Hatred Trumps Hope By Tom Shachtman

The American Prophet Who Predicted Trump

The uncanny insights (and incredible life) of the American longshoreman and political prophet. By Tom Shachtman

Whether or not Donald Trump knows it, he’s running his presidential campaign out of Eric Hoffer’s playbook. That would be The True Believer, published 65 years ago this spring, a book about mass movements. Hoffer’s big insight was that the followers of Nazism and Communism were essentially the same sort of true believers, the most zealous acolytes of religious, nationalist, and other mass movements throughout history.

In 1951, it was stunning to Americans to be told that ultra-right-wing Nazis and ultra-left-wing Communists—their recent enemies of World War II and current enemies in the Cold War—were, according to Hoffer, cut from the same cloth. “All mass movements,” he explained, “irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred, and intolerance.”

Hatred and hope were the most important lures, Hoffer contended, hatred much more than hope: “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”

Trump’s followers have responded most enthusiastically to the candidate’s diatribes against such devils as Mexicans and other “illegal immigrants,” Muslims of any stripe, unattractive or pushy women, clueless policy-makers, “loser” opposing candidates, and reporters who ask him other than softball questions.

The pollsters tell us that Trump’s followers share a decided affinity for authoritarianism, as well as beliefs that government causes more problems than it solves and that immigrants (and people with darker skins, and women) have stolen their jobs and their futures.

More: Trumpsters have little regard for facts that contradict their stances. Hoffer could have predicted this. “It is the true believer’s ability to ‘shut his eyes and stop his ears’ to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence.”

Hoffer described in detail who the true believers were: the frustrated, the disaffected, the dissatisfied with the status quo, those who put their faith in a leader promising simple yet radical solutions to their and society’s problems. “We join a mass movement,” Hoffer wrote, “to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the young Nazi, ‘to be free from freedom.’

“Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the loss of faith in ourselves.

“All mass movements deprecate the present,” wrote Hoffer, “and there is no more potent dwarfing of the present than by viewing it as a mere link between a glorious past and a glorious future.” That’s what Trump is doing when he vows to “make America great again”—celebrating what was and will be, while denigrating what is.

Trumpsters are predominantly white, native-born American males who do not have college degrees, and are economically in the lower middle class rather than among the very poorest. Actually, in these ways they are more like Eric Hoffer than many other Americans. In a 1964 article, Hoffer identified himself and his fellow longshoremen as white men from poor backgrounds, with little education and no skills except for their willingness to do backbreaking manual labor, who “do not feel that the world owes us anything, or that we owe anybody—white, black, or yellow—a damn thing.”

Hoffer was the only child of Alsatian immigrants, born in the Bronx around the turn of the 20th century—sometimes he said 1898, at others, 1902—who grew up poor. When he was 5 he and his mother fell down a flight of stairs; she died and he went blind. His blindness prevented him from going to school, and upon regaining his sight at 15 he continued studying on his own until he was 18, when his father died. Using a small death award from his father’s union, Hoffer traveled to Los Angeles and in the 1920s became a day-worker and Skid Row denizen—reading voraciously in libraries between gigs—in the 1930s an itinerant agricultural field hand, and in 1943 a unionized San Francisco dockworker, a position he retained even after becoming a best-selling author, and until he reached mandatory retirement age in 1967.

He initially took that job on the docks to have more stability to write, but retained the wariness of the itinerant, knowing, as he told his first editor, that he must “guard against fear, self-righteousness, and wishful thinking, for these blunt the mind and the senses.” In the same vein, Hoffer chose not to read Freud, Marx, or other influential intellectuals—he hated intellectuals—so that he would not be swayed by their explanations and jargon. During his itinerant years he began jotting down his thoughts in 3-by-5 inch notebooks carried in his pockets and backpacks, which I was able to consult at the Hoover Institution for my 2011 biography, American Iconoclast: The Life and Times of Eric Hoffer.

Unlike Trump’s followers, Hoffer early on understood that “undesirables” were not the enemy. That revelation occurred in 1934, when as a transient fruit-and-vegetable picker he was swept up and placed in the El Centro camp at the edge of the southern California desert near the Mexican border, and for the first time had to co-exist with 200 other men. Prior to that, he considered himself “just a human being, neither good nor bad, and on the whole, harmless,” but after a month at El Centro he realized he belonged to “a certain type of humanity, the undesirables.”

