small-bore stuff, lack of imagination disguised as artistic humility. ……..Maybe it’s the same story as in politics and industry: America, once great, has been laid low.’ The US Election 2016 is picture of a decline in America in all spheres – politics, economics and culture- influenced by neoliberal ideology. It gives no hope to anyone that whosoever is the next President – Trump or Clinton – will bring something better to the citizens and the world.
The most intelligent, soulful and unbiased piece that I read about the American Elections was by Laurie Penny: American Horror Story – Welcome to the Scream Room. Penny finishes the article with these words: ‘America has never been happy, or good. But if it stops believing that it can be, the whole damn world is going to suffer.’ The sufferings of the world due to the American Foreign Policy – that is independent of Presidential influence – won’t decline with Trump or Clinton.
The Obama administration gave us more wars, destruction, deaths and displacement than George Bush. The shadow deep state controlled by the military-industrial complex, merchant banks and corporations won’t vanish with Trump or Clinton. But there is bright spot – the idealistic, socially and environmentally conscious youth who thinks themselves as global citizens – the supporters of the unprecedented progressive movement that was thwarted by the older establishment. Those youth are the future; they lost out in 2016, but they won’t lose in 2020. Their voice will grow only stronger. This only gives me any semblance of hope by following the reality show of the American elections.
I think of another teaching of Tilopa from The Ganges Mahamudra: ‘With the ways of the intellect, you won’t see beyond intellect’.
So I try to sense and intuit what is really happening in our world and I feel we are going through a period of great transition – the failed order of the old establishment in all spheres of life – politics, culture and economics – is cracking up under the weight of its own irrelevance, corruption and failures, and its fall is imminent in the future. The realities of the 21st century can no longer use 20th century ideas and thinking. The desire for a new order is brewing at the sublime levels of our collective soul; one that will require a new consciousness whose language, ideas and theories will also begin to be written down, and slowly emerge.
Devdan Chaudhuri is the author of ‘Anatomy of Life’ (Picador) and the Contributing Editor of The Byword – a magazine of literature, arts and culture.