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Huge turnout to hear academic takes on Trump phenomenon in Corner Brook


CORNER BROOK, N.L. - Megan Penney has been closely following the unfolding drama of the American presidential election campaign, so she couldn’t resist a chance to hear what some local professors think of presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Penney was one of about 100 people who attended Wednesday night’s Trump-osium at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University.

The event featured short presentations by a wide array of Grenfell academics, who shared their insights into who Trump is and why he just might become the next president of the United States.

“You hear about what people think of him, but you don’t get to hear what academics think of him when you watch the news,” said Penney, a psychology graduate from Grenfell.

RELATED: What do you think of Trump versus Clinton? Cast your vote

The intellectual treatments of Trump covered everything from comparing him to Shakespearean characters and historical figures to how his persona is based on the hyper-masculine motifs usually associated with 1980’s action movies such as “Rambo” or “The Terminator.”

While there was a generous amount of humour mixed in with the smarts, Penney said it is important to try to understand Trump, should he become president.

“We’re not Americans, but we watch American TV and a lot of our products come from America, so I wanted to see what our culture thought of him,” she said.

Mai Lan Nguyen is American. Her husband, psychology professor Daniel Nadolny, presented his thoughts Wednesday evening on how Trump’s persuasive techniques have been working on voters.

Nguyen is concerned about what it means to have Trump so close to moving into the White House. She is afraid of a Trump presidency because if he has no qualms about lampooning his rival, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, or the current president, then the rest of the world will be fair game for Trump, too.

“If he’s not scared of them, he’s not going to show respect to anyone and that’s going to be detrimental to everyone in the long run,” she said.

The bigger issue, Nguyen says, is that the democratic system in America is broken and that’s why a controversial candidate like Trump has been able to gain such political traction.

“People don’t like the institutionalized politicians who have been there forever and are entrenched in it, and see Hillary Clinton as this person who is getting paid by special interests,” she said. “Not that she’s not, but they are so tired of the system that they are looking for anyone to fill the bill and it doesn’t matter who it is.”

Some quotes from presenters

“While Octavia Butler was not, at the time of her death in 2007, aware that Donald Trump might make a successful bid for the Republican nomination, she wanted to stop ‘Trump,’ and all of the historical and political forces that created him.”

— Nathan Elliott, English professor, who talked about how author Octavia Butler’s “Parable” novels foreshadowed, in a way, the rise of someone like Donald Trump in the midst of America’s social breakdown.

“He breaks all the rules and unabashedly so. He doesn’t apologize for it. By breaking these rules in strategic ways, people see him as being more confident and having more power.”

— Daniel Nadolny, psychology professor, whose discussion on Trump’s effective persuasiveness touched on how Trump’s approach would be deemed political suicide by most other politicians.

“One of the hot buttons Trump has made a great effort to push is the Islamophobic hot button. Indeed, he wants to ban Muslim immigrants ‘until we figure out what’s going on,’ which is kind of a mysterious phrase because we pretty much know what’s going on.”

— Bernard Wills, philosophy professor, who gave a portrait of an Islamophobe and pondered whether such beliefs are grounded in reality or bigotry.

“One of the reasons why Trump has a good chance is because he doesn’t actually have to win a majority of the votes. He just has to win a majority of the Electoral College and there have been a number of times in U.S. history where a politician has actually won the election without having actually been elected by the majority.”

— Ivan Savic, political science professor, who explained how Trump’s rise is best explained by examining America’s electoral institutions, voter polarization and democratic dysfunction.

“Trump would like us to see him as a Rambo-esque man. However, the paradox here is that the hyper-masculinity of the late 1980s action hero, as absurd and overwrought as it was, was intended as self-evident. It was written on their bulging muscles and their phallic guns so as to abandon all subtlety. None of these characters ever had to say, ‘I am a man.’  … A self-evident truth is no longer self-evident if you yourself have to provide the evidence.”

— John Pope, English professor, who spoke of Trump’s apparent need to explicitly emphasize his masculinity.

“Donald Trump, like Jack Cade, is an alarming and monstrous figure in American politics and I wish for his defeat as much as anyone. But we should not be under the illusion that the defeat of Trump will decisively settle the crisis of radical polarization in the American body politic. Trump, and those who vote for him this November, represent a blistering repudiation of the political establishment — both right and left — and they are a portent of more disruption to come.”