Some were lame, some were foreign-born, some were tramps, some were much darker-skinned than the rest but, he concluded, all were the same as the “undesirables” who for generations had fled from Europe and Asia and became American pioneers, the people who for 300 years had built our farms and roads and cities and institutions.
Throughout the rest of his life, Eric Hoffer continued to venerate and celebrate the “undesirables” as America’s real founding fathers.


To Be A Poet (by Aubrey Marcus) 

To be a poet is to wake up every morning and file the callouses from your senses. You scrub them until they are so raw that your familiar lover smells of lust and danger, a cup of coffee is like a warm hug from an old friend, and morning sunshine still tickles with the light of unmanifested dreams.

Stephen Dunn says, “All good poems are victories over something.” The poet trades 1000 days of idle leisure for any adventure. A chance at victory. A chance that their entire life can be an epic poem that echoes in the halls of eternity.

If on this path a poet suffers a tragedy, she does not claw in panic from the depths of despair. She breathes… and digs deeper. For she knows that her only salvation is on the other side of that hole, where there are no demons left unmasked, and no poisonous tears unspilled.

To be a poet is to have one true enemy with many names. Emptiness, numbness, apathy. When a poet feels these things he throws himself into a passion, a challenge, a fight, a dance, anything to make him feel. He despises those ameliorates that dull his senses, and heralds that which fuels his fire. And if that which fuels his fire is fire itself, he cares not. For as Soren Kierkegaard says, “A poet is not an apostle; he drives out devils only by the power of the devil.”

A poet can express unimaginable joy, but he never brags. A poet can express unimaginable heartbreak, but he never complains. A poet is a tuning fork that resounds the human experience, and Fortune herself, the striker.

The difference between a poet and a soldier, is that the soldier’s heart is full of scars armored in Spartan red. Whatever pain he might feel, whatever innocence he may carry is guarded by his impenetrable ethos. A poet goes to life without armor because he knows only when you are vulnerable to injury are you susceptible to bliss.

Walt Whitman wrote the prayer for the soul of a poet. “Sail Forth- Steer for the deep waters only. Reckless O soul, exploring. I with thee and thou with me. For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared go. And we will risk the ship, ourselves, and all.”

What is life then, but one grand adventure, one epic poem? To be a poet is to embrace the story of your life as it unfolds. To play the hero, to fall in love, to have your heart broken, to fall in love again, again, again, to fail, to despair, to inspire… To be a poet is to live.



 “Authority is supposedly grounded in wisdom, but I could see from a very early age that authority was only a system of control and it didn’t have any inherent wisdom. I quickly realized that you either became a power or you were crushed”  Joe Strummer

The flower of America’s youth lift and flutter like bees as they skyrocket, soaring like gliders above the sidewalk in front of the Dairy Queen in my small American hamlet. In chaotic formations, high on hearts afire they transmit their pollen of optimism on each other and send me a glorious contact buzz.

They are dressed as soldiers in an army of denim and sneakers hidden under Caps & Gowns that flow; like ersatz apparitions floating on an ocean of idealism, that tasty narcotic designer drug; an alchemist potion hypnotizing only the young before that giant pull to mediocrity descends like a Monty Python hammer out of silvery clouds.

Time again for a fresh hive of oracles to partake of perennial ceremonies where diplomas and degrees are conferred unto them; to commence, to embark on an infinite choice of new beginnings. Those designated the honor will select and summon anointed icons of implicit success to lecture young scholars on what grand awakenings lay ahead and on what their commencement truly meant.

It seems a reasonable endeavor to send the next posse of young scholars, leader’s of a new world they will make for us all, off into the world with a road-map of sorts and I’m not dismissive of that enterprise. Yet I’ve often wondered whether it would not be more instructive and infinitely more entertaining to have society’s most infamously fallen hold forth on rules for avoiding wrong directions; rather than have its most famous masters of the universe gush their particular touchstones illuminating right directions.

