The US has a long inglorious history of hucksterism and fraud. You’d think it was something we took pride in, along with the Enlightenment ideas in the Declaration of Independence and the hot dog.
Think of the meeting of the Duke and the Dauphin in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for example.
“What got you into trouble?” says the baldhead to t’other chap.
“Well, I’d been selling an article to take the tartar off the teeth – and it does take it off, too, and generly the enamel along with it –but I stayed about one night longer than I ought to, and was just in the act of sliding out when I ran across you on the trail this side of town, and you told me they were coming, and begged me to help you to get off. So I told you I was expecting trouble myself, and would scatter out WITH you. That’s the whole yarn – what’s yourn?
“Well, I’d ben a-running’ a little temperance revival thar ’bout a week, and was the pet of the women folks, big and little, for I was makin’ it mighty warm for the rummies, I TELL you, and takin’ as much as five or six dollars a night – ten cents a head, children and niggers free – and business a-growin’ all the time, when somehow or another a little report got around last night that I had a way of puttin’ in my time with a private jug on the sly. A nigger rousted me out this mornin’, and told me the people was getherin’ on the quiet with their dogs and horses, and they’d be along pretty soon and give me ’bout half an hour’s start, and then run me down if they could; and if they got me they’d tar and feather me and ride me on a rail, sure. I didn’t wait for no breakfast — I warn’t hungry.”
“Old man,” said the young one, “I reckon we might double-team it together; what do you think?”
We’ve had a lot of those revival frauds over the years, providing us all with shame or amusement or disgust according to temperament.
The Duggar family’s cable TV show advertising the joys of endless childbearing combined with religious bigotry has been only slightly hindered by news that the oldest son Josh, above – once a high-up in the reactionary Family Research Council – had molested his sisters and, moving on to adult life, had subscribed to a “dating service” for married people. It’s just another case of puttin’ in his time with a private jug on the sly.
Then there are all the homeopathic remedies, the “therapists” with no training or relevant education, the acupuncturists, the Feng Shui experts, the channelers, the peddlers of magic touch and magic waving hands in the air without touching, the rows upon rows of gluten free vodka and grapes and applesauce. And there is the possible next president of the US, Donald Trump.
John Cassidy wrote a long report on Trump’s fraudulent “university” in the New Yorker a few weeks ago. Reading it is an exercise in shame and disgust.
For a start, there’s the fact that it’s not a university, and thus should not call itself one.
Despite Trump University’s claim that it offered “graduate programs, post graduate programs, doctorate programs,” it wasn’t a university at all. It was a company that purported to be selling Trump’s secret insights into how to make money in real estate. From the time Trump University began operating, in 2005, the A.G.’s office repeatedly warned the company that it was breaking the law by calling itself a university. (In New York State, universities have to obtain a state charter.)
Now why would Trump call it a university when it isn’t one? To trick unwary potential marks, of course. A university sounds like a fine, substantial institution where one can get a valuable education. That’s not what’s on offer at Trump’s revival tent. What Trump not-university offers is expensive 3-day seminars presenting material “developed in large part by a third-party company that creates and develops materials for an array of motivational speakers and Seminar and timeshare rental companies.” In other words it’s generic sales-speak garbage that you could get in a pamphlet.
And it gets worse.
Trump University instructors told people who attended the three-day seminars that this wasn’t enough time to learn how to succeed, and encouraged them to purchase additional “mentorship” programs, which cost up to thirty-five thousand dollars. The complaint explained:
This bait and switch was laid out in the Trump University Playbook (“Playbook”), which provided step-to-step directions to Trump University instructors on what to tell students during the seminars. . . . Trump University instructors and staff were given detailed guidance as to how to build rapport and approach consumers one-on-one to encourage further purchases. Trump University representatives were explicitly instructed to push the highest priced Elite programs. Even when students hesitated to purchase the expensive programs, Trump representatives were provided stock responses to encourage purchases, including encouraging students to go into debt to pay for the Elite programs.
It’s a money-making scheme for Trump, that pushes people to go into debt in order to buy a worthless product.
The worst and most frightening thing about Trump is his fascism. He scares the bejeezus out of me, and what he’s doing to the already debased level of public discourse here appalls me. But in a way I’m even more disgusted by this tawdry, tacky, sleazy money-grubbing hucksterism in someone who’s trying to be president of the country. It revolts me that his main passion in life is money. Granted, the fact that he also has a passion for bullying people also revolts me, but the sheer empty-headed money-greed is an insult to all of us.