Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Trump’s trade adviser is a terrible filmmaker

Or so says Scott Meslow at the Politico Magazine. Yes Trump's head of the new White House National Trade Council Peter Navarro has made a film, called "Death by China" (what else?).

No I didn't know either.

The film is apparently based on Navarro's book also with the title "Death by China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action".

Perhaps the takeaway from Meslow's review comes early in the article,
As a film critic, I found it an appalling cinematic experience. But it’s a brutally effective, if unsubtle, 79 minutes of propaganda -- which might explain why Trump liked it so much.
Meslow continues,
Within its first five minutes, Death By China lays out the stakes: 57,000 American factories closed, 25 million Americans can’t find "a decent job," and the United States owes $3 trillion to China. The roots of our alleged economic woes, Navarro argues, can be traced back to 2001, when the United States enthusiastically endorsed Beijing’s entry into the World Trade Organization.
Now I have no idea whether this is good film making or not but it sounds like crap economics. As any number of economists have pointed out American's economic woes are not due to trade they have more to do with things like changes in technology.

This bit is interesting,
Navarro attempts to prove this point with an array of cherry-picked talking heads, a series of unenlightening man-on-the-street interviews, and — most strikingly — some computer-animated sequences designed to dramatize Navarro’s argument. In one, a knife bearing the label "Made in China" is plunged into the center of the United States, covering the lower half of the country in a sea of blood. In another, missiles of "currency manipulation" and "illegal export subsidies" are fired from cannons and dropped from planes, leaving American cities in rubble. Navarro structures his film around China’s "Weapons of Job Destruction." Everything is cast in the violent, overheated rhetoric of a war with China — a war Navarro argues we’re losing.

These are all standard tactics in the agitprop documentary playbook: Present one side of a political argument with a dizzying array of semi-credentialed talking heads, leaving dissenting voices on the floor of the editing bay. When your logic is lacking, appeal to emotion instead, depicting derelict factories or unhappy-looking American workers. And, because audiences have been conditioned to expect political documentaries to entertain as well as inform, leaven all the messaging with simplistic cartoons, jaunty music and the occasional joke.
A little later Meslow writes,
Navarro himself appears only briefly, laying out what he views as a practical guide for what the average American can do to combat this threat. "Every time a consumer walks into a Walmart, the first thing they have to do is be aware enough to look for the label. Then, when they pick up that good and it says, 'Made in China,' I want them to think, 'Hmm. It might either break down, or it could kill me, number one. This thing, if I buy it, might cost me, or someone in my family or my friends, their job. Lastly, 'Hey — if I buy this, that money is gonna go over to help finance what is essentially one of the most rapid military build-ups of a totalitarian regime since… when? The '30s. I mean, make no mistake about that."
Again crap economics. So you have been warned. There is more in Meslow's review which you can read for yourself, if you really want to.

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