This logic is in service of the view that it’s much harder to stay on top than to get there; perhaps we could arrange a weekend furlough for Bernie Madoff or O.J. Simpson to impart their riveting tales of how it can so easily unravel after reaching the nadir of accomplishment; since its darkness that lay in shadows and it’s hits you don’t see that strike the worst blows.

Or, if the presence of anti-heroes on such an auspicious occasion upsets the fathers of academia, maybe better to have more suitable mainstays explain the bullet point set of laws that best kept them from spinning out to an epic crash landing. Maya Angelou, for instance, could impart some of her greatest hits, such as; “Never fear anyone enough to lie”.

The recent fascination with the Millennial, Generation Y, 80 million strong and not only the largest age group in American history but one I have affinity for since it was my generation that spawned them and my Muse is a charter member, has had written many a ton of overwrought comments and reviews directed at them, much of it branding our best chance out of this mess a generation of lazy, entitled narcissists. That stupefying stupidity is not only arrogant horse manure but more importantly misses the point.

While there’s a fine line between the Joe Strummer epiphany and self-absorption, much credit for having navigated this cage match maze must be awarded those past the age of twenty-seven for nothing more than surviving an always dangerous childhood and having bested Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendricks, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse; all dead as fried chicken at twenty-seven.

I should stipulate from the outset that I think I’m special as well. I know I’m probably not, but the point is I think I am; just like the Millennial’s; and I give them credit for that. Sure they expect a lot, and feel they deserve even more and what could be wrong with that bit of victorious thinking? After all, it’s not our ancestors that we are meant to make proud; it’s ourselves we have to be proud of; and it’s not possible to enhance self-esteem without humping a thick slice of ego.

If this predilection leads to feelings of unmet expectations, they’ll get over it the same as we did. None suffered more feelings of where’s the beef than Baby Boomers and look what our angst gave birth to. Being overconfident trumps its opposite by miles. The Millennial’s are undisputed the most exciting generation since the Baby Boomers, that greatest generation that brought us necessary social revolution.

The reason for so much criticism and lack of championing for our next best of breed is the existential angst harbored by the presently élite; shaken in the knowledge that our progeny just don’t need us. My generation tried to buck the system and throw the bums out; but this new generation can simply do without any of it and all of us. Hopefully, and most present in the eyes of anarchist everywhere, this attitude will cause the myth of the necessary system to die from an excess of indifference and apathy. Feel the Bern!

This right thinking sense of entitlement empowers and does not arise from ignorance or arrogance. It arises because young people need to believe they’re worth something; since the world — one where economic instability has led to fewer opportunities, the devaluation of college degrees, and stagnant wages — tells them they’re not.

Again, as Strummer posits, feeling entitled to greatness as a result of our talents causes a shedding of the role of victim and an adopting of the role of innovator, challenger and champion; demonstrating that not all twenty-something’s are lazy and entitled from a sense of privilege.

More than ½ of Generation Y does not ensue pre-packaged mythologies of religion but instead sets their compass of guiding morality on themselves; knowing they’ll just be able to feel what’s right and don’t see that opinion as  radical belief or negative emotion.

While I believe we are in good hands and subscribe to Pink Floyd’s notion to “leave those kids alone” I will humbly offer some advice of my own, which is not only a wont particular to me, but is also the privilege of old men. Would it were me at the podium at commencement speech time I’d keep the advice to three things.

Loyalty: The famous author Hugh Lunn once said Friends are god’s apology for relations; but this alone does not say it. So for the first golden nugget I’d offer loyalty as the thing to value the most; because in this world, the reality realm, without it you are nothing. While science has proved that cynicism hardens the arteries, so to has life shown the unrivaled value of friends; the code most notably useful goes thusly: Loyalty above all else except honor. This axiom extends to bosses as well. When working for a man; work for him. If the day comes when you can not resist the necessity to criticize the leader behind his back; it’s time to move on.

Reputation: Reputation is the gold standard of character. Everyone starts out with one as pristine as arctic ice and no one save the self can sully it. A person with a good one can do anything and legions will line up to follow those who have held it precious.

