Have you heard? Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us, the first book from Donald Trump Jr., debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s certainly an impressive feat from the eldest son of a man who, as a completely unrelated aside, spent $55,000 in campaign donations to juice his own book sales back in 2016.
While Jr.’s entry on the list is marked with an icon indicating bulk purchases, at least a few people have purchased the book of their own volition and with genuine interest. Technically, one of those people was me. Ever since the 2016 campaign, I’ve been fascinated by Don Jr., a fully grown father of five with the sensibility of a not-particulary-bright 13-year-old, and his visible public effort to prove himself as his father’s son.
More than Don Jr. himself, the idea of Don Jr. fans fascinated me. What exactly was it that his hordes of devout social media followers found so appealing?
“That’s my boy. His father’s the boss man,” said one attendee at Don Jr.’s Manhattan book signing last week when I asked what brought him there. His friend, wearing a bright-red QAnon sweatshirt, nodded in agreement.
Unsurprising in a largely liberal city, Don Jr.’s signing wasn’t too heavily attended. The attendees spanned a wide range of ages (20s to 70s) and a much narrower range of other demographic traits. The line outside quickly dissipated, and everything seemed to wrap up with time to spare. Those who did attend, however, were reverent.
“The one thing I wanted to tell him personally is the fact that his family’s going through such a hardship,” said another. “And when I see him on television—you know, Fox News or whatever interview he’s doing—he prefaces every sentence with the words, ‘my father, my father, my father.’ I just wanted to tell him that I appreciate the fact that he stands up for his father.”
Fortunately, for Don Jr.’s readers, there is indeed plenty of arguing on behalf of his father in the nearly 300-page denunciation of his family’s enemies. There’s also the sort of awkward writing and clunky metaphors endemic to campaign trail books of all stripes (even if Jr.’s not technically personally running for anything—yet). This particular cash grab, though, transcends the ordinary campaign-publishing vanity project. It’s the work of an author so nakedly self-conscious—or so in need of self-soothing—he constantly breaks off his message to assure the reader he’s proud, confident, and doing fine.
The Trump presidency has been a test for Don Jr., an opportunity to find himself while finally proving his usefulness to his dad. He was already the most politically active of Trump’s children, but in the past that mostly just meant a few Republican-leaning tweets here and there. As the campaign heated up and Inauguration Day drew near, Don began increasingly leaning into his role as the self-appointed attack dog for his dad. His Instagram, which used to consist mostly of photos of his children next to sweaty videos of himself doing CrossFit, was now a cascade of conservative memes in varying shades of racist. His tweets became more frequent, with increasing intent to provoke.
His newfound political life may have even played a role in his divorce last year, at least according to Page Six. One of the gossip page’s sources noted that Don Jr. “appears to have changed recently, and friends are concerned about him” and that those concerns “were increased by Don Jr.’s tweeting.” Don Jr. continued unbothered, using his newfound freedom to reach a sort of 24-hour hyperaggression usually only seen in Donald Trump’s most obsessive and devout followers. This book is the fullest expression of that transformation.
Reading it, I even began to suspect that parts may have genuinely been written by Don Jr. himself. The excruciatingly insecure prose wasn’t the tell—that could have come from any of the hacks who work for him. It was that some of the errors are so ludicrous they couldn’t possibly have come from anyone else.
For instance, in the chapter on immigration (titled “NOT EXACTLY THE STATUE OF LIBERTY”), Don Jr. cites a dubious statistic that he attributes to “a recent report by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a supposed media watchdog that is actually fair only to the left.” It seemed odd that FAIR, a left-leaning group, would have released anything that Don Jr. found value in, much less a report about immigration. Fortunately, Triggered includes an index of sources, and while the decisions about which pieces of data do or don’t get cited seem erratic at best, this one is explained: According to Don Jr.’s own index, the number did not come from FAIR, the media watchdog. It came from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a right-wing anti-immigration group.
About 20 pages later, in the course of decrying hysterical and brain-dead college leftists, Don Jr. recounts how “countless times on college campuses I’ve had scared conservative students come up to me to say thank you for making them feel normal and welcome in their school. It is that bad and worse.” He then goes on to quote “the first paragraph of an op-ed piece written last year by a student on the staff of the Yale Daily News” as evidence. This is the passage he quotes:
Republicans are single-handedly destroying the Yale community. They do not offer anything substantial to our campus. They are all racist, bigoted, homophobes, whose mere presence serves as an unwelcome reminder that Donald J. Trump is our president. The very idea that there are Republicans lurking among us is truly disturbing and offensive. I am tired of having to share a campus with people who hate minorities and support the patriarchy. If Yale is truly a progressive school that cares about the safety and mental health of its students, it will stop accepting Republicans.
