Trump Jr.


I am a carpetbagger.

I go where I can close a deal.

A capitalist jihadi,

I travel the world

to deconstruct the American state.

I carry the detonator

of cyberwar and nuclear conflagration.

Traumatic eyes

despair:  the stakes are high,

but the will of my father

foreshadows freedom.

AltRight or wrong,

my time is yet to come.


Trump’s impeachment may hang on a point of grammar

Comey_Screen_Shot_2017_06_08_at_11.05.09_AM.0James Comey speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee on 8 June 2017

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Donald Trump spoke these words to James Comey, former Director of the FBI, at a private meeting in the Oval Office. As Alex Ward of states, these are the most important words of Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.

Comey felt that these were a direction to him by the President of the United States.

Primary school children in England are taught that a command includes a verb in the imperative mood. In everyday social life, however, the context of an utterance helps to determine its meaning. Questioning James Comey on 8 June, Senator James Risch sought to deflect Comey’s view that Trump had given him a direction:

Sen. James Risch

He did not direct you to let it go?

James Comey

Not in his words, no.

Sen. James Risch

He did not order you to let it go?

James Comey

Again, those words are not an order.

Pressed by Risch as to whether, as the former director of the FBI, he knew of any case where a person had been charged with a criminal offence for hoping for an outcome, Comey replied:

This is a president of the United States with me alone saying I hope this. I took it as, this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.

Comey is drawing attention to the context of Trump’s words, and in particular to the power relationship between himself and his interlocutor. He is implicitly making a grammatical analysis of language as a social semiotic – as deriving much of its meaning from the context of use.

It remains to be seen whether the Senate Intelligence Committee will accept this more adequate socio-linguistic analysis of the President’s words.

A longer version of this post appears on

Birdie, Trump and Family Guy


One of the videos currently doing the rounds on the internet is a pixellated animation of the Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders apparently flapping his arms like a bird, accompanied by the ‘Bird is the Word’ song from Family Guy.   Bernie’s cavorting is punctuated by captions zooming towards the viewer, like those on an old time film trailer, announcing support statistics (Idaho 78%, Utah 79%, Washington 75%). His #FeelTheBern hashtag has been complemented by #BirdieSanders. This derives, of course, from the now famous moment when a finch flew down during one of Sanders’ recent speeches and perched on the podium for some minutes. The speaker had the nous to welcome the feathered supporter and drew laughter and applause from the crowd in doing so.bird-is-the-word

In Family Guy, Peter’s incessant singing of ‘The Bird is the Word’ keeps his wife Lois awake. Bernie’s nickname and video convey a more light-hearted or positive identification with a bird. Sanders himself reminded his audience of the dove that returned to Noah with an olive branch. Be that as it may, the moniker could never be applied to the Republican nominee Donald Trump. Both Sanders and Trump are in (or approaching) their eighth decade; both derive support from members of working and middle class who cannot identify with current elite politicians. But Sanders’ appeal, unlike Trump’s, derives from policies very different from Trump’s (so far as it is possible to discern Trump’s policies).   He wants affordable college education, health care as a right rather than a privilege, a minimum wage above the poverty line and reform of campaign finance. Trump, as Henry Giroux has argued, draws on deep veins of racism and misogyny that have defaced US culture for decades. Trump Towers may reach toward the sky, but the name associates a lumbering earth-bound destructiveness.

US politics is often criticised as being inordinately focused on personalities rather than policies. In the case of Sanders and Trump, however, the policies have become signified by their supporters’ given names.   Birdie vs Trump – a clear choice for the US. birdie-president