Mike Pence, the US Vice President-Elect, attended the Broadway musical, Hamilton last night (Friday). The crowd booed him, and the cast ended the performance by acknowledging Pence’s presence, and noting that their diverse cast were representative of a wider group of Americans who legitimately feel alarmed by the prospective Trump presidency. Meanwhile, Donald Trump settled a class-action legal case of fraud brought against him by students of his unlicensed Trump University. The settlement cost him $25million (the suit was originally for $40 million). This included a $1 million fine payable to the State of New York because Donald Trump had been running an unlicensed university.
Social Media platforms were quick, as usual, to report the breaking news of Pence being booed. Video footage shot by theatre-goers was widely shared on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. While Donald Trump was settling a $25million fraud case for having allegedly operated a fake University that scammed students out of their hard earned money.
Today (Saturday), Donald Trump joined in the lively Twitter debate about the breaking news concerning the forthcoming US Presidency. He tweeted four times within the space of an hour. Two tweets concerned the Hamilton show. Two concerned the fraud case he settled for $25million.
As of writing this piece, the two tweets he published regarding the fraud case he settled out of court rather than risk taking to trial and losing outright had garnered 19.8k retweets between them (11k for one, and 8.8k for the other).
The two tweets concerning his Vice President-elect being booed at Hamilton had garnered 53k retweets between them (29k for one, and 24k for the other). Each tweet regarding the Hamilton theatre incident has been retweeted roughly a thousand times per $1million dollars of settlement Donald Trump paid in order to avoid the possibility of being found guilty of committing major business fraud.
On the day that President-elect Donald Trump decided to settle a case of fraud for $25million because he dared not risk seeing the case through to trial, Twitter clearly had more interest in discussing his Vice President-elect being booed than the fact that the President-elect was unwilling to defend himself against accusations of major business fraud allegedly committed against thousands of ordinary Americans.
Of the two tweets published by President-elect Donald Trump concerning his refusal to defend himself against accusations of fraud, one claimed, “I settled the Trump university lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country.” There were over 6000 victims of his fraudulent University. It has also been contended that the $25million is not a small fraction of the potential award at all, but is closer to half the amount sought.
His other published tweet on the matter claims that he would have won the case had he seen it through to trial. But if he was so confident, why not fight the case rather than choose to leave his name and reputation tarnished by the decision to settle a legal claim of fraud brought against him? The obvious implication of a settlement as large as this one ($25million) is that the defendant must have been guilty.
Trump claims he settled because he did not have time to fight the case. However, he did have time to weigh in on the history of the theatre, declaring, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!” He then followed that comment with, “The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”
US President-elect Donald Trump is devoting his time to turning the theatre into a safe space for his supporters, where they can avoid being triggered by micro-aggressions such as booing, when he claims to lack the time to defend himself against accusations of major fraud. I’d call it a farce, only I’m not sure if that would violate Trump’s demands that the theatre become a safe space for him and his understudy.
US President-elect Donald Trump also appears to have no understanding of the history of the theatre, since the theatre has rarely, if ever, been considered a “safe space”. From the early Greek tragedies with their focus on catharsis, through to Shakespeare’s rowdy crowds, the theatre has been concerned with using dramatic elements to expose the fraudulent nature of real life. I have not managed to find a reliable source for the cost of the Hamilton production, but I’m guessing that $25million might be sufficient to resolve the dramatic tensions of real world fraudulence in a creative manner. I’m sure the actors in this case could work with that.
It is as yet unclear what policies US President-elect Donald Trump will propose in order to make the theatre a safe space for people who find that defending themselves at fraud trials triggers their fragile emotions excessively. He could propose to build a wall, but he may be disappointed to note that Stanislavski beat him to that one. Stanislavski’s wall was not a screen to distract from a $25million settlement reached to avoid being found guilty of committing fraud, either. It also didn’t require any actual bricks. Or sections of fencing. Or Mexicans (although Iago gets a mention, as blackface is swiftly dismissed by Stanislavski as an appropriate method for connecting with audiences).
Perhaps President-elect Donald Trump will instead propose making the theatre a safe space by using Brecht’s concept of Alienation. This could involve banning anyone from attending the theatre unless they can afford to settle a fraud suit out of court for $25million rather than risk losing that fraud case and having to pay even more in damages, as well as having their suitability for the role of US President called into question in the process.
Perhaps he will propose a Theatre of Cruelty, in which we can all adopt Artaud’s grimace while howling about how we’d easily win fraud trials we’ve just settled for $25million. Time will tell.
What is certain, however, is that Donald Trump is highly proficient in ensuring that the news coverage is dominated by relatively minor scandals, like a theatre crowd doing what theatre crowds regularly do, or actors doing what actors regularly do, instead of being dominated by more serious news. Like how the US President-elect has just settled a fraud case for $25million instead of seeing the case to trial and risking losing that case, despite declaring previously that he would win and that he wouldn’t settle the case because that might suggest he had, in fact, been guilty of committing major fraud all along.
In short, Donald Trump has a penchant for performing a Kansas City Shuffle (you make them look one way, while you go the other way). He seems to enjoy the news being dominated by supposed hubristic outrage at his Vice President-elect being booed at an event, rather than to have the news dominated by an in-depth discussion of the US President-elect’s serious legal troubles.
US President-elect Donald Trump does not appear to want the media or the public to consider important legal and business proficiency questions, such as, “Why would someone settle a fraud case for $25million, thereby creating the overwhelming impression that he was indeed guilty of fraud, if the truth was that he was innocent?” Or, “Why would the US President-elect not care about his reputation being tarnished by settling a fraud case for $25million, instead of choosing to clear his name by having his day in court?” Or “Why does the US President-elect seem to have little faith in the rule of law as exemplified by the Justice System?”
Maybe they are the questions we should be focusing on? He may continue to stage-manage distractions from a thorough examination of whether Donald Trump is truly a failure in life, business, and politics, but we do not have to allow ourselves to be fooled by his not-so-sleight of hand.
US President-elect Donald Trump has just settled a fraud case for $25million. A case that involved claims that he had allegedly ripped off over 6000 students in what amounted to a giant con. A case involving a business that he declared was a University despite his ‘Trump University’ holding no legal license to claim so, and without providing students with any qualifications. In addition to this, he has spent the last few days appointing a range of openly anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and deeply authoritarian individuals to his Transition Team. He has claimed to have created a “blind trust” for his business assets, that in truth is no such thing. His business interests will be run by his children, and his business arrangements are therefore not a blind trust in any sense of the term. His children have been invited to attend his meetings with foreign dignitaries, clearly violating any suggestion that his business interests will be walled off from his Presidential activity. And to repeat, he settled a major business fraud case for $25million rather than risk losing the case at trial.
The only Theatre of Cruelty here is that being perpetrated by a President-elect who stands uniquely among all holders of that office in having absolutely no regard for the foundations upon which American government was built, and equally no regard for the students who felt cheated by his allegedly fraudulent business. The drama around a theatre booing Mike Pence is nothing more than a sideshow, and it is recklessly dangerous if we treat it with any kind of urgency while the real cirque du bête continues being normalized while we look the other way.