Sunday, September 23, 2018

The man who trolled the world

A review of "The Trump Secret: Seeing Through the Past, Present, and Future of the New American President" 

Ryuho Okawa is the leader of Happy Science, a new religious movement based in Japan. He is known for his “spiritual interviews” with a long range of politicians and celebrities, both living and dead. The “interview” is really a channeling session during which Okawa claims to be possessed by the “guardian spirit” of the person he wants to interview. The actual “interview” is carried out by Okawa's closest aides, who ask questions to the “spirit” speaking through the cult leader's mouth! I suppose it was just a matter of time before the Happy Science team carried out a faux interview with the most notorious man alive. Yes, that would be Donald Trump, the current president of the United States.

Okawa does a tolerably good job mimicking the “positive thinking” and extreme self confidence of Trump (at one point, Trump claims to be just one level below God!), but he lacks Trump's precise vocabulary. No “believe me”, “amazing, it's amazing” or “yuge” in this peculiar interview. But then, we're supposed to believe that Okawa is really channeling a spirit, so perhaps Trump sounds different in his astral incarnation? It also transpires that Trump's guardian spirit is none other than George Washington, or perhaps that Trump *was* Washington in a previous life. As I noted in a previous review of Okawa's books, the “spirits” frequently sound frivolous. Trump-Washington is no exception. He laughs, refers to Barack Obama as “Black Obama”, calls himself “Captain America” and claims to be a supporter of Happy Science. A curious trait of the material is that Okawa sounds less rambling when he claims to channel spirits, than when he speaks in his own name! Or perhaps this simply means that the séances are heavily edited?

Since Okawa seems to be a nationalist who harbors hopes of future Japanese greatness, his support for Trump probably isn't entirely kooky. There must be some political reason for it, although the rambling and confused style of Okawa's speeches makes it difficult to pin down. My guess is that Happy Science support Trump for two reasons. First, they view China and North Korea rather than Russia as the main enemy of Japan. They hope (perhaps correctly) that Trump will continue confronting China even as he makes peace with Russia. By splitting the Russo-Chinese alliance, China can be isolated. Second, Okawa and Happy Science coldly calculate that Trump's threats to stop subsidizing the Japanese military will force Japan to become more nationalist, self-reliant and aggressive. However, I think Okawa really hopes for a continued U.S.-Japanese alliance. For instance, they hope that the U.S. will eventually attack North Korea and overthrow its current regime. A curious detail emerging from the interviews is that Happy Science originally supported Obama's administration! It's not entirely clear what made them change their minds. Was Obama too soft on China for them?

This is not the most interesting material around. If you're hoping for some kind of trollish entertainment, you will probably be somewhat disappointed. Or are we just spoiled? However, if you are an irreverent cult-watcher or collector of Trump novelty products, I suppose this could be of some passing interest. However, I must admit that I find the real Donald much more entertaining than this...

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