Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
August 13, 2015
First appeared in print in The Rhino Times
, Greensboro, NC.
Trump, Facebook Friend-Tests
We already have one dishonest self-promoter in the 2016 presidential race --
the Benghazi Bonehead, the Email Scofflaw, Cattle-Futures Hillary. Do we
Since many Democrats regard Hillary's election as a done deal, people are
already trying to figure out what to call Bill Clinton if Hillary becomes
President. "First Man" sounds so ... adamic. And "First Gentleman" is a joke,
since he stipulated to the fact that he is no gentleman back when he
pleaded guilty to perjury.
But since all of human civilization depends on, and grew out of, the effort to
curb the bad behavior of primate alpha males, I think that gives us the fitting
title for Bill if Hillary is Crook-in-Chief. Bill Clinton would be "Alpha Male."
Civilization depends on faithful monogamy being the rule in society,
offering reproductive opportunity to as many individuals as possible, allowing
many different genetic strains to propagate, so that the species remains highly
The Alpha Male, however, believes that all females belong to him and are
eager to mate with him, and acts accordingly. He expects and believes he
deserves the admiration of all, and any who don't treat him with respect should
be crushed or, at the very least, exiled.
If the Alpha Male gets his way, he is the father of all the children in the tribe,
and all the other males are at a reproductive dead end. Yeah: Bill Clinton,
America's Alpha Male.
Meanwhile, there's Donald Trump. The media love him because he steals
attention from Republicans who might actually do a good job as President.
Trump claims to be a great negotiator, and maybe he is -- though I don't know
how anybody can sit across the table from that hair and not recognize that he's
a con man and poseur.
But you see, Trump has never negotiated when anything but money was at
stake. If he makes a bad bargain, if he bets wrong about how things will turn
out, he can file for corporate bankruptcy (as he has done four times) and get
protection from the court.
In international affairs, there's no bankruptcy court. When Obama and Kerry
negotiate a "deal" where the most likely loser is only a bunch of Jews in Israel
-- real live people that Obama and Kerry have shown they don't care about at
all -- then they are as happy as Neville Chamberlain waving his Munich
agreement from Hitler -- because the only possible losers in 1938 were those
Slavs in Bohemia and Slovakia, and Chamberlain didn't care about them,
Never mind that Czechoslovakia was the West's best hope of stopping Hitler in
his tracks, just as Israel is our best hope of stopping militant Islamism. Never
mind that selling them out is the act of a shameless barbarian. Never mind
that neither Hitler nor the Iranians made a single promise they actually
mean to keep. It's "a deal." It's a "success" for Obama and Kerry, like Munich
was a "success" for Chamberlain.
So now imagine Trump's foreign policy. Imagine him spouting off with the
same lack of judgment he has shown since declaring his candidacy. Imagine
the diplomatic equivalent of giving out somebody's private phone number, or
making offensive comments about a woman with "blood coming out of her
There are no callbacks in diplomacy. Things you say stay said. You can't
tweet that you meant "nose" and the problem goes away.
Of course, the Leftist media have trained everybody to disparage Fox News by
reflex, so that I've seen staunch conservatives dismiss all these flaps as "Fox
News hating Trump" -- so it amounts to nothing.
But it doesn't amount to "nothing." The campaign reveals character. We knew
who Obama was before he was elected. Despite the attempt to paint him as a
moderate bring-us-together guy, we had his few unscripted moments that
showed him to be an arrogant Leftist.
We had his dismissal of the concerns of vast swaths of Americans by saying
that despair makes them turn to "guns and religion." We heard his utter
ignorance of foreign policy when he said we should deal with Russia's invasion
of Georgia by turning it over to the UN Security Council -- where,
unbeknownst to Obama, Russia wields a veto.
Hillary is, if anything, even more sheltered and protected than Obama. Trump
isn't. But it wouldn't matter -- because Trump can't stop running off at the
mouth. Nothing can protect him.
If there's one thing a President has to be, it's a grownup. But Trump is a child.
A clown. He says whatever asinine thing comes to mind without weighing the
Would you want this man to be your lawyer in court? Would you want
Trump to be your agent at a negotiation that will decide whether you get to
keep your job or your salary? Imagine him spouting off to the press about your
case. How do you think things would work out for you?
Why would you want Trump to be in charge of our relations with allies, let
alone enemies? He's so un-self-controlled he'd make Obama look deft.
I can imagine him making bold threats like Obama's line-in-the-sand over
poison gas in Syria. But then Trump might recklessly try to follow through --
unless the grownups at the Joint Chiefs of Staff convince him that given the
condition of our military after eight years of Obama, we don't have the ability to
follow through on his threats.
