10 min read

Trump’s Latest Swindle, The Horror in Gaza, and the End of Humanism

Trump’s Latest Swindle, The Horror in Gaza, and the End of Humanism

I’m Umair Haque, and this is The Issue: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported publication. Our job is to give you the freshest, deepest, no-holds-barred insight about the issues that matter most.

New here? Get the Issue in your inbox daily.

  1. ‘Building an authoritarian axis’: the Trump ‘envoy’ courting the global far right (The Guardian)
  2. What It Takes to Break Joe Biden’s Zionist Bubble (The Nation)
  3. After the genocide: what scientists are learning from Rwanda (Nature)
  4. The EU envoy for peace in the Middle East: ‘Cutting off access to water and food is illegal’ (El Pais)
  5. France moves to ban ‘forever chemicals’ in products (Euro News)
  6. This Gen Zer applied to 1,700 jobs but only received one offer (Fortune)
  7. Andrew Huberman’s Mechanisms of Control (NYMag)
  8. The United States and Israel Are Coming Apart (The Atlantic)
  9. Why We Need to, Have to, Want to Act on Climate (Sloan Review)
  10. A Guide to the Total Solar Eclipse (New Yorker)

Trump’s Latest Swindle

Pity the poor fools who fell for it. Trump’s latest swindle. Remember last week’s frenzy about his “new company”? If you’d bought shares at their peak price of around $80, by now, just a few short days later, how much would you have made—or lost? You would have halved your money.

So imagine that some poor grandma put in $50K—now, that’s worth $25K. And it’s only going to get worse from there. 

Last time we discussed this, I pointed out that Truth Social is a company with about $3 million in revenues. When we value companies—hold on while I put on my dusty Chief Exec hat—a “ten times multiple” is very generous. So at the outer limits, this enterprise is worth maybe $30 million, and that’s if you ignore the fact that it lost $60 million last year,  which nobody in their right mind should. 

Now, the reason I take you through all that is that the generally accepted minimum for a stock market listing is usually about $100 million in revenues. In other words, over thirty times what Truth Social has. 

This never should have been allowed to happen. Not by the stock market itself, which looks terrible, and is almost certain to be sued, nor by regulators, nor by anyone, really, who oversees much of anything in the economy. This is as close to a scam as there’s ever been: a company with just $3 million “worth” $5 billion on the “market.” That happened because of an obscure mechanism called a “Special Purpose Acquisition Vehicle,” which appeared to have been set up a couple of years ago precisely for this eventuality: Trump needed a sudden, fast, and very large bailout. But in a sane economy? With a stock market that has rules for, I don’t know, basic sanity and legitimacy? Never, not for a moment.

Because this doesn’t stop here. The poor fools who bought into this have gotten swindled, and good. The stock doesn’t halt its drop here. What’s it actually worth? Zero. As close to nothing as you can get, which is precisely what “a $3 million company that’s losing twenty times that every year” should and would be valued at by anyone with the slightest degree of financial competence. You don’t have to be an investment banker or a finance professor to see that much.

Trump’s stock is now being “shorted,” hard, in massive amounts, which is stock-market speak for “people are betting that it’s value will fall.” It will fall, probably to very near zero, or just above it. That happens more often than you think: Peloton, for example, is worth very near zero, because it’s a company laden down by debt, and without much of a future, in corporate speak. And yet compared to Truth Social, it’s practically a shining beacon of financial rectitude and actual value.

The shares are worth, in truth, nothing. Everybody with half a clue left on Wall St knows that, and always has, which is why the “short ratio,” which is how many people are betting against this stock, is so high—so high, in fact, that it’ll cost you 500% to short the shares, meaning that even that has become costly, since it’s becoming so commonplace. In fact, it’s the most expensive stock to short in the entire economy, by a very long way, which is, in financial terms, like the Voice of God shouting (insert Morgan Freeman voice): this is worthless.

So consider the pitiable fools that bought into this, for a moment. In business speak, they’re “brand super fans,” which means that they were so entranced with the Magic of the Trump Brand, and so seduced by the politics of the authoritarian promise, that they probably believed…the Big Lie…all over again.