— Ken Jacobsen, English professor, who compared Trump to a controversial political character found in Shakespeare’s historical plays who led a revolt against the government in England in 1450.

 

 

Penney was one of about 100 people who attended Wednesday night’s Trump-osium at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University.

The event featured short presentations by a wide array of Grenfell academics, who shared their insights into who Trump is and why he just might become the next president of the United States.

“You hear about what people think of him, but you don’t get to hear what academics think of him when you watch the news,” said Penney, a psychology graduate from Grenfell.

RELATED: What do you think of Trump versus Clinton? Cast your vote

The intellectual treatments of Trump covered everything from comparing him to Shakespearean characters and historical figures to how his persona is based on the hyper-masculine motifs usually associated with 1980’s action movies such as “Rambo” or “The Terminator.”

While there was a generous amount of humour mixed in with the smarts, Penney said it is important to try to understand Trump, should he become president.

“We’re not Americans, but we watch American TV and a lot of our products come from America, so I wanted to see what our culture thought of him,” she said.

Mai Lan Nguyen is American. Her husband, psychology professor Daniel Nadolny, presented his thoughts Wednesday evening on how Trump’s persuasive techniques have been working on voters.

Nguyen is concerned about what it means to have Trump so close to moving into the White House. She is afraid of a Trump presidency because if he has no qualms about lampooning his rival, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, or the current president, then the rest of the world will be fair game for Trump, too.

“If he’s not scared of them, he’s not going to show respect to anyone and that’s going to be detrimental to everyone in the long run,” she said.

The bigger issue, Nguyen says, is that the democratic system in America is broken and that’s why a controversial candidate like Trump has been able to gain such political traction.

“People don’t like the institutionalized politicians who have been there forever and are entrenched in it, and see Hillary Clinton as this person who is getting paid by special interests,” she said. “Not that she’s not, but they are so tired of the system that they are looking for anyone to fill the bill and it doesn’t matter who it is.”

Some quotes from presenters

“While Octavia Butler was not, at the time of her death in 2007, aware that Donald Trump might make a successful bid for the Republican nomination, she wanted to stop ‘Trump,’ and all of the historical and political forces that created him.”

— Nathan Elliott, English professor, who talked about how author Octavia Butler’s “Parable” novels foreshadowed, in a way, the rise of someone like Donald Trump in the midst of America’s social breakdown.

“He breaks all the rules and unabashedly so. He doesn’t apologize for it. By breaking these rules in strategic ways, people see him as being more confident and having more power.”

— Daniel Nadolny, psychology professor, whose discussion on Trump’s effective persuasiveness touched on how Trump’s approach would be deemed political suicide by most other politicians.

“One of the hot buttons Trump has made a great effort to push is the Islamophobic hot button. Indeed, he wants to ban Muslim immigrants ‘until we figure out what’s going on,’ which is kind of a mysterious phrase because we pretty much know what’s going on.”

— Bernard Wills, philosophy professor, who gave a portrait of an Islamophobe and pondered whether such beliefs are grounded in reality or bigotry.

“One of the reasons why Trump has a good chance is because he doesn’t actually have to win a majority of the votes. He just has to win a majority of the Electoral College and there have been a number of times in U.S. history where a politician has actually won the election without having actually been elected by the majority.”

— Ivan Savic, political science professor, who explained how Trump’s rise is best explained by examining America’s electoral institutions, voter polarization and democratic dysfunction.

“Trump would like us to see him as a Rambo-esque man. However, the paradox here is that the hyper-masculinity of the late 1980s action hero, as absurd and overwrought as it was, was intended as self-evident. It was written on their bulging muscles and their phallic guns so as to abandon all subtlety. None of these characters ever had to say, ‘I am a man.’  … A self-evident truth is no longer self-evident if you yourself have to provide the evidence.”

— John Pope, English professor, who spoke of Trump’s apparent need to explicitly emphasize his masculinity.

“Donald Trump, like Jack Cade, is an alarming and monstrous figure in American politics and I wish for his defeat as much as anyone. But we should not be under the illusion that the defeat of Trump will decisively settle the crisis of radical polarization in the American body politic. Trump, and those who vote for him this November, represent a blistering repudiation of the political establishment — both right and left — and they are a portent of more disruption to come.”

— Ken Jacobsen, English professor, who compared Trump to a controversial political character found in Shakespeare’s historical plays who led a revolt against the government in England in 1450.

 

 

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