Politics

What happens when you stand up to Donald Trump?

Anthony Baxter, who made a film about Donald Trump’s Scottish golf development, describes what it’s like to take him on

Donald Trump at golf course in Scotland

Turn on a TV, switch on the radio or pick up a daily paper and you will catch the latest edition of the Donald Trump show. But what started as a mildly amusing ‘what’s he going to say next?’ question has now turned into something more sinister.

Muhammad Ali and David Cameron were among those who criticised Trump’s comments about banning Muslims from entering the United States – but what the world has witnessed as Trump steps up his campaign for the White House is merely an intensification of what I experienced while making the films You’ve Been Trumped and A Dangerous Game. Then I saw at first-hand how Trump preys on fears while saying one thing and doing another. And now he is using the same tactic on a global scale. Proof that a leopard doesn’t change its spots.

In 2010 Trump promised the people of Scotland he would build “the greatest golf course in the world”. Six thousand jobs was the pledge. A $1.5bn investment, a luxury hotel, 1,500 houses and two championship golf courses – all to be built on one of Britain’s last remaining wilderness areas. Trump preyed on the economic fears of short-sighted Scottish politicians, saying his golf course would save the local economy.

Eager to please their new billionaire friend, Scotland’s then first minister Alex Salmond and his chums gave Trump the go-ahead to build his golf course development – and with it overturned strict environmental laws designed to protect unique habitats, all because of the flimsiest of economic pledges.

Trump preyed on the economic fears of short-sighted Scottish politicians, saying his golf course would save the local economy

I live in Montrose, about 50 miles south of Trump’s development. I was struck by the fact the local press failed to question the environmental impact of Trump’s plans and were constantly glowing in their coverage of the golf resort he wanted to build. The residents who were threatened with eviction from their homes after refusing to sell to Trump were portrayed as “standing in the way of progress”. As a journalist and film-maker, I just wanted to document what was going on, get to the truth and enable the voices of residents to be heard.

Trump and The Trump Organization refused all approaches to respond to our questions. When You’ve Been Trumped was released, he took to Twitter to blast me as “a stupid fool”, a “loser” and a “moron”. He branded it “a failed documentary”. However, the film won 12 awards on the festival circuit and was named Best Documentary by Mark Kermode in his alternative Oscars.

After I revealed plans to make a second film, Trump’s lawyer got in touch to suggest a meeting, which eventually led to a sit-down interview, featured in the follow-up, A Dangerous Game. When that was released in UK cinemas in 2014, Trump took to Twitter again, branding me a “clown”.

Five years on from the initial plans, Trump’s golf development is open. But the latest figures show that, along with his Turnberry golf course, the two lost £2m over the last financial year. In Aberdeenshire, far from creating the 6,000 jobs promised by The Trump Organization, the golf course employs just 95 people – and most of those are low-paid positions. There is no hotel, not one of the houses has been built, and the unique Site of Special Scientific Interest where the single golf course was constructed has been destroyed – depriving future generations of a spectacular centuries-old dunes landscape.

He bullied and harassed the residents who did not want to sell him their properties

When Trump found obstacles in the way of delivering his luxurious golf course dream, he bullied and harassed the residents who did not want to sell him their properties to make way for it. His workers cut off the water supply to an 86-year-old woman. Now 91, Molly Forbes is still without a safe and reliable water supply five years after Trump’s workers cut it off while building his golf course. My fellow film-maker Richard Phinney and I were arrested and charged with breach of the peace, charges later thrown out by the Crown Office.

Today, from the top of Trump Tower in Manhattan, he is bullying and harassing his presidential campaign opponents on a daily basis. He is preying on the fears of Americans to the perceived threat of terrorism with his comments about banning Muslims, just as a few months ago he was accusing Mexico of sending “criminals, drug dealers and rapists” to the US. His answer to that problem is to build a wall “very inexpensively”. And we know he has form on walls.

Donald Trump at Pennsylvania rally

Because in Scotland he built huge walls of earth around the homes of residents who objected to his plan to turn a coastal wilderness into a gated community for the super rich. He branded one local farmer, Michael Forbes, “a pig” – and his home “a slum”. But the people of Scotland did not like what they witnessed in You’ve Been Trumped and voted Michael as ‘Top Scot’ in a national online vote, a precursor of the polls calling for Trump to be barred from entering the UK on hate speech grounds and for him to be stripped of his honorary degree.

The Donald Trump show may be far from over. But if my experience is anything to go by in Scotland, as it becomes more ugly by the day, the ending may well not live up to Trump’s promises.

You’ve Been Trumped is available on Netflix and iTunes. A Dangerous Game is out on DVD and iTunes. A new short film called Molly, The Donald & Me is out early 2016

@antbaxter

TRUMP’S RACE TO THE TOP

By the end of 2016 Donald Trump could be one of the most powerful men in the world. Despite his outlandish comments, polls still have him leading the race to be the Republican presidential candidate. Primary voting begins on February 1. There is little to suggest yet that Trump won’t secure the nod.

If chosen as the Republican representative, US politicos believe he would not beat the likely Democratic runner Hillary Clinton. But then few could have predicted a couple of months ago that Trump would still be in the box-seat.

Positioning himself as the anti-establishment outsider, his controversial statements have appealed to Americans turned off by the closed circle of Washington politics, which is in many ways embodied by Clinton and Jeb Bush – Trump’s rival for Republican nomination and third member of the Bush dynasty gunning for a slice of the Oval Office action. Since 1989, the White House has been occupied for 20 years by Bush and Clinton families.

But Trump is divisive within the Republican movement. It thinks that he, besides his sweeping views on immigration and foreign policy, is not a particularly conservative Conservative. There is also a risk that if not selected he could choose to run as an independent and fracture the vote further. President Trump this time next year? Stranger things have happened.

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