Trump A Demagogue? So What?

“We empowered a demagogue” laments the New York Times ostensibly bleeding heart liberal, the kind Mr. Kristof, in his false “Mea Culpa” editorial, “My Shared Shame: How The Media Made Trump”. By this, Mr. Kristof means that Mr. Trump is a bad person. However, Mr. Kristof’s choice of the word “demagogue” is revealing. (Actually it’s not really his choice: “demagogue” is not Mr. Kristof’s invention: he just repeats like a parrot the most prominent slogan of the worldwide campaign of insults against Trump).

Trump a demagogue? Is Mr. Sanders a “demagogue”, too? (As much of the financial and right-wing press has it: for The Economist and the Financial Times, Trump and Sanders are both “demagogues” and that’s their main flaw.)

To understand fully the word “demagogue” one has to understand a bit of Greek, and a bigger bit of Greek history.

The Hellenistic Kingdom Mood, And Aristotle, Had A Devastating Influence On Rome, Thus On Western Civilization, Thus Us, Ever Since

The Hellenistic Kingdom Mood, And Aristotle, Had A Devastating Influence On Rome, Thus On Western Civilization, Thus Us, Ever Since

What does demos mean? And what does agogos mean? Both words are Greek. Agogos means “leader”, Demos means “people”. In ancient Greek “demagogos” meant “leader of the People”. A demagogue was viewed as bad in the Hellenistic Kingdoms period, because kinship was good, and We The People was bad. We inherited 2,000 years of dictatorship from the Hellenistic Kingdoms’ mood.

The latter point is the key: thanks to Aristotle’s devastating influence, monarchies and tyrannies became the ideal political regimes (for the next 2,000 years). I explained the whole thing in “Aristotle Destroyed Democracy”. Aristotle was the senior, most respected figure, of an impressive number of mass criminals who were his personal friends, students and followers: Alexander the Great, Antipater, Craterus, etc.

The practical result was that the entire Greek world became subjected to monarchies and tyrannies. With the sole exception of Massilia (modern Marseilles) whose small empire stayed democratic and independent (in spite of being at war with no less than Carthage based in Barcelona!) Marseilles would fall only after Julius Caesar besieged it (in one of Julius’ particularly ridiculous exploits). But the fact only Massilia stayed democratic tells volumes (OK, when Greece, attempted to go back to democracy, plutocratizing Rome crushed it, culminating with the devastation of Corinth in 146 BCE).

So the deeper question is this: since when has “leader of the People” become a crime in the US? Was president FDR a “demagogue”? What is the president of the USA supposed to be? What is the problem? Is the president supposed NOT to be a “leader”? Or to NOT be a leader of the “People”?

Is the President of the US supposed to be a follower? Of whom? The plutocrats? Is the president of the USA supposed to take Air Force One every few weeks, to get money from the Silicon Valley plutocrats, and ask them for instructions?

The ascent of Trump is precisely tied to the opinion that the office of the President of the USA is not anymore that of the leader of the people. Instead the president has become the leader of the 1%, exclusively. Thus, the more one complains that Trump is a “demagogue”, the more one presents him as precisely what the country, and maybe even the world, needs: somebody who wants to lead We The People, not just the 1%.

[Mr. Kristof allowed a shortened version of this comment to be published… After sitting on it for 12 hours. Delayed publication is akin to censorship, as the comment was published in 777th position instead of being among the first. So Mr. Kristof is not as kind and open as he wants to depict himself.]

A hard day may be coming for global plutocrats ruling as they do thanks to their globalization tricks. And I am not exactly naive. Andy Grove, founder of Intel, shared the general opinion that much of globalization was just theft & destitution fostering an ominous future (the Hungarian immigrant to the USA who was one of the founders of Intel). He pointed out, an essay he wrote in 2010 that Silicon Valley was squandering its competitive edge in innovation by neglecting strong job growth in the United States.

Mr. Grove observed that: …”it was cheaper and thus more profitable for companies to hire workers and build factories in Asia than in the United States. But… lower Asian costs masked the high price of offshoring as measured by lost jobs and lost expertise. Silicon Valley misjudged the severity of those losses, he wrote, because of a “misplaced faith in the power of start-ups to create U.S. jobs.”

Silicon Valley makes its money from start-ups. However, that phase of a business is different from the scale-up phase, when technology goes from prototypes to mass production. Both phases are important. Only scale-up is an engine for mass job growth — and scale-up is vanishing in the United States (especially with jobs connected to Silicon Valley). “Without scaling,” Mr. Grove wrote, “we don’t just lose jobs — we lose our hold on new technologies” and “ultimately damage our capacity to innovate…

The underlying problem isn’t simply lower Asian costs. It’s our own misplaced faith in the power of startups to create U.S. jobs. Americans love the idea of the guys in the garage inventing something that changes the world. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman recently encapsulated this view in a piece called “Start-Ups, Not Bailouts.” His argument: Let tired old companies that do commodity manufacturing die if they have to. If Washington really wants to create jobs, he wrote, it should back startups.