Shockingly intolerant stuff! Comically shocking, even: If you read more of the piece, you’ll find lines like this: “How dare Yale Admissions have the audacity to accept students with opinions that exist in the real world!” A ham-handed effort at satire, but obviously satire nonetheless. The author has even written about being a conservative on Yale’s campus before.
While these are objectively embarrassing to the point of seeming truly accidental, most of the errors that litter the book feel a bit more insidious.
In the chapter on shadow banning (titled “SHADOW BANNED: HOW THE LIBERALS’ GRIP ON SOCIAL MEDIA CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE”), Don Jr. writes that, while testifying in front of congress, “Jack Dorsey admitted that Twitter had blocked its users from accessing about 600,000 accounts. An extremely disproportionate number of these accounts, he said, belonged to conservatives. “
As it turns out, Jack Dorsey did not even remotely say that “an extremely disproportionate number” of the deindexed accounts belonged to conservatives. Here’s the actual exchange between Dorsey and Texas Rep. Joe Barton that Jr. seems to be referencing:
Dorsey: We agree that the result was not impartial, and that is why we corrected it. And we fixed it.
Barton: So you do agree that there were more Republicans than Democrats?
Dorsey: I didn’t say that.
What’s more, nothing in the link provided in the index comes anywhere close to saying what Jr. claims it does.
Actual Don Jr. fans likely won’t be too bothered by this. Coherence and attention to detail are not features of any Donald Trump brand experience, whether junior or senior. Still, you can’t make an entire book solely out of father-defending. So what exactly is Don Jr.’s book about?
After reading the book twice, I’m still not entirely sure. I have, however, identified a few themes. So to save you the trouble, here, as far as I can tell, are the pieces of wisdom Don Jr. wishes to impart on the world.
Don Jr. Is Not Mad
The entire first paragraph of the book consists of a single line: “I’m not mad.” This is followed a few paragraphs later by the insistence that, in fact, he finds the whole thing funny.
Why should I be mad? I’m not mad. In fact, my plan was to write a feel-good book about forgiveness and healing, sort of a Chicken Soup for the Political Soul type of story. I was even going to call it Kumbaya instead of Triggered, but it seemed that title was already taken, probably by one of the 2,467 Democrat candidates currently running for president.
More than just not being mad in general, he is particularly not mad about criticisms from the left:
By the way, throughout this book, I’m going to tell you about all the “regular Joe” things I did, such as hunting, driving heavy construction equipment, and sleeping on my buddies’ couches. I know the trigger-happy people on the left will pop a cork and accuse me of trying to be somebody I’m not. To be honest, I don’t give a crap what they think.
One thing that seems to have sincerely preoccupied him is the incredibly dumb Baby Trump balloon that flew over London prior to an ultimately canceled visit from the president. Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Don Jr. is not mad about the big balloon.
I don’t really care how my dad polls in other countries, and neither should you. I don’t give a damn about balloons, either. The liberal press can write their little jokes until they run out of ink, for all I care.
Don Jr.’s Dad Loves Him
For all Don Jr.’s brash boisterousness, his single most salient feature is a constant insecurity in his relationship with his father. There have been plenty of stories about their rocky relationship, both during his youth and more recently. Now, however, Don Jr. seems to want to set the record straight.
Here he is on the careful attention with which his father raised him:
To give me my own solid foundation, my father made my brother and me get jobs as soon as we could lift our own tools. He put us in the care of a couple of his loyal employees, Brian Baudreau and Vinny Stellio.
On his dad’s crazy sense of humor—ha-ha!
When my mother first approached him with the idea of naming me Don Jr., my father is rumored to have said, “We can’t do that! What if he’s a loser?” Again, no idea whether my father ever really said this, but it sure sounds like him. When you’re Donald Trump’s son, you get used to that sense of humor.
And on how it was definitely his choice not to campaign with his father:
Soon I learned that when it came to campaigning, the only place it made absolutely no sense for me to be was wherever my father was. We were only wasting our resources by going to the same cities.
Taken in the context of everything above, this offhand line in a section about his young son breaking his leg is nothing short devastating: “As a side note, the very first call I got when Tristan went into surgery was from Vice President Mike Pence—not a secretary, not the switchboard operator, but Mike Pence himself.”
Don Jr. Is the Real Victim
If there’s anything the 41-year-old Don Jr. and his college-aged friends at Turning Point USA hate, it’s a victim mentality. “A victimhood complex has taken root in the American left,” he writes in a section about the War on Christianity. The true tragedy, though, is not the leftists’ lack of personal responsibly but that people aren’t recognizing those who are truly oppressed. Like Don Jr.
