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Malignant Trumpware

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The United States is beset by two viruses: COVID-19, which is highly contagious and causes respiratory distress; and Donald Trump - a form of malware, which is also contagious and causes acute psychological damage. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of smell and taste; some cases progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome and 3.5 percent result in death. Trumpware causes massive loss of judgement; some cases progress to cult-like behavior and, in a small percentage, a willingness to grant Trump dictatorial power.

There is no known antidote to COVID-19. We're all trying to avoid contracting it by preventative actions such as washing our hands often, avoiding close contact when outside our homes -- maintaining a protective distance of six feet, and covering our mouths and noses with cloth face covers.

There is an antidote to Trumpware; it's the presidential election on November 3rd. Nonetheless, in the next 100 days, there are steps you can take to avoid being contaminated by the Trump social virus. The first is to understand it.

Malicious software --malware -- has been around since at least 1988. It is software designed to intentionally damage elements of a computer network.

Donald Trump has been around since 1946, but it can been argued that his malware career began in 1988 with the opening of the "Trump Taj Mahal" casino in Atlantic city.

The initial malware -- computer viruses and worms -- were primarily cruel pranks; such as forcing obscene material on someone's home screen. Since 2003 the majority of malware has been more malicious, designed to take control of a computer environment for illicit purposes: spying, damage, or ransom. (Ransomware takes control of an environment and will not relinquish control until a fee is paid.)

From 1988 until 2003, Donald Trump was not taken seriously; he was, in effect, a cruel prank. Since 2003, and the advent of The Apprentice, Trump has become more malicious. In 2016, Trumpware assumed its modern forms.

In some voters, a Trumpware infection is relatively benign. It takes control of the right frontal lobe and causes loss of rational decision making. For example, devout Christians begin to believe that Trump is one of them; that he was "chosen by God" to represent their cause. As another example, formerly principled conservatives adopt the stance that the ends justify the means: "I don't like Trump personally, or his tweets, but I love his policies." Or "fiscally conservative" Republicans look the other way while the Trump Administration increases the federal deficit ($864 billion for 2020) and runs up the national debt (currently $20.5 trillion).

Unfortunately, in some voters, Trumpware takes on a more malicious form: cultware. Trump has boasted, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." For a significant percentage of Republicans, this is true. For these voters, Trump can do no wrong. Members of the Trump cult reject suggestions that he is unfit for office and cling to the notion that Donald will magically provide them with a big slice of the American dream. (Some believe that, in the process, Trump will have to "blow up" Washington; in essence, destroy the U.S. institutions that have served Americans for the last 250 years.)

The extreme behavior of members of the Trump cult has fostered the ransomware version of Trumpware: Trump and his supporters threaten, "Give us what we want or we will bring down American democracy." Trump demeans civility and encourages violent behavior at this rallies. He threatens the November 3rd elections by advocating various forms of voter suppression. He sends paramilitary forces to disrupt peaceful demonstrations.

Computer ransomware takes control of an environment and will not relinquish control until a fee is paid. Trump has control of the White House and is holding it for ransom.

 

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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