Trump TV Ad: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Happy new year, Mad Blog peeps. Hope 2016 is already treating you well.

And now, back to Trump.

In interviews and on the stump, the Donald often brags about being able to speak for hours sans notes or teleprompter -- and it shows.  He rambles and gets repetitive, like that relative who tells you the same story over and over -- which was semi-entertaining the first time around, because he makes faces and acts out voices and gets unexpectedly mean and competitive about other family members.

But when you actually call him on anything, like why he got divorced or lost his house, then he changes the subject and starts getting slightly telethonic, like Jerry Lewis with his bow tie hanging low after 48 hours on stage.  

Still, Trump supporters eat it up. After all, they know him from “The Apprentice”!  And with them, Trump speaks conversationally, with all the rhythms and idioms of Queens, like “Let me tell you!,” “You better believe it!” and “I kid you not!”  Those kinds of phrases personalize the performance, and seem soothing to angry crowds looking for a powerful celebrity friend, not a politician.



While he’s all over the place, he is very clear on a few things, including his strong anti-terrorist and anti-immigrant leanings -- and that in the Middle East, we should “take the oil.”

But now, with the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries less than one month away, it seems Trump is acknowledging that he can’t just rely on free media, his obsession with polls, or his rambling stand-up sessions to get the nomination done. It’s crunch time, and he is acknowledging that he has to be more disciplined and strategic -- perhaps like an actual politician. Thus, the king of free media has announced that his campaign will spend upwards of $2 million a week on TV ads, the first of which debuted earlier this week.

I was shocked by this initial spot. For whatever reason, I didn’t expect it to be so hate-filled and obviously demagogue-ish. Imagine if the ghosts of early Lee Atwater and Goebbels cobbled something together. Seems like someone’s been brushing up on “Mein Kampf.”

The spot opens and closes with soaring shots of DJT literally raised on stage, behind a podium, speaking to cheering (white) throngs in living color. (Plus whatever golden/orangey stripe you consider his head feathers to be.)  

He’s the appetizers and dessert. The spot’s main dish is a big pot of major nasty, either ominously darkened or leached of color. It starts with a a grainy surveillance-like photo of Obama and Hillary, standing together like a couple, looking stressed and upset. They are followed by mug-shot-y, frontal photos of the San Bernadino killers, the dead-eyed young man and his wife in hijab, in the exact same left-to-right, male-female position. The message seems to be, one of these couples is just like the other.

The most artful part of the ad's set-up is what appears in a box on the bottom of each frame: the words (in all caps) work as subtitles (or literal text as subtext.) Phrases like “Radical Islam” and “Cut the head off Isis,” jump off the screen. And meanwhile, each of the boxes is designed with stars on the top to suggest military messaging, and Trump’s name in caps, on the bottom, so that every frame is branded, like one of the billionaire’s buildings. This is Trump Country, and we’re just living in it.

The Donald tends to view things from on high -- and some of the shots are even seen through the actual cross-hatchings of a scope, as if we are the hunters, viewing people from a great distance, and as such they become dehumanized targets.

The most contentious part comes halfway through the spot. The narrator (who sounds terribly average, while Trump sounds forced and tinny) gets into familiar territory with "He'll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for.”

The video is indeed an aerial shot of migrants trying to cross a border. But it’s taken from such a distance that these people look like microscopic little black bugs, scuttling around in a garbage dump.  The distance, the separateness, and the lack of context is especially desensitizing. That’s why Nazi propaganda often referred to Jews as rats or vermin.

Politifact immediately labeled this footage “Pants on Fire,”  (their highest liar rating) because it has nothing to do with  “our southern border.”  It’s actually video that appeared on Italian television showing migrants trying to enter a small Spanish enclave on the mainland of Morocco, 5,000 miles away.

When called out on this lie, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NBC News, ‘No sh-- it's not the Mexican border, but that's what our country is going to look like. This was 1,000% on purpose.’ "

The only tiny moment of non-fascistic levity, for me, came when the narrator, talking about the suggested very tough ban on Muslims, repeats the Trump line, “Until we can figure out what’s going on.”  That seemed awfully weak and seat-of-the-pants for a commercial that otherwise aggressively views the world through the barrel of a gun.  Imagine if Obama made such a statement?

Otherwise, this is high propaganda, with low, almost hysterical, Willie Horton-level, subliminal fear-mongering in its visuals.

I wonder what will follow when he actually takes the gloves off. Given this level of discourse, Trump must be terrified that he won’t win.

17 comments about "Trump TV Ad: The Sorcerer's Apprentice".
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  1. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media, January 6, 2016 at 7:24 p.m.

    So clearly you do not like Donald Trump. Point made. Saddest part of this election is there is no one running who anyone really wants to vote for on either side. It will be interesting to see who actually wins since most people are either voting for someone because they hate someone else or voting by pulling levers reluctantly for the person they want. Then again there is a larger group of people so turned off to politics, it's lies, and tiring rhetoric, that they won't vote at all this time around.

  2. david marks from self, January 6, 2016 at 7:32 p.m.

    Such a brilliant piece, as usual Barbara! "They know him from The Apprentice," and how poignant can one be when delivering the best characterization of Trump's followers.

  3. Don Perman from self, January 6, 2016 at 7:34 p.m.

    Excellent: trenchant, witty with great historical perspective.  And scary too. Yes, pure demogoguery.
    Perhaps he'll finally get nailed.

  4. Jane Farrell from Freelance, January 6, 2016 at 8:51 p.m.

    So frightening. Anyone would make a smarter president than Trump - and "anyone" really means anyone, including the captain of my local high school's Nordic skiing team.

