November 8, 2017
nation without Borders is a country that can be swallowed whole by Amazon: half the 2.5 billion books sold in America are sold by the online megamerchant. Few seem necessary. Take, for a mean-spirited example, The Okra Handbook, or, in a similar vein, Hillary Clinton’s What Happened—a title in desperate need of a question mark. (In case you don’t know what happened, you can always try the companion volume, Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.)
Many of these books are free of complex ideas. Okra, for example, is not an idea, but a useful vegetable—more useful than the growing list of post-election loser-lit books devoted to “resisting” the Trump presidency. These books represent an egregious, reckless assault on our nation’s arboreal heritage. What is their purpose? They don’t inform and they certainly don’t persuade. Perhaps they comfort—inspirational agitprop by people who think they can stir their friends to Resist! They utter the word, and from the back rooms of their minds marches Liberty leading the people, to the heroic refrain of La Marseillaise.
Reversing an election through use of a fatuous word can’t possibly work unless you’re a couple of enterprising pundits with an instant book idea. That would be Michael Huttner and Markos Moulitsas, whose Resistance Handbook contains “45 Ways to Fight Trump,” none of which seem particularly martial. If you want to be the Jean Moulin of your Community College, just pull on your balaclava and call Trump some names. (“Weak loser” is one suggested epithet. As a curse, it’s both). Or you can boycott stuff, sign up for Markos’s Daily Kos website, join Black Lives Matter, help an undocumented refugee, fight bullying, create art, fight for “real religious liberties” (sorry Druids), and take care not to forward Onion articles as real news. With all the free time left over, you can “impeach Trump”—and did we mention you could donate to Markos’s website?
The tips are cleverly arranged in numerical order; following each are detailed instructions, even when you don’t need them. For example, tip number ten is “Protect Your Privacy”. That good idea eats up a number of pages in which elderly visitors from outer space are reminded to not download mysterious email attachments. Huttner and Moulitsas also urge the use of six-digit passcodes to foil “some Trump goon” who wants to access your phone data, and “for all that’s good and holy, please stop with the easy-to-guess passwords! So nothing with your birthday, or your child’s name, or ‘12345678,’ or ‘password.’” Read that twice, John Podesta! Maybe next time, you can use “4Hillary2020.” There’s a password nobody wants.
Here’s a bonus tip you won’t find in The Resistance Handbook, if you’re in a no-way-José frame of mind: opt instead for Dump Trump: 27 Anti-Trump Tips to Resist This So-Called Presidency, by Jennifer Jones. It’s less cynical, more authentic, and provides more tips for your money. Where Huttner and Moulitsas are obviously milking the moment, Jones uses the sincerity of DIY publishing to put her own money behind her effort to just say no to this Trump guy.
Not only are her tips cheaper than her rivals’, they’re often more imaginative. Dump Trump provides a long list of Trump businesses you can boycott—in case you miss the humongous “Trump” sign on the building next time you’re shopping for exec suites. She ruthlessly dumpsters little Trumpsters, too: “Imagine a world in which companies started choosing not to take office space in a Kushner building.” Yes, just imagine that, you Trump goons. Safe from space-consuming Kushner buildings, we’ll all be free to teleport to our jobs selling $5 Starbucks coffees and H&M hoodies.
Jones doesn’t just resist Trump, she also imagines a Trumpless world where safe zones aren’t necessary. If that’s where you want to live, Jones writes, donate to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, fight climate change, help undocumented refugees, and—if you really want to know what’s happening in this so-called real world—“Get a subscription to the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle or other notable, real-news newspaper or give to public radio such as National Public Radio (NPR).” Finally: run for office—and vote for yourself.
Of course, of the 72 tips in these two books, only that crazy voting idea will have any effect. For the most part, “resist” books are the descendants of a much earlier down-market publishing model: books built to capitalize on catastrophes. Within months of the April 1906 San Francisco earthquake writers were making money on the disaster. Today, the book idea you see on Drudge over breakfast can be on Amazon by lunch. The job of bringing serious, developed thought to the whole resist-thing is left to books such as Naomi Klein's No Is Not Enough—an understatement when it comes to describing the “resist” manuals.
Klein does indeed shape intelligent, serious arguments examining the evils of capitalism, and she writes them very well. Her reputation was launched with her 1999 best-selling polemic, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. But “resist” will not support sustained analysis any better than could, say, “occupy”—Klein’s most recent lost cause.
Klein often appears on lists of public intellectuals and “thought leaders.” Prospect calls its influential list “global thinkers”. Many of the same names appear on these lists (Noam Chomsky, Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Paul Krugman, Barack Obama, Samantha Power, the Pope). We are blessed with many “public intellectuals” these days; it’s the OBE of the liberal empire. In analyzing the rise of companies such as Apple and Nike, Klein inadvertently explains that the anointing of a public intellectual is, unsurprisingly, a product of successful branding: “It was in the branding—which manufactured a sense of tribal identity…. Once they realized that their biggest profits flowed from manufacturing an image, these ‘hollow brands’ came to the conclusion that it didn’t really matter who made their products or how little they were paid.” Cultural branding is the gravitational force in marketing, books included, where ad budgets are slim and in-crowd-validation is everything. Without it, you and your book are objects afloat in Amazon’s universe of provided content. No brand, no essence. But attach “New York Times Best-selling Author” to your byline, and you’re hollow-branding with the bullies.
So No Is Not Enough is a demonstration of the result of the kind of dark perniciousness that, Klein writes, leads “regular people” (defined by her as those who back Bernie and Black Lives Matter) to end up with a “one-man megabrand” called Trump as president—or, for that matter, with a book called No Is Not Enough as a thoughtful response.
Woven through No Is Not Enough are a number of references—call it “product placement”—to other Brand Klein items: No Logo, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Of course, it’s not a formal fallacy to predicate an argument based on a previously expressed premise, but it is a trifle repetitive. Klein’s preoccupation is her apparent belief that capitalism (especially the variant lately masquerading as “neoliberalism”) sucks. And if this is the first time you have encountered that idea, a Klein book is just the book for you.
Klein confesses that she wrote No Is Not Enough “over just a few months”. This might account for the whole wait!-there’s-more! theme threaded through the work. Not only does No Is Not Enough provide collateral marketing for Klein’s other books, it contains plenty of adjacency marketing of material barely peripheral to the “Resist” idea. For example, a substantial amount of the back of the book is devoted to Klein’s “Leap Manifesto—A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another.” A cri d’armes as stirring as lunch in a soup kitchen. In Canada.
The reason these “Resist” books are unnecessary is that none of them are built on the strength of an idea complex enough to merit a book. There’s just no point in resisting Trump. He is an artless, shameless chap, and if you want him to go away, don’t resist him, encourage him. All the president’s failures come from his inability to resist himself. This terrifies his supporters because they know that if there’s an unguarded cream pie anywhere on this planet, Trump will find it and push his face into it—then tweet the pic. These books won't change anything in the real world of politics, because anger is not an idea, but a passing, unimportant, inchoate notion—the kind of thing that doesn’t need a book when a single word—like resist! Or occupy! Or sad :( —is more than enough.