Or Trump might tweet that he didn't really mean what he said. And he has
such contempt for us voters that he expects us to forget all about all his stupid
That's what being rich means. You can tell the people around you to forgive
you without actually admitting you did anything wrong -- and they'll pretend
that they don't mind. Because you're rich.
But foreign nations don't care that you're rich. Or that America is rich and
powerful. That only makes them more resentful and less likely to forgive and
A Trump presidency would be the Republican way of making Obama look
pretty good after all.
And when he made hash of our foreign relations, remember, it's not money at
stake -- it's the lives of our soldiers, and of innocent civilians in other
countries. As with Obama, it's the lives of every Christian beheaded by ISIS,
everyone killed by Iranian-funded terrorism. Trump's recklessness would kill
While we're at it, let's look at Trump's honesty. He claimed to be worth ten
billion dollars; reasonable estimates put his real net worth at four billion
(Forbes), or 2.9 billion (New York Post, citing Bloomberg). The Wall Street
Journal conservatively asserts only that Trump "has assets worth at least $1.5
billion" (Business Insider). And "having assets worth" is always a larger
number than "net worth."
I'm not calling Trump a liar. Liars know what's true and try very hard to
shape their lies so that they won't get caught.
Instead, Trump is a perfect example of what philosophers-of-lying call "a bull----ter." BSers don't care what the truth is. They may or may not know what's
true. They just spray out whatever story they want to tell, and if they're called
on the inaccuracy, they change the subject or accuse their critics of lying.
You've seen that, too, as Hillary Clinton blamed all her husband's lies on the
Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. The way people are now blaming Trump's
problems on the Fox News Conspiracy.
The irony is that Trump is given credit for speaking "honestly," for saying what
nobody else dares to say.
Nobody else dares to say those things because they're false and mean and
recklessly harmful. (And if you listened to Trump and thought, "At last
somebody is saying exactly what I think," then shame on you for having such
ignorant, mean, and ill-founded opinions.)
Trump will never get the nomination, and if he tries a third-party candidacy,
he'll find that he doesn't get anywhere near the traction that Perot got --
because Perot actually believed what he said, and backed it up instead of trying
to tweet it away.
At present, Trump makes the whole Republican field look ridiculous just
because they have to share a rostrum with this clown.
But the best of the Republican candidates will realize that ignoring Trump is
the only antidote. Jeb Bush, for example, is acting like the Republican
leader, holding Hillary's feet to the fire on her laughable "experience" in
(Bush isn't quite saying, "If you make a baboon Secretary of State for four
years, that doesn't mean it has 'unmatched experience at foreign affairs.' It
just means that America was without a Secretary of State during a dangerous
time, and now the baboon wants to be President.")
(Note: Substitute your own inappropriate animal if "baboon" offends you.
"Tuna fish." "Eel." "Bald Eagle." "Gazelle." None would make a good
Secretary of State. Baboons are smarter than the others, so maybe I'm giving
Hillary too much credit.)
Jeb Bush has it right: Act like a presidential candidate, not a kid arguing
over whether you stepped outside the box in hopscotch. Trump is not
worth even one second's thought -- because his "views" obviously did not
require one second's thought from him, either.
By the way: Isn't it funny how Democrats are trying to spin Iran and ISIS as if
they were George W. Bush's fault? Bush wasn't the President who withdrew
the troops from Iraq years before the Iraqi Army was ready to handle the job
Bush isn't the President who underfunded the military until Russia, China,
and Iran all know that we're in no position to stop them from doing whatever
Bush was the President who, like his father before him, only made threats he
was prepared to act on. It's Obama who destroyed our credibility everywhere
by talking loudly while carrying a noodle.
Trump talks constantly when he has nothing to back it up. In fact, his main
activity is playing Hillary's game -- instead of dealing with the consequences of
their actions, they both just declare it a nonstory. They both ask, "Why are
we still talking about this?"
And the answer is, "Because you're still the idiot who did it."
When I first signed on to Facebook, I was a profligate friender. Anybody who
asked, I said yes, because I didn't want to give anyone the cold shoulder.
But by friending the friends of friends of friends of friends, I hit the 5,000-friend cap fairly quickly. My feed from all those people was impossible to deal
with. I was getting all these family pictures and selfies from people I didn't
know, while actual friends showed up only rarely.
These people weren't doing anything wrong. For their real friends, these were
doubtless happy moments being shared. And I'm lucky to have so many
people who, for the sake of my books, wanted to have a closer link with me.
The trouble is that "readers" and "friends" are not the same thing. I had no
interest in posting for complete strangers the material I would post for people I
actually knew well; and the things I'd post for readers would look like absurd
self-promotion to my friends and family. It all seemed weird.
So I tried to kill that Facebook account and learned that Facebook doesn't
actually let you quit. (But I wrote about that years ago.)
Now I have somebody else manage a public Facebook page for readers. We
only post to it when I have a new book coming out, or other such news.