Friedman is wrong. Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment.”

However, American-based manufacturing is not on the agenda of Silicon Valley or the political agenda of the United States. Venture capitalists actually told me it was obsolete (before stepping in their private jets). That omission, according to Mr. Grove, is a result of anotherunquestioned truism”: “that the free market is the best of all economic systems — the freer the better.” To Mr. Grove, or Mr. Trump, or yours truly, that belief is flawed.

Andy Grove: “Scaling used to work well in Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs came up with an invention. Investors gave them money to build their business. If the founders and their investors were lucky, the company grew and had an initial public offering, which brought in money that financed further growth.” 

The triumph of free-market principles over planned economies in the 20th century, Mr. Grove said, did not make those principles infallible or immutable. There was room for improvement, he argued, for what he called “job-centric” economics and politics. In a job-centric system, job creation would be the nation’s No. 1 objective, with the government setting priorities and arraying the forces necessary to achieve the goal, and with businesses operating not only in their immediate profit interest but also in the interests of “employees, and employees yet to be hired.”

As even the New York Times now admits, the situation has degenerated since 2010. Although the employment rate halved, in a slave state, everybody is employed. But neither the economy, nor the society, let alone progress and civilization are doing better.

“Insecure, low-paying, part-time and dead-end jobs are prevalent. On the campaign trail, large groups of Americans are motivated and manipulated on the basis of real and perceived social and economic inequities.

Conditions have worsened in other ways. In 2010, one of the arguments against Mr. Grove’s critique was that exporting jobs did not matter as long as much of the corporate profits stayed in the United States. But just as American companies have bolstered their profits by exporting jobs, many now do so by shifting profits overseas through tax-avoidance maneuvers.

The result is a high-profit, low-prosperity nation. “All of us in business,” Mr. Grove wrote, “have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability — and stability — we may have taken for granted.” Silicon Valley and much of corporate America have yet to live up to that principle.”

So the argument counter-Grove was that plutocracy was OK, as long as it was all American (an argument Trump long disagreed with, BTW). But, clearly, it’s not the case anymore. Instead the US government has become the back-up to global plutocratic corporations (watch Obama flying to Argentina to encourage the new US pawn there, just elected… after making economic war against left leaning Argentinian governments ever since Argentina refused to take orders: the first beneficiary are New York vulture funds).

Sanders, the other “demagogue” just defeated Clinton (the establishment insider plutocrat) in three states out of the US mainstream: Washington State, Hawai’i and Alaska (with 3/4 of the votes). Interestingly, and differently from all the other past or present primary contenders, Clinton is implicated in several inquiries from the FBI, Department of Justice, etc. At least she is not terrorized like Maria Carey, who cancelled her concerts in Belgium (other singers did not).

Mr. Grove: “… the imperative for change is real and the choice is simple. If we want to remain a leading economy, we change on our own, or change will continue to be forced upon us.” Trump and Sanders say nothing else.

Yesterday, a dove penetrated inside my house, flew around, collided a bit with something, and then exited the window with precision, before perching on a eucalyptus branch, looking at me dazzlingly. I have seen it many times before, but generally it stays outside. Last night, I dreamed of seeing a pigeon fly at an angle into a wall. I asked it why it did that, so deliberately. It replied: “Did you see the state of the biosphere?” I suggested a more constructive actions. And it’s how it is going to happen: at some point, all the biosphere we depend upon will revolt (and after Zika, we have now Lassa fever, which is very close to Ebola).

Our corruption is not just an economic and social problem, a political problem, and a civilizational problem, as it was under Aristotle.  It is a problem for the entire planet.

We empowered a demagogue“, laments Mr. Kristof. His true calling, and that of the Main Stream Media, was to empower plutocrats, and their obsequious servants. How sad they are.

Patrice Ayme’

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23 Responses to “Trump A Demagogue? So What?”

  1. Paul Handover Says:

    What an amazing essay, Patrice. As someone who in previous years founded two start-ups back in the UK I know only too well that the really hard work comes at one pretty quickly.

    Indeed, you have inspired me with regard to tomorrow’s post over on Learning from Dogs and, no doubt, I shall be quoting chunks from your essay.

    Reminds me of that saying, “Now I can see everything.” Said by the blind man looking at the penny in his hand.