He’s not standing idly by any longer, though. On the Democrats’ behavior during the Mueller investigation:
They just wanted to get my father out of office and punish anyone who supported him—starting with me and my family.
Still on the investigation but two pages later:
Not only did Democrats get to carry on as if their candidate hadn’t lost, they also had free rein to take down just about everyone who had ever associated with Donald J. Trump, from his close associates and friends to the people who share his last name. Ask me how I know!
On his grandparents being under surveillance while living in Czechoslovakia:
So, I guess it’s not just me and my father. People in my family have been getting spied on by governments for generations!
And on being forced to give up the Trump Organization’s international deals when his dad won the presidency:
In one sense, the left and the liberal press effectively put me out of work. All that was left for me to do was spend my time campaigning for my father.
Don Jr. Has a Girlfriend
Did you know that Donald Trump Jr. is currently dating former Fox News personality and former Gavin Newsom wife Kimberly Guilfoyle? Because, for the record, Don Jr. is indeed dating Kimberly Guilfoyle, his girlfriend (the woman he is currently dating). But don’t take my word for it.
Last year, with a few friends, we were celebrating my girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle’s, birthday at a restaurant when a man came up to our table and started screaming “Shame on you!”
My girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, comes from an Irish-born father and a Puerto Rican mother (you don’t want to make her mad).
If I wake up one day feeling like a thirteen-year-old girl named Susan (which would come as a pretty big surprise to my girlfriend, Kimberly), then you are required—by law in some countries—to call me that.
All clear, pal.
Back in June 2018, when Kimberly Guilfoyle, my girlfriend, was a host on The Five on Fox, she and the other hosts took a 23andMe DNA test.
Don Jr.: sex-haver.
Don Jr. Is the Reason His Dad Won
The elder Donald Trump isn’t one to share credit, and Jr. seems to understand this at least enough to keep quiet in public. But he also seems to realize that under absolutely no circumstances will his father ever pick up his book and see what’s inside it.
Meaning Don Jr. finally has the freedom to say things like this:
They liked that I was a hunter and that I had a good sense of humor. They liked that I felt at ease in front of a crowd. When I added it all up, I realized that I brought something to the campaign that no one else on our team could. Although I didn’t know it then, because of that something, I would become the tip of the spear of the greatest political campaign ever.
And things like that again but slightly reworded:
It was the greatest upset in the history of American politics, and I got to be the tip of the spear, or at least the tip of one of the spears.
And—a star? Him?
Even Politico, no fans of me or my father, said that a “political star may have been born” that night. I don’t know about that, but I do know something got started.
It’s not like he asked to be so preternaturally gifted.
Ever since the day I gave my first campaign speech in support of my father, there’s been a fair amount of speculation as to where my own political career might take me.
The Senate campaign is going to be hell.
Other Very Real Events That Definitely Happened
Perhaps my favorite parts of the book, though, were the little bits of insight into what exactly it’s like to be Don Jr., national pariah and yet still somehow supremely adored megastar.
While he spends a good amount of time critiquing the scourge of left-leaning college students, Don does make a point of commending the Trump supporters at institutions of higher learning—Florida State, specifically. He recounts how, during the campaign, Charlie Kirk, the head of the collegiate conservative group Turning Point USA, arranged for him to appear at a frat house tailgate, where he quickly realized the hammered youths around him were expecting a speech. Not one to disappoint his base, he climbed up on a picnic table and prepared to address the crowd:
As I began to talk, the sea of Seminole fans started to close in. At the front of the human tidal wave was a group of coeds who had taken the clothing-optional suggestion to heart and started to climb up on the table. Now, I consider myself a pretty handsome guy (Hey, I’m a Trump. What’d you expect?), but I had never thought of myself as girls-climbing-onto-a-picnic-table-to-get-at-me handsome. But I was that night.
A heartwarming tale of a middle-aged scamp getting swarmed by young girls at a frat party. He’s used to adulation, though. In recounting a story about his Valentine’s Day dinner on the Upper East Side with his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Don Jr writes:
As we paid our tab, and made our way for the exit, a woman got up, pointed at me, and yelled, “You!” I thought, Here we go, here comes a fight with grandma on Valentine’s Day. And then it happened; she said to us and the entire restaurant, “You have the biggest balls in the world and you don’t take crap from anyone. Keep it up!” She broke the ice, as the entire place erupted in applause. In a room that I thought would be hostile and nasty, we found friendly supporters.
Some might say it seems highly unlikely that an entire Manhattan restaurant would burst into applause upon seeing a woman salute Don Jr. for his bravery. But most of those people would not be reading Donald Trump Jr.’s bestselling book.