And I signed up for Facebook again, using a thinly disguised name, and this
time I only friended people I actually knew. People whose happy or sad
tidings I might be able to do something about.
I still made some mistakes, but they were the kind that you can't know until
you make them. Because among any group of actual friends and
acquaintances, there's going to be somebody who is way, way too committed
Such people are rare, at least among my friends, but you know the kind I
mean. They're the ones who post a status like, "Got to go to the bathroom, be
back in a minute."
Um. That really doesn't need to come into my feed. Does this person believe
that their friends are clinging so raptly to every moment of their life that they
really need that much detail?
Then there are the video-taking people who believe that if they shot it, they
must post it.
Please understand this: I love videos and snapshots of the children of people I
love, doing cute or interesting things. Really.
But when your video shows the child doing nothing in particular, or when it is
shot so badly that the child is mostly out of frame and then offers only back
views, or if there's not enough light to see anything at all, here's a thought:
Don't post it.
Here's a third kind of awful post that is surprisingly common. It is the needy
plea for affirmation. "I don't think any of you read my posts, so this is a
test. Type 'yes' as a comment, so I'll know you're really my friend."
Look, as an author, I'm completely aware of and sympathetic to audience
anxiety, as in: I write this stuff, but does anybody actually read it?
On Facebook, you devote several minutes to typing in your views on this or
that, your recent experience, how sad/happy/angry/grief-stricken you are.
You post it. And nobody Comments. Nobody even Likes it. Ouch.
Now, when confronted with real events and heartfelt pleas, most people have
the courtesy to comment the equivalent of "Poor baby," "We're praying for you,"
"What wonderful news!" "What a darling baby!"
But there are a lot of posts that don't invite comment at all. If it's your
fortieth selfie in five days, each of them glamorously posed and made up,
there's a limit to how many times people are going to want to comment, "Even
prettier this time, how do you do it?"
And when you post "back from the store" or "I need a nap" or "where has the
day gone," most people won't comment at all. If you were on the phone with
them, of course they'd make a polite answer. But if that's all you called to
say, they're likely to change to an unlisted number to stop your time-wasting
Facebook is not the telephone. You're not chatting. You're broadcasting.
Nobody is obliged to answer at all.
And with only two choices -- Comment or Like -- you shouldn't take it
personally when your friends don't do either one to a post like "Another
They can't click on "Like" because how can they like it that you're
But what in the world can they say in a comment? "I once had a mosquito
bite, too, when I was a child. How will you cope?" There's too much chance
that you'll detect sarcasm and be offended.
And sometimes they're busy, and don't check their Facebook feed every few
minutes. By the time they do check, your posting is so far down their feed that
they never see it at all.
So here's a word of advice: Don't post needy friend-tests.
In fact, please don't post anything with a built-in test. "Like this if you love
America." "Like this if you care about our veterans." "Like this if you love/hate
Obama." "Like this if you want to protect our Second Amendment rights."
"Like this if you join in praying for parents who have lost children."
Worst of all: "93% will ignore this, but 7% really care." Made-up statistics
offend me. There are enough of them coming from professional liars
(politicians, fund-raisers) that I don't need to encounter such lies on Facebook
To me, these are the Facebook equivalent of chain letters, and I hate them. All
of them. Whether I agree with the sentiment or not (usually not, because
they're almost always appallingly sappy or weirdly presumptuous), I never click
"like" on any of them.
A friend of mine says that they're just trying to get enough clicks that they
can make more money from selling their Facebook page. I don't know if
that actually happens or how it would work if it did. The financial motive is
both repulsive ... and understandable.
Genuine content doesn't need fake percentages or pleas for likes.
And if you send out too many of them, you'll be gone from my feed. My
Facebook time is limited and precious and, except when I'm suffering from
horrible insomnia, rare. I don't need clutter.
If you really are in need of comfort or help, don't send out friend-tests.
Because regardless of what you think you're doing, friend-tests are all about
manipulating other people through guilt.
Nowhere was this made more clear than in the series Cougar Town, in which
some of the characters routinely got their way by calling "friend test," meaning
if our friendship of many years' standing is going to survive this moment, you
will do what I want.
Friends don't test friends. Friends might ask for help in a time of need, but
they don't ever put it in "if" terms: "If you're really my friend, you'll Comment
Because if you and I really are friends, you have my email address and my
phone number, and you'll use one of those to find out if I can help you.
We'll write or talk back and forth like actual people, without a host of
onlookers. And it won't be a friend-test, it will be actual friendship.
Here's a tip that I picked up from some friends. They watch Jeopardy! with
tally counters in hand.
You know what a tally counter is: It's a small device with a numerical display.
You press a button to raise the count by one. The display keeps a running
Ticket collectors sometimes use them to keep count of the number of people
coming to an event. But when you're watching Jeopardy!, you use the tally
counters to keep track of how many questions you answered correctly.