    Yes, now a great many of us, previously ‘blinded’ by our leaders, can see everything.


  2. Gmax Says:

    Yes, I agree with Paul, amazing. The insolence of the MSM is awesome. Basically, when they tell us to hate leaders of the people, the idea of leading the people, they ask us to love and be led by, those ‘philanthropists’, aka the plutocrats, they talk about all the time. The despicable spectacle of Obama groveling with all the very wealthy individuals he continually courted, will soon end, thanks god.


    • Paul Handover Says:

      To be replaced by whom? Obama, that is. Or more accurately put, to be replaced by which figurehead acting for what special interests? (Apologies for my cynicism showing through.)


      • pshakkottai Says:

        You should not count Obama. His speciality was leading from behind.


        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Now Obama is whining that Europeans would not lead from the front, when he, Obama, was leading from behind (pulling in the other direction: some consider ISIS/ISIL/Daech was a pure product of Obama’s policies).


  3. New growth required! – Learning from Dogs Says:

    […] Patrice’s essay was called Trump A Demagogue? So What? and it opened thus: […]


  4. dominique deux Says:

    Etymology is an useful tool but it has its limitations. Old words tend to have an autonomous life and acquire different meanings, as needed, while newer words are created to refine needed distinctions. “Pedophilia” means “love of children”; Jesus famously loved children; today’s pedophiles are a different thing, even though a number are his servants.

    (by contrast, “vulture funds”, a newly coined expression, perfectly fits its original meaning).

    A demagogue is now someone who panders to the population’s instincts, good or bad, for reasons of personal ambition. That is not the same as being a popular leader, in the same way that hegemon and leadership are now different things. The fudge between these meanings has long been a weapon of plutocrats; Catilina was designated a demagogue by Cicero, himself a mouthpiece of the pluto Senate, when he was at least partly a legitimate popular leader, as Caesar well understood. That view was imprinted on us by all subsequent scholars, who knew which side of their toast was buttered.

    Thus, even though Sanders and Trump are painted with the same brush, it is useful to dissect them further to see if the new meaning applies, or the old one. Trump, clearly, belongs to the modern brand, and what he happens to say that is right fits into the definition: demagogues know how to get traction by stating unpalatable truths, but they are interested in traction, not truth. See Bill Clinton’s recent pandering to the Sanders electorate, using Sanders’ truths to ease his Goldman Sachs loving partner into power.

    A Trump-Clinton showdown would be a fellow demagogues’ circus show; a Trump-Sanders one would be the real battle joined, at long last. Which is why the usual media are so desperate to put them in the same bag.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Dominique: I would prefer Sanders-Trump, and vote Sanders, of course.
      The point you make of etymology versus accepted usage is, with all due respect, often brandished. And I object to it quite a bit, that’s why I go back to etymology, all the time. That’s (partly) why I object to “Islamophobia” as a noxious concept (a phobia can be a disease, but it’s hardly racism). And also the “pedophilia”. “Perversion”, “child abuse”, “violence towards children”, etc. seem more appropriate to me.

      In the case of Trump, his main line of argument, he used it for ever. He actually sued, as a very young man, the US government which had accused his dad’s company to practice racial discrimination (he sort of won). Two decades later he was as un-PC as possible (he used to PC notion to trample it, at the time), to insist that 300 Indians in his way were actually not Indians at all (too mixed with whites). So, in other words, it’s rather the People going to Trump rather than Trump, pandering to the People.

      I used to make Trump the playboy centerfold of what was wrong with American banking. Now, of course, we have so much worse, and Trump himself say the system is wrong. The present Pluto establishment is petrified that its vast conspiracy will be revealed for what it is. Silicon Valley is in high gear, and the “giving pledge multibillionaires, all over to say they are taking care of the people (no need to raise our taxes as Sanders, and even Trump, suggest).

      My point is that “demagogue” has become an immensely dirty word. That’s symptomatic of the plutocratic mood we are living in.


      • Paul Handover Says:

        Patrice, I’m aware of the impossibility of answering this question but, undaunted, I will continue.

        That is, do you have any sense of how this is all going to play out? Not just this Presidential election but where this deeper split, nay chasm, between the 0.1% and the rest?

        Some idea of what society is going to be looking like in, say, 2020?

        And I have in mind society in the broader sense not just American society.

        (I’ll give you a couple of minutes to prepare your answer!)


        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          The answer is not just a past, it’s a future, a self fulfilling past and future. In 1913, World War One was unimaginable. So were the Holocausts which would durably weaken Europe.
          Nowadays, only one thing is certain: the oceans will rise at least twenty meters, forcing the evacuation of one billion people, at least. The only question is when. It will have drastic consequences.