    It is inconceivable to me that someone so lacking in ideas and humanity could get as far as he has. Someone joked that it was as if the comments section turned into a person and ran for president. But I believe that the great mass of Americans are too smart to vote for Trump, and that the comments sections on the interwebs don't represent them. 

    In any case, I will vote for the Democratic candidate, no matter who it is, not because I am voting against someone but becausse I am voting for a candidate who doesn't belong in a clown car. 

    Excellent piece, as usual.

  5. Ruth Thomas from Second helping, January 6, 2016 at 9:15 p.m.

    This is a story that has stopped being always you have such great can point out all that is not correct, factual or kind and it will only seem to work in his favor...scary indeed!!

  6. Bill Weber from Bill Weber Studios, January 6, 2016 at 9:34 p.m.

    Is the candidate a Fascist? Malignant narcissist? Actor?  It doesn't matter. Your assesment of the candidate is spot on -- and scary.  I no longer think it would be funny if he won the nomination because the race will be just as malignant and scary.

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 6, 2016 at 9:39 p.m.

    Heard today about paid media: He has to pay to play in Iowa, tickle the local station ding a lings. And oil went below $35 today. The market is flooding, keeping prices down and he wants to "take their oil". What would he do with it ? They should love him in Texas, especially the busting oil business going bust.

    Aside from that (if there is an aside for anything he spews), you have the best description of this nazi propaganda than any of the so called news outlet. But what is the most troubling is that there are so many lemmings following him like they did in Germany. Instead of learning the real reasons and what they can do about those reasons of anger, they fall into a mob rule chaotic mass. No doubt many who attend his rallies are looking to see a celebrity, to see a free show, the likes of whom they will never see up front and personal anytime in their lives and what happens to the voting is another story. Then again, the power he would gain if his pot stirring would have them vote for dude with a father who is an affirmed racist and anti-semite. He can't really lose. (Don't be surprised if this comment disappears in la la land.)

  8. Susan Klein from Oculus Marketing replied, January 7, 2016 at 2:30 a.m.

    While we're all getting the DTs about DJT, I'm confident his malignant narcissism would preclude his using many of the message optimization services and analytic engines that helped Obama win both elections. Down the home stretch it's going to take a lot more than bombastic spew to win what is essentially a numbers game, and the Dems already are experts in understanding how to use these technological tools. I'm looking at you, Optimizely.

  9. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis, January 7, 2016 at 2:54 a.m.

    I have gone past the hair, I'm no longer astonished at the bigoted, inaccurate over-emoted harangues. The non-stop, non-sequiturs can't even raise a wry smile. As a child I went to Pentecostal churches that were very Old Testament-all hellfire and brimstone. I hear that same  cadence and bombastic delivery when Trump is on the stage. At least with the preachers, they had a coherent focus and a vision they wanted to communicate. After all the words, I still don't know where Trump stands and what he would do as president. So my interest in him has fallen precipitously. I am now getting serious about the actual candidates and I'm holding out hope that through some miracle, an honest, dedicated, decent person will arise from from the current gaggle of of participants. As always, you seem to catch the right angle to provide us a clear look at situations and people so that we can draw our own conclusions. 

  10. Christina Ricucci from Millenia 3 Communications, January 7, 2016 at 10:03 a.m.

    Trump's presidency would be the end of democracy in America. The one thing which frightens me more than his election is the huge number of people who say it can't happen.

  11. Alan Wasserstrom from None, January 7, 2016 at 11:42 a.m.

    A very clear look at Trumpism,indeed.
    I'm pretty sure this ad and whatever follows will get more than its share of coverage by te Trump 'partners' at the Comcast cable front for a Hillary and Trump general election.
    I used to think the partership to which I refer was nonsense,but every day of Trump all the time has made me believe that partnership is possible.
    Think you did a comprehensive look at Trumpism for what it is,how it has stood so far the test of time,and very much appreciate your analysis of the largely unscripted but very dangerous man to challenge Ms. Clinton if he survives.
    The only thing missing in this excellent article is the why, and that, to me, is Comcast's NBC trump universal.

  12. David Vawter from Doe-Anderson, January 7, 2016 at 12:04 p.m.

    Even overlooking Ms Lippert's stated bias for Madam Secretary (see her Twitter feed), this marathon of tiresome and scaremonger-y Trump-bashing feels like she is auditioning for Spy Magazine circa 1988.  Note to Babs:  They didn't have much love for the Clintons either.

  13. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 7, 2016 at 12:22 p.m.

  14. Eva Dillon from Self, January 7, 2016 at 3:24 p.m.

    He will lose Iowa and New Hampshire, and that will be that.

  15. Michael Giuseffi from American Media Inc, January 7, 2016 at 4:13 p.m.

    Mrs. Clinton runs rings around every single one of these Republicans.  

    It's painfully obvious and facts matter, Republican policies are proven to benefit only the top 1% and the steady decline in the middle class' net worth began with Reaganomics in 1980. That is a fact. 

    Trump is a monster, Cruz and Rubio possibly worse, and all the R's pray at the altar of Saint Ronnie and his policies.

    I wouldn't vote for an R if my life depended on it.  By the way I was a Republican until 1992 - I still get letters requesting $ from the RNC asking"Hey what happened to you"?

  16. John Grono from GAP Research, January 7, 2016 at 5:50 p.m.

    Barbara we have an expression here in Australia for pollies like that (having just dumped our Prime Minister) ... slogan bogan.

  17. Jim English from The Met Museum, January 13, 2016 at 9:50 a.m.

    Thanks Barbara.  You correctly reference Goebbels with the Trump TV ad. It's alarming to see Trump strategists portray our complicated immigration issue with such hateful pragmatism.

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