The Budapest Bridge – Epilogue

“All I know is what’s on the internet”

-Donald Trump

Since I published my two-part series in the Hungarian Free Press, (my favourite blog, the one I lovingly call the “Little Engine That Could”) my phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Some callers breathe hard and tell me to “go back to Israel” and hang up, before I can ask – why should I, when I’ve never been there, and have no money for a plane-ride? As it is, my travels to and fro points of interest these days are confined to the territories I can pedal to on the back of my Chinese-made bicycle. As a Canadian, I welcome spring with open arms – it means, I can once again travel. Cyber space, of course, is another matter. There, I am a globetrotter. I travel faster and in more directions in quick order, than your average water spider.

I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone. I have not only been on the receiving end of calls from heavy breathers, or from friends who warn me to guard my backside from strange looking people carrying black umbrellas. I’ve been getting numerous calls from some of the biggest names working in the mass media from around the globe. Many of them would like to follow up with me and in particular, want access to the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of my confidential sources in Hungary.

I tell the callers, that approx. 70% of the material in my 2 part series was taken from meticulously researched, empirically verifiable, publicly available Hungarian language sources, the remaining 30% from my network of confidential „informants”. I do not share their names of the latter. Just the other day, Nikolai Andruschenko, a 74 year old informant on the Russian secret service in St Petersburg was beaten to death. I shall not reveal the names of the people who helped me to stumble upon the doggie poo I found along my academic path in the giant forest I’ve been exploring with the tools of the social sciences.

Landerneau Forest – Château de Joyeuse Garde. Photo: moreau.henri

And this brings me to the essence of this epilogue. I have been tremendously impressed by some of the journalists I have spoken to. I hope he does not mind me mentioning his name, since he was one of the callers – the star reporter Carl Bernstein – who brought Richard Nixon to his knees. Parts of the American mass media’s continuing dedication to fact based reporting is, to me, one of the 7 wonders of the world. The rapid demise of that industry as a consequence of cyber technologies, and the movements of the market mechanism’s so-called “invisible hand” is equally astonishing. When I turn on CNN I don’t know whether to cry or laugh. But let’s move on.

I wanted to briefly reflect upon the „object” I found on the floor of that giant forest I’m exploring, and onto which, I wanted to direct the attention of investigative journalists the world over, and via the „Little Engine That Could”. For those who are curious about the „forest” I’m travelling, I’ll provide a brief and easily digestible description. I’m curious to find out why the more than 200 year old marriage between Capitalism and Democracy, which as a child I was always told would last forever, is falling apart in front of my eyes. I’d like to know about the new couple moving into my neighbourhood down the street, across the Potomac, and into many parts of Europe. (I see Mr. Erdogan is coming to visit.)

The Budapest Bridge came about when I took my eyes off the tree tops, and looked at some objects before my feet. Academics generally do not appreciate this kind of shift in focus, let alone the colleagues that engage in talking about what they found on the forest floor. I received a few phone calls from them as well. I reminded them in my sweetest voice, that I am professionally bonded. I’m an Emeritus Professor. I have a day job. I have nothing to lose but my Chinese bicycle. I reassured them, that when we get in the car to drive to the next world congress on counting the cats in Zanzibar, I’ll clean the shit off my shoes.

Where was I anyways? Yes. Fact or fiction. The genius of Arthur J. Finkelstein, Viktor Orbán, Donald Trump, Roy Cohn, Árpád Habony, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Rebekah Mercer, Sebastian Gorka (hope I didn’t misspell anybody’s name) and all of the characters on the Budapest Bridge derives from their recognition, that what made Homo Sapiens the last of the surviving human species, is their preference for fictional rather than factual language. It is this knowledge of what is our species’ communications default setting, and the ability to act on this knowledge, that enabled the Donald to win the 2016 US elections. The Budapest Bridge was just one of the places where some of the nitty gritty activities were outsourced by this bunch, to keep the news hounds and the FBI at bay.

Here is the „Big Picture” – the secret of Donald Trump’s electoral success. It’s a secret that makes me worry for the safety of my children, and that of my brothers and sisters the world over, now that the Donald has discovered that he can increase his sagging popularity and mass media ratings, by lobbing some nukes into other people’s backyards. Apart from misdiagnosing the locus and the impact of the collusion between certain members of Trump’s team and the Russian secret service, the American mass media also missed the central dynamics of the force that propelled Trump into the White House. Trump won, first of all, because he understands what Canadian media guru, Marshall McLuhan meant, when he predicted, that in the post-modern age, the medium will become the message. Secondly, he won because he understands, what I referred to en passant above – Homo Sapiens prefer fictional, visceral language to factual discourse. Ever since the publication of John Grinder and Richard Bandler’s book, – The Structure of Magic – Mr. Trump has been trained and surrounded by strategists who have mastered both the hardware and the software needed to excel in the field of political deception. (For those who want a more detailed outline of McLuhan’s ideas, please consult his magnum opus, Understanding Media. Regarding the centrality of fictional language to the development of Homo Sapiens, I suggest Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.)

Let’s listen to Trump’s senior White House strategist, Steve Bannon, and his testimony to the ability of Trump’s team to harness the dynamics of the forces I have just outlined, and what Bannon sees as the outcome of this mastery. “We’ll govern for 50 years. The Democrats have lost sight of what the world’s about. The media has no f***ing idea what’s going on. Donald speaks in a non-political vernacular, he communicates with people in a very visceral way.” (Michael Wolff, The Hollywood Reporter, November 18, 2016) My aim with these three articles was to direct our attention to the pursuit of the animals, who have left their droppings along the path I’m travelling on. My aim was to call on scholars, journalists and concerned citizens, to examine, a bit more closely, the dynamics of the forces that fuel Bannon’s confidence, and the consequences of his confidence for the survival of our species, and our planet.

András Göllner

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