Advantage: Those blessed with charm and charisma, once out in the world, will find it easy to take advantage of others; don’t. And know that no one will ever be able to take advantage of you unless you think you can get something for nothing.

What the Millennials will do in the next transformation of America will make history. It makes me envious; desirous to witness the future they will make.  In the words of Hyman Roth’s Meyer Lansky, in Francis Coppola’s famous film The Godfather; Lee Steinberg laments:  “If I could only live to see it; to be there with you. What I wouldn’t give for another twenty years”. Damn Skippy Francis; me too.


Those that know don’t say; those that say don’t know”

The ball bearings hadn’t stopped bouncing on Boylston Street when the first website link hit my in-box proclaiming, yet again, that we’d done it to ourselves. False Flag Operation to be sure shouted the pedantic dilettantes; that jester mob of fake experts, closet geniuses who have locked on to conspiracy theory to explain, in my view, why they are such losers. It’s just a theory I have that goes thusly; the government is corrupt, the system’s corrupt, that’s why the wonder that is me has not rightly ascended the social or economic evolutionary ladder.

These are the same propeller-heads that wreak havoc on us daily with computer viruses just because they can, and they do it for free; proof they are so illogical they couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with a base fiddle or find their own asses with both hands. If they weren’t either incapable or unwilling to create something that results in a paycheck and move out of Mom’s basement; they would. But instead they thrill us with their acumen. Yesterday I was eating cocoa-puffs, watching porn in my underwear and making love to my AR-15, but today I’m an expert on international espionage. You bet Bumpkin.

The professional wing-nuts like Rush and Beck and their ilk are laughing all the way to the bank; I get that. JFK lost his head for trying to stop a money laden war before it got really revved up and no one, President to Pope, will be allowed to live if he’s got his hands on that tiller; and I get that. The sensational Americans that make up the armaments industry will not willingly give up a tit that milks ¾ of a trillion dollars a year, at 25% profit, into their coffers any more than gun pushers will give up the 30 billion a year they earn from slinging hot bullet mayhem; not without a fight they won’t; taking out a President or allowing the slaughter of  a few dozen 5th graders; no problem. When war and guns are that profitable, it’s certain we’ll see more of it and them; and I get that too. Money changes everything.

I tend to find interest in surveys that cast a wide net; similar to the one’s seen on the CNN website, wherein they ask a question so ridiculous you’d think 100% of the surveyed, not retarded, would answer in the affirmative. Yet every time it seems, 30% of the responders answers in the negative. This is for me the metric that establishes my theory; 3 out of 10 of us are bat-shit crazy. I’m just saying.

I get the slime balls that attempt to frighten the weak and scared already with their ridiculous plot fantasies for money. What’s fascinating is the wide cross-section of otherwise reasonable regular folk’s that seemingly sign up for this horse shit willingly and claim to believe it, the aforementioned clown posse aside. Where’s the money there?

According to the imbeciles, from 911 to Sandy Hook to JFK Jr’s ill advised nighttime flight into a fog filled sky; every trench coat and black helicopter is filled by an evil American provocateur; groomers of yet another Manchurian Candidate, and no scrap of mislabeled “fact and evidence” is to small and nondescript to make certain their whimsy; James Earl Ray had his Raoul; and the Tsarnaev boys have their Misha; enough for the truly lame to pass for substantiation.

If these Shakespearean dramas did not validate the masturbatory daytime fantasies of this class of inbred nitwits, I suppose we could shrug it off as comic relief; but it does. And therein, as Willy Shakes lamented; lay the rub.

I’ll Never Forget What’s Her Name

“If you’re traveling to the North Country Fair; where the winds hit heavy on the borderline; remember me to one who lives there; for she once was; a true love of mine.”Girl from the North CountryBob Dylan

She’d come by the Commune’ selling Kush she hawked for her dealer on the side.  Smoking hot, tiny and tight and Midwestern lovely with an air that spoke she came from good stock; a daddy’s little rich girl getting her kicks playing bad on the dirty side of the field; had that wild but pure charisma thing going in spades; a real heart breaker.