Each person needs their own clicker, but they're cheap. You can get a pack of
five mechanical tally counters for $8.20 on Amazon, or eight digital ones for
$7.82. (But I like the mechanical ones better.)
Now, you're on the honor system -- often you can't speak the answer before the
contestant does. But if you knew it before they said it, or before someone else
in the room said it, you can click whether you said it aloud or not.
At the end, you can see how many you got right. Remember, there are 60
questions in every game (not counting the final one). Often you will answer
more questions correctly than any one contestant.
That's because you have one huge advantage over the contestants: You don't
have to be the first to click in after Alex finishes reading the question.
(Yes, I know, the gimmick of Jeopardy! is that Alex Trebek reads the "answers"
and the contestants come up with the "questions," but let's get real. Trebek
himself calls the contestant responses "answers" more often than not.)
So it's hardly a surprise if you answer more questions correctly than any
of the contestants -- you can try for all the questions.
But my personal rule is: It doesn't count if I "know that I know it" but don't
actually come up with the right word or name or title until after the contestant
says it. There's no "I'm sure I would have thought of it," because often that's
true of contestants who time out without quite remembering the answer.
Either you had it before the contestant said it or you didn't.
I always feel good if I get over half the answers right. I've never gotten two-thirds right. Partly that's because I don't cram on trivia information before
playing -- life is too short for me to spend it memorizing all the state mottos.
Besides, the reason Jeopardy! is a great game show is the same as the reason
Trivial Pursuit is a great game. The questions provide enough information
that you can often make a guess that turns out right.
Of course, sometimes those internal clues are so far-fetched that they actually
distract you from the right answer. But hey, the writers are trying to have a
I'm looking forward to my first celebrity-Jeopardy! game with a clicker in
hand. Because those questions are usually so easy that I'll be ashamed if I
don't get at least 45 right in every game.
But with a tournament of champions, the questions are so much harder I'll be
delighted if my total gets into double digits.
Meanwhile, as long as I'm making at least 30 per game, I feel OK. Because you
have to remember that I'm completely cut out of all the music categories, since
I stopped paying attention to pop music in about 1990, when pop music
stopped containing much, if any, actual music.
I can never come up with song titles or groups more recent than that, or
recognize any lyrics. I'd really be great at it if they had a category for "1970s
Brazilian popular music stars" or "1970s folk-rock." But they don't.
Nor do I watch many of the trendy shows on television, mostly because their
attempts at "edginess" make them both unpleasant to watch and too mind-numbingly formulaic for a self-respecting writer to pay attention to. To me,
most of the Emmy nominations are for shows that I've never watched and have
no interest in watching -- but those are precisely the shows most likely to show
up as questions or answers on Jeopardy!
And when it comes to "Potent Potables," I'm gone. Having never taken a drink
in my life, I barely know that wines, spirits, or beers exist, except the ones
that advertise heavily in magazines and on television.
I know of Gallo wines from growing up in California before wine ads were
banned from TV. I know about Absolut Vodka from the magazine ads. I know
about Bud Light because I'm alive.
But if none of those are the answer, I'm mooing like a drowning cow. I blurt,
"Stolichnaya!" "Heineken!" "Anheuser-Busch!" "Other German or Russian
Word!" (Please don't drown any cows to see if they actually blurt such things.)
The point is that whole swaths of Jeopardy! categories are out of my reach.
I'm fine with that.
Besides, my friends and I don't play with the clickers in order to compete with
each other. We've lived different lives and pursued different interests, so we
know different things. One of my friends would absolutely kill if Jeopardy! ever
had a mainframe programming category.
Of course, all of us absolutely nail any Bible categories, because we're from
a culture that still reads scripture from childhood on. We can name all the
sons of Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Isaac without batting an eye, and most of
us do pretty well with the sons of Jacob. Place names don't scare us, either.
But knowing the answers to Bible questions is an outgrowth of reading we did
for its own sake. I wouldn't really enjoy playing trivia games with somebody
who studied for them, any more than it would be fun to play Scrabble with
somebody who had memorized the entire two- and three-letter word lists.
In fact, one might make a case for its being kind of embarrassing to be too
good at trivia games. It might suggest you had nothing real to do.
The clickers are to see how you do from day to day. You figure out what your
own handicap is, so you can see if you do better or worse than your own
average. And since you're only betting against yourself, you can't lose.
Of course, you also can't win. But since there's no prize, you haven't lost
anything. And when I can get more than thirty during a Tournament of
Champions, I feel like I won the game that night. Break out the ice cream!
If I get fewer than forty during Celebrity Jeopardy!, then I need some
consolation ice cream, quick.
Ice cream. The Mormon equivalent of doing shots.