How I Became A Prophet
And how you can become one too—by not really trying, using your imagination, paying attention, and getting old
The last few years, and the last few weeks—QAnon cultists entering Congress as both invaders and members, the GameStop madness—have made me feel prescient and even, occasionally, megalomaniacally, I must confess, prophetic.
In the beginning was Trump. The satirical magazine Spy, which I co-founded, covered him a lot. As part of our 1988 election coverage, we commissioned a poll asking “Who are you most disappointed isn’t running for president?” In addition to legitimate politicians, we offered Trump as a choice, and 4% picked him, about as many as picked Joe Biden. “In terms of level of education, the voters who most favored a Trump candidacy—9%—were those whose minds remain uncluttered by any education beyond junior high school.” “We’ve come to believe,” we declared, mock-seriously, “that a Donald Trump candidacy is viable,” and what’s more, “we already have Donald Trump’s personal guarantee that if he did run for president, he would win.”
Right after that we started always referring to him in the magazine as “short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump”—and then, voilà, 28 years later, there he was running for president, and after one of his opponents joked in 2016 that “his hands are the size of someone who’s five-two,” Trump complained at the next debate that “he hit my hands, nobody has ever hit my hands, I have never heard of this.”
In my first novel, Turn of the Century (1999), when one of the main characters reads an item in a gossip column—“WHAT distinguished casino mogul and real estate genius arranged to get which liberal newspaper columnist reprimanded after the writer unfairly attacked him?”—he “wonders how many items Trump must offer to ‘Page Six’ that they decline to run.” Then in 2016, as the real Trump was making attacks on the press a centerpiece of his candidacy, we learned in the press that for years he had phoned reporters posing as his own publicist.