I never spoke to her much; Maverick did the deals with her and she’d hang for a while afterwards and toke up a bowl with us. She always gave me the eye and like most of them saw the power and indifference and probably relished the challenge; wanted it to be sure; maybe she thought it would rub off on her or maybe she just wanted to get inside of it. I was used to the whimsical possessive vibe; a common occurrence for innocent flower children in that era.

One night she came by to see me and in no time flat off we sped in her rocket ride straight to her parents’ house. The electricity had long built up between us so it wasn’t more than ten minutes after she led me to her bedroom that we crashed into each other.

“You’re such a stud. Most guys I know are wimps. You’ve got charisma and I like your muscles and you’re smart but mostly I like that you’re cocky and you have a cock a girl wants to marry”, she said as we tangled the bed-clothes. I didn’t know if that last gush was a compliment or not but I didn’t ask since when she said it she had her hand down my pants and my little head in a passionate death grip.

She was a talker and after the deed was done held forth some more. “That thing you did to my toes last night made me come a little”, she said. I like that you waited cause’ when you finally (she drew out this word) touched me I came”, she said. She wouldn’t stop romancing me and I didn’t want her to though she was reciting this rock hardening stuff like learned rote from a script; but then she was an aspiring actress and it sounded rehearsed. I joined in and as she melted into me with every compliment I laid them on like hot southern gravy on mashed potatoes. Hours passed and I kept hearing that commercial that plays over and over every time I turn on my TV. “For an erection that lasts more than four hours seek medical help”.


She was my toy and I couldn’t stop playing with her;  an Olympian in the sack and our acrobatics would have gotten a ten from the judges. I now understand why some are driven to video tape their sex-escapades though I keep ours locked in my brain vault. Her body was at once like Masonite yet soft and yielding with those ski sloop breast and high shelf bottom. She had skin like alabaster and long strawberry colored hair; a classic Irish Colleen.

She was young, way too young for me, maybe fifteen years my junior; so much so that when she said “fuck me daddy” I finally managed to form a declarative sentence.  Well, I started to but now she sounded sincere and so good that I just kept mute. My endorphins were firing overtime and I could taste the adrenaline in my mouth even past her tongue which tasted like cherries. She smelled like rain and must have paid a fortune for that underwear which she had stripped down to in the most erotic way. It was an epic communion; but to be fair her bed was firm and lent itself to achieving maximum purchase.

I could hear bird’s chirping and kids playing outside. It must be Sunday morning I thought; we’d been up all night. I could hear her padding around on the hard wood floor fussing to find her sexy little waitress uniform. She ran a bath and lead me to the fragrant steamy bubble bath. She bathed me with a sea sponge and made sure the experience would be memorable; I was catatonic. She pried me out of the tub and dried me off with a huge Turkish bath towel, wrapped me in it and told me to lie down on the cushy couch while she made a breakfast of Belgium waffles with honey and blueberries and the best coffee I ever tasted.

I passed out on the couch and she went to work waiting tables. When she got back I had just gotten up and dressed. She packed a bag and we jumped into her Volkswagen and headed for the Wisconsin border where I had a buddy with a farm-house out in the boonies; wood stove, no heat; outhouse; real rustic. She’d scored some Mexican brown from the bus boys at the restaurant and we pulled over to inhale some. It was my first time and it was trans-formative. I was flying high with angels, truly in heaven. I was so in love lust I had to pull over to the shoulder every ten miles or so just so we could make out which elicited frantic honks from jealous truckers.

Once we got to the farmhouse and got settled we all dropped some acid; then did some more brown. The third day in it hit me like being kicked in the belly by a mule. I staggered outside and dropped face first into the snow writhing in pain. When it passed I went back inside and they all, looking at me in shock, said I had turned pure white. That was some weekend.

We drove back to the commune’ and she left then came back the next day wanting more but I was busy. Just then two euro-trash yuppies pulled up in a convertible sports car and in she hopped and away they went never to be seen again. I think her name was Barbara or Sandra; something with an “a” in it.

After the way she’d slow danced with my soul I’d planned to give her six months. Had she stayed with me she’d have been two years just catching her breath. But by the time she came back, lost and lonely, I was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; on my way to Africa; half way around the world.

Man she sure could cook.