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writing for godot

Perry Mason on Trump: ​‘Incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial’

Written by Robert Douglas   
Sunday, 19 July 2020 02:33


Our Reality Show President might not do well in rerun


If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

George Berkeley, the Irish philosopher, posed this question in 1710 as a thought experiment.

f you don’t test for Covid-19, are there really any cases?

Donald Trump, the U.S. President, is posing variations of this question in 2020 as a political gambit.


Berkeley championed the theory of immaterialism, which holds that things don’t exist unless we perceive them. Since Trump doesn’t read, he probably has not studied the theory of immaterialism as advanced by Berkeley. But since he watches a lot of television, it’s almost certain he’s familiar with the theory of “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial,” as advanced on Perry Mason reruns.


In fact, I could make a case that Trump is the embodiment of incompetence, irrelevance and the immaterial, inasmuch as he:

  • has botched the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic;
  • routinely interjects new talking points to divert the media when the news isn’t going his way; and
  • is forever chasing conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact and peddling lies to his gullible followers, confident that they will perceive them as fact.

It would be funny if it were not so serious.

His pandemic response  shows  us who he is

His incompetent leadership in the face of the biggest public health care crisis in our lifetime is costing lives and resulting in economic hardship. If the U.S. had acted as quickly and decisively as South Korea and Germany, for example, we could have saved thousands of lives and jobs.


And Trump’s aversion to masks and social distancing, combined with his obsession with opening up the economy and sending children back to school before it is safe, is more than irresponsible. If he were a real war-time president, as has styled himself, his mishandling of these issues would constitute war crimes.


But Trump is a master at diverting attention from the magnitude of his incompetence by creating distractions that our ADHD corporate media chase like cats stalking a laser beam zapped by a delinquent  human in a dark room. So whenever his ineptitude comes into too sharp a focus in the public’s mind, Trump waves his laser pointer at an unrelated issue and sends the press corps scurrying. Often, it is something that puts him in a poor light. For example:

If his diversions get the focus off his handling of Covid-19: mission accomplished.


While the incompetence of Trump is scandalous and his canny mastery of the irrelevance is audacious, it is his embrace of the immaterial that would make Hamilton Burger’s jaw drop and George Berkeley rethink the notion that reality doesn’t exist unless we perceive it.


Imagine Trump on TV trial

Imagine, if you will, a Twilight Zone episode of Perry Mason where Trump is on trial for negligence in his presidential stewardship of our nation’s public health crisis. Under cross-examination from District Attorney Burger, Trump says the only reason that we know so many people are dying from the corona virus is that we do so much testing.


“Therefore,” he argues, “if there was less testing and fewer fake news stories about clogged ICUs and refrigerated trucks relieving overbooked morgues, no one would notice and we could get on with Making America Great Again.”


Burger is speechless. Mason is silent. Trump is excused. But before he steps down, he finds the camera for C-SPAN, which is covering the trial as if it were an impeachment hearing, and says:


“This whole proceeding is a witch hunt organized by Barack Obama, George Soros, the deep state and The Squad. I’ve done a perfect job fighting this Chinese virus thing. We have the greatest economy in history and if we have to lose a few workers and students to keep it going, it’s worth it to me and my people.”


The next witness is called. Because he’s under quarantine, George Berkeley appears viaZoom. Burger asks him to explain the notion that things don’t exist until we perceive them and asks if his thoughts on immaterialism have evolved over the last 300 years.


“Back when I was alive, I was thinking of trees in a forest,” he says. “Not public health policy. I was posing my question as a philosophical exercise. I never thought someone could build an alternate universe based purely on perception with no basis in reality. But then, I never conceived the possibility that civilization could devolve to the point where we have a Donald Trump and Fox News.


“With the corona virus, Trump and his friends at Fox have sought to create a fantasy that denies the reality of the pandemic we’re facing -- a reality that needs science-based methods to confront.


“I’m here today to answer my own question, Mr. Burger. If the pandemic were a tree in the forest, and all I heard was Trump on Fox, it would still cause death and destruction.”


“So, yes, my thoughts have evolved in the Age of Trump. If disciples of Trump don’t want to believe the pandemic is real until they perceive it, it’s possible they’ll already be dead when they do. I feel it would be incompetent of me to not revise my thoughts on  immaterialism to remain relevant today.”


“Your witness,” Burger says to Mason.


“I have no questions,” Mason tells the judge. “But if the court would indulge me, I’d like to unilaterally change my client’s plea from not guilty to guilty by reason of incompetence, irrelevance and immaterialism.”



Robert Douglas is a former business editor for the Palm Beach Post and Fort LauderdaleSun-Sentinel. You can contact him at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , like him on onFacebook, or follow him at RBDMediaDotCom on Twitter. your social media marketing partner
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