Many of the Big Lies you know by now. It’s their fault that America’s “not great anymore,” women, minorities, the LGBT, immigrants, journalists, dirty liberals, professors, hippies, anyone who’s against fascism, aka, the communists, and so on. That’s the sort of foundational Big Lie of fascism, which is soon followed up with the Next One. Get them, purify society of them, erase their existence, take away their rights, and that way, We Will Be Great Again. After that one, comes the Third Big Lie, which is that only by doing all this can you prove you’re one of the Pure and True.

This Big Lie was a little different, but only a little. Trump shares can’t lose! Buy into this, and why, you’ll get rich! There’s no way this stock is going to go down, because the Mighty Power of Trump is omnipotent. You’re going to be…one of the chosen few. See the basic message, and how it obviously sort of mirrors the other Big Lies? 

It’s all a swindle, and all a con. This one is the most transparent of all. The company is worthless, and so the stock is plummeting—and it’s only begun to plummet, right down, inevitably, to zero (at which point, if I were a poor fool of an “investor” in this mess, I’d sue NASDAQ to high heaven for allowing this…mess, this obvious con game, because stock markets have rules, regulations, and requirements, too.) 

No, you don’t get to be one of the chosen people just through the Magic Power of Trump. In this case, all you get to be is poorer. A whole lot poorer, if you were one of the people who sadly put a lot of their money into this incredibly obvious swindle, and weren’t stopped from doing so. 

And yet that larger pattern is the game here. The other Three Big Lies—get the scapegoats, erase their existence, and that’s how you get to be one of the chosen people—are just that, too, Big Lies. Where do they end? They leave the very people enacting them poorer, too, in less visible ways, perhaps, but perhaps even more pernicious ones. 

When societies devote themselves to ritual missions of purification, of course, they don’t do what’s useful, productive, or beneficial, and so such societies grow poorer. Their social bonds erode, their cultures decay into hate and spite, and their opportunities dwindle and diminish. You’d think that Trumpists would have learned all that by now—what really improved, even for them, during the last Trump era? Nothing: American life remained the bleak, brutal battle that it’s turned into, and Papa Trump hardly fixed any of that, or the broken lives, the shattered upward trajectories, the blighted communities, or any of the other forms of ruin that face the former working and lower middle classes.

It’s all a swindle, in other words. But what the shocking debacle of Truth Social shows us is that…the swindle is just allowed to go and on. In this particular case, the con should, emphatically, have been stopped—by NASDAQ, financial regulators, any number of parties whose job it was to prevent people from being bilked in this way. And in the other ways, the Three Big Lies—well, the Democrats are hardly doing a good job of debunking them, nor is media, and they continue to just permeate society, creating true and fervent believers, and passionate crusaders who are ready to go full ride-or-die in the mission of purifying society and elevating Trump to dictator, democracy be damned.

Even though it’s all a swindle, sadly, the swindles go on working. That’s why despite it all, Trump’s still a front-runner for President. So think about how shocking this is: even after Jan 6th, the abuses of power, all of it, Trump just ran the biggest swindle in the economy, and he’s still the leading contender for President. When I put it like that…go right ahead and shudder, because, yeah: that’s almost comically bad.

The Horror in Gaza

Jose Andres said that what just happened in Gaza was “deliberate.” He’s the chef who created World Food Kitchen, the charity that was trying to deliver food to Gaza, where millions are on the brink of starvation—whose cars were bombed to bits, in a drone strike. Is he…right? Wrong? Does it matter?

I haven’t written much about Gaza in recent weeks. I’ve been reticent to. What can my voice really add? But now I have to admit that I should have. What’s happening in Gaza beggars belief even for me.

It appears that any form of barbarity or violence is now fair game.

War, they say, has rules. This weak protest is heard from the lips of diplomats around the world these days. But what “rules of war”—even if we accept the absurdity of such a thing—haven’t been broken in Gaza, by now? Is it against the rules of war to do any of the following things:

  • To bomb people’s homes to bits, en masse, so that entire regions are unliveable;
  • To force people to move, into refugee camps, where the basics of live are barely available;
  • To then prevent aid from arriving, choking off points of delivery and access;
  • To then bomb the few remaining aid routes that are left, killing the aid workers, and sending the pretty clear message: your life is at risk if you help these people?

All of that is against the “rules of war.” All of them, by the way. And so what’s happening in Gaza makes a mockery of…the entire post-war era, really. All these pretty conventions and treaties that the world nobly and solemnly signed. From declarations of universal rights to agreements that civilians aren’t to be harmed—right down to the whole concept behind them.