          All these are highly non-linear systems: terrorized by Trump, Sanders, Silicon Valley just “campaigned” for a rise in the minimum wage… It was not imaginable 6 months ago.


          • Paul Handover Says:

            Deeply wise answer. An old saw of mine, that I have presented before in this place, is, “Never underestimate the power of the unanticipated consequence!”. It seems the only way of properly replying to you.


          • Patrice Ayme Says:

            Thanks for the deep wisdom certificate, Paul, I shall cherish it, and remember it fondly!
            We are in the most unpredictable period of history. Arguably the most unpredictable in 4 billion years of life on this planet.


    • John Rogers Says:

      I always liked Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s observation :

      “A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used. “


      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Dear John: I started to answer you with one more answer to Dominique on this.
        A word is not just the skin of a thought. A word is a shimmering, living mass full of ideas, entanglement, etymologies, innuendoes, and emotions.
        At some point that creature may have to go on a diet, or a rejuvenation procedure, or a reality check.
        Demagogue has to endure a reality check.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      I am toying with the idea of writing a short essay “Semantic Drift” to answer you, John, and this fancy partner at a top law firm who thought both of you were very right (oral communication).
      “Demagogue” nowadays basically means Mussolini (or Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Pol Pot, etc…). I understand this. I also understand that this charges the sound “dem” with evil. So could it be that dem…ocracy is evil too? I was listening to French legislators explaining plebiscites were bad…. Because pleb… is bad. Actually the Roman national assembly became irrelevant sometimes after Augustus, and was quietly dropped (although, and precisely because the emperor was endowed, starting with Augustus with indefinite tribune “of the people” powers). (That does not mean voting to be in the EU every 30 years is good!)


    • Gmax Says:

      The MSM fears Sanders much more than Trump. Sanders is presented as an inexperienced fool, and unreal. TRUMP as real, but dangerous. Yet Sanders has been a top politician for much longer than Hillary


  5. De Brunet D'Ambiallet Says:

    In France there is a scandal just because a CEO made 5 million euros after saving the car maker Peugeot. Different world! 🙂


  6. Mature, healthy trees. – Learning from Dogs Says:

    […] post had been inspired by a recent essay over at Patrice Ayme’s Thoughts regarding the observation by Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, that promoting start-ups without the […]


  7. Paul Handover Says:

    Patrice, you replied above, “We are in the most unpredictable period of history. Arguably the most unpredictable in 4 billion years of life on this planet.”

    As if on cue, this recent Grist article supports that in spades:

    The scientist who first warned of climate change says it’s much worse than we thought

    The rewards of being right about climate change are bittersweet. James Hansen should know this better than most — he warned of this whole thing before Congress in 1988, when he was director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies. At the time, the world was experiencing its warmest five-month run since we started recording temperatures 130 years earlier. Hansen said, “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.

    Fast forward 28 years and, while we’re hardly out of the Waffle House yet, we know much more about climate change science. Hansen is still worried that the rest of us aren’t worried enough.

    Last summer, prior to countries’ United Nations negotiations in Paris, Hansen and 16 collaborators authored a draft paper that suggested we could see at least 10 feet of sea-level rise in as few as 50 years. If that sounds alarming to you, it is — 10 feet of sea-level rise is more than enough to effectively kick us out of even the most well-endowed coastal cities. Stitching together archaeological evidence of past climate change, current observations, and future-telling climate models, the authors suggested that even a small amount of global warming can rack up enormous consequences — and quickly.”

    Read the full article here:


  8. Gloucon X Says:

    You all are the antidote to destructive fiendish plutocratic culture. As is typical of this blog, there is great depth of thought and feeling going on here, both essay and comment-thread together. Pondering your ideas is a great comfort and inspiration. You’re helping humanity enormously. Keep it up. Best wishes and thanks to you all.


    • Gmax Says:

      That’s exactly how I feel too. Patrice is doing a tremendous service. We have to understand things before we can act, and not just with cold logic, but with our hearts. It’s a different approach than all the self obsessed masturbation ongoing elsewhere.

      I wished Patrice would have commented on the very long interview Obama gave, where he distributed the blame elsewhere. By admitting there was blame, though, he admitted implicitly he was to blame. Funny on the tariffs with China: Trump said he may slap 45% tariffs, the Democrats all say he is nuts, and then Obama slaps China with 269% tariffs!!!! On Chinese steel. Bizarre world


      • Paul Handover Says:

        Add my support to what PA writes about. (I’ve said this before but will repeat it. Namely, that I would give my right arm, metaphorically speaking!, to spending an afternoon with the aforesaid PA putting the world to rights over a couple of beers!) (Then again, it might require more than an afternoon and two beers! 😉 )


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