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Spectacle and conspiracy at heart of "Trumpocalypse Now!"

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BOOK REVIEW: Trumpocalypse Now! The Triumph of the Conspiracy Spectacle by Kenn Thomas (Adventures Unlimited) 2017


At the heart of the political scene – primarily at a national level – is spectacle and Donald Trump played the media (the same media he allegedly hates) like a fiddle.

And while the media, whatever that means anymore, loathes “The Donald,” they know and he knows that we have been heading to this inevitability at least since the televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy back in 1960.

And in recent years, particularly since Trump began questioning whether President Obama was truly born in the U.S. or not, the air of “conspiracy” began to truly settle around the billionaire businessman.

This is where long-time conspiracy researcher and operator of Steamshovel Press, Kenn Thomas (author of Maury Island UFO: The Crisman Conspiracy, which ties into the whole Twin Peaks mythology, curiously enough, via Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks) who co-wrote The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro in the late 1990’s with the late Jim Keith, and a book that changed my whole outlook and role as an investigative journalist.

Thomas’s work looking into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was particularly engrossing for me and continues to be. He has his finger on the pulse of conspiracy culture and that continues to this very day.

In fact, at one point in Trumpocalypse Now!, Thomas references an investigative reporter in Arkansas I briefly worked with in the mid-90’s who were looking into the whole “Mena” mystery, which included alleged drug smuggling, money laundering and links to the contras fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980’s. Supposedly Tom Cruise is in an upcoming film taking a rather “sanitized” approach to this little slice of conspiratorial history. Sanitized, I suspect, because the name “Clinton” has been bandied about for years as being linked to the “Mena mess.”

Yes, Thomas has been around a long time, and with his deep interest in parapolitics and conspiracies in contemporary America, it was only natural that he take a gander at Trump, who has made many comments, just in the past two years alone, to cause more than a few conspiracy buff eyebrows to rise.

So, with his conspiracy researcher friend Robert Sterling writing in the foreword, that the book’s title is clearly a reference to the dark Francis Ford Coppola film (with a screenplay by the militaristic John Milius) Apocalypse Now, which, Sterling writes: “Is in that special group of films, primarily fromn the 1970s and 80s (a canon which would include the likes of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining) where tales of violent shock were mixed with more than a splash of dark humor to the point where the line between horror and absurdist comedy become blurred. In the election of Donald Trump to the White House, the horror and absurdity of modern politics has reached a zenith. (Well, at least for now).”

Sterling concludes in the foreword by noting how the “establishment” prefers to “unite” behind whomever happens to be in power. And with headlines this very week looking pretty bad for the Trump administration – as Vice President Pence seems to further distance himself from the Russian email scandal that appears to moving from simmering to boiling – what once took months and years is now on 24/7 “cycle” where developments are continual and mindbending at times. This plays into the whole Trumpocalypse drama ( I prefer to call it the “Trumpsidedown”) that is playing out and has been building long before Trump ever announced he was running for president.

For me, I look at someone like conspiracy king radio host Alex Jones, of Infowars, someone I once really respected, and now see has Trump’s ear and seems to have made a (to quote Sterling in the foreword) a “Faustian pact” with Trump and his “yes men” and women.

And so Kenn Thomas does not bloviate and bore the reader. In fact, Trumpocalypse Now! is a relatively short book, considering the topic (over 100 pages, not including the afterword, epilogue and copious notes and dot-connecting), with nine hard-hitting chapters, beginning, appropriately enough with the Kellyanne Conway comment that the president was putting forth “alternative facts” via the press secretary, human punching bag Sean Spicer.

The mainstream media, naturally, had a field day with this phrase, as it would with the whole “fake news” feeding frenzy that would grip the world of journalism in the surreal spring of ’17.

But Thomas notes that “alternatve facts” goes back to that Trump autobiography, ghostwritten 30 years ago by Tony Schwarz, who said “truthful hyperbole” can be “very effective form of promotion.” Naturally, this same method was utilized by Trump who, at least in his eyes, is always right, never wrong, and everyone is out to get him.

Over the course of the book, Thomas notes a timeline of Trump events (it’s only been roughly six months since the inauguration, although it feels like six years ago) and strange “oddities” over the course of his candidacy and time in the White House, from a “UFO” zipping by during Trump’s visit to the Iowa State Fair to his comments about U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s Cuban-born father having some alleged connection to (alleged) JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and curious things going on in New Orleans prior to the 1963 assassination of the president in Dallas.

And speaking of which, Thomas includes a bit not only about The Simpsons “predicting” Trump’s role as president 16 years before it actually happened, but the show Route 66 (which my godmother appeared in when they filmed in south Texas) seemed to be part of a “predictive spectacle” of the JFK assassination to come (and involving a creepy episode involving conspiracy buff fave Tuesday Weld). The weirdness and spectacle swirl into a smeary mess of crypto-insanity and high weirdness. 

Anyway, that notion of the “spectacle” is all over this book and at the heart of Trumpocalypse Now! We're still so early in this Trump-as-president story, and where it is going, that a follow-up book (or two) will likely be necessary. 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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