What Happened to Humanism?

What was that larger idea, anyways? Humanism. Remember that? Humanism is an incredibly simple idea, and it was like a Big Bang in history for that reason. It says that every human life is equal, has inherent value, holds possibility, and deserves universal rights. Each and every single one.

All the progress we have made in the post-war era is about this. This great and beautiful idea. It is what underlies all the treaties and conventions and agreements. To make that really clear, the world’s nations didn’t come together and start agreeing on things like rights for people and protections for civilians and even the slightly baffling idea of “rules for war” because they were united by beliefs in divine protection. But because of humanism. Because it really did change our world—perhaps faster and better than any other philosophy in history.

And yet what Gaza teaches us is the following bleak and bitter lesson.

Humanism does not matter anymore. Perhaps it never did. Its age appears to be coming to an end now, and Gaza is the violent rupture that proves it to be a relic of history.

It should be obvious why that’s the lesson, but let me spell it out if it’s not. Some people’s lives don’t appear to matter whatsoever to the West. Joe Biden appears to have no sympathy or empathy whatsoever towards Gazans, and it’s utterly shocking to behold. I often say that he’s been a pretty good President, but even I’m startled by this lack of…humanity.

And because some people’s lives don’t matter whatsoever—they can be crushed, starved, annihilated like ants, animals, or like they never existed at all—what purpose then can rules, treaties, or agreements serve? They don’t apply to those people, because, of course, those people aren’t considered people at all. So, in the now familiar criticism, Biden will “scold” and “exhort” Netanyahu—but won’t stop actually sending bombs. Bombs that by now kill not just innocent Gazans, but the aid workers just trying to deliver their starving kids…food.

Writing all of that makes me sound pretty radical, like an activist, maybe. And I feel sorrowful about that, too. Because I’m not one. I’m just a normal guy, and I’m not that into politics at all. But confronted with horror like this? How else is a civilized person supposed to react? 

You see, the job of a leader, among others, is to model certain responses for us. And in Biden’s utter lack of empathy for Gazans, a certain behavior is modelled, too. Does he care about any of us? “Brown guys,” like me, minorities, just add to the list as you see fit: where’s the line where someone becomes enough of a person for power to care? Is that line about being “white” enough, even though race is a fiction? Is it…about being the right…religion? Just being born in the right place? I don’t know where that line is for power, but I do know it’s nothing short of chilling watching Biden clearly model the thought, idea, behavior: hey, these people aren’t people, and so, sure, I’ll scold those who are annihilating them, but stop sending bombs? Forget it! That’s the line I won’t cross.

In all that lies death. Not just the death of innocent people, which, sadly, in the world we’ve made, has never been remarkable. Not even death on the shocking scale of a Gaza, in which collective punishment has been disproportionately real, and we’ve seen that the entire post-war order can be discarded, if the aim is to destroy the lives of those who aren’t people in the first place. But the death of the most powerful idea in history, humanism.

We see it dying in Biden’s indifference. In the way aid workers are bombed, “deliberately,” according to the man who created the organization. In the way that no form of punishment seems severe enough, from mass starvation, to blowing up people’s lives, homes, and loved ones—and the entire world is impotent to stop this tragedy, just because those with the guns, money, the power, have decided…this is how it’s going to be. 

The way it always was, before humanism. In darker ages, when life didn’t matter, because nobody deserved it, had inherent rights to any form of it, and were just created to be subjugated, exploited and enslaved. This is what Gaza teaches us. The death of humanism is here, and it’s real, and worse, the center in the West will get angry at the rest of us for demanding something better than violence, hate, and ruin, great and noble goals like peace, truth, and justice. Those are elements of humanism, which are greater, even, in the final analysis, than democracy, because they anchor it in the bedrock of being. All that is dying before our eyes, in the ashes of a place called Gaza.

I’m sorry that sounds a little extreme, or angry, or radical. It isn’t meant to. I feel sorrow about all of it, but most of all, if I’m honest, watching humanism die, in such a violent way—it chills me to the bone, because it provokes the question: once our humanity dies, what happens next?

❤️ Don't forget...

📣 Share The Issue on your Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

💵 If you like our newsletter, drop some love in our tip jar.

📫 Forward this to a friend and tell them all all about it.

👂 Anything else? Send us feedback or say hello!