Netflix's 'Dirty Money' Ruthlessly Rips Into Donald Trump's Business Empire & Persona


When will the American people lose faith in Donald Trump? That’s the question at the heart of “The Confidence Man,” the must-watch finale of Netflix’s Dirty Money. The new docuseries investigates some of the most flagrant instances of corporate greed to date — Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” cars, the rapid ascent of the drugmaker Valeant, and a sensational maple syrup heist, among them — but it’s this last episode that will strike the most relevant chord with American viewers.

Unlike Meet the Trumps and other more personal histories, “The Confidence Man” is less a chronicle of the Trump dynasty and more a hyper-specific look at Trump’s business dealings. It’s ambitious and brutal but not overly complicated. Tracing Trump’s developer-huckster-populist journey, director Fisher Stevens (a producer on The Cove) argues that our current president is nothing more than a modern American con man, someone who profits off his name to the detriment of the general public and who commands a reptilian awareness of the media.What about Trump’s brand? It’s undeniably powerful! He built a multibillion-dollar business from the ground up! He’s one helluva negotiator! Stevens refutes the popular Trump-supporter refrains by interviewing old business partners, employees, and friends, painting a vivid picture of someone who inherits lots, cares little about the people around him, and willfully looks the other way when sketchiness is afoot. Listening to columnist A.J. Benza, you’ll see how Trump played reporters to build and perpetuate his “billionaire” image. Planet Money co-founder Adam Davidson will detail how the Trump Organization brokered deals that weren’t just immoral, but bad business. And former Apprentice staffers will walk you through how they created the so-called “magic” behind the popular NBC show.

Though Stevens covers a lot of ground in this 77-minute doc, it’s the Apprentice portion that provides the most insight into Trump’s concept, and pursuit, of power. The success of the reality show, in effect, repositioned someone who was a darling in the ’80s (thanks to the success of Trump Tower) and a punchline in the ’90s (by which point the Trump Org was more than $3 billion in debt) to the level of Hollywood star. It was a change Trump relished. He looked like the embodiment of the American dream, a savvy businessman who ostensibly came from nothing. Really, this was a made-for-TV role. The staffers claim that everything from the boardroom to Trump’s character was tongue-in-cheek window dressing meant to ape Paddy Chayefsky’s acclaimed satire Network. Instead of laughing at the show’s absurdities, viewers became enamored.

This is not to say that The Apprentice was Trump’s ticket to the White House, but the image-building wizardry that spawned a successful TV show and hero illustrates the kind of media manipulation Trump has excelled at for decades. Former New York Times journalist Tim O’Brien, who wrote a book about Trump more than a decade before the 2016 election, says Trump isn’t just a 21st-century con man, he’s the 21st-century con man. His weapons of choice: gossip pages, TV, social media. O’Brien likens him to Father Coughlin (who used radio to foster anti-Semitism in the 1930s) and Joe McCarthy (who used TV to foment the communist scare of the 1950s), other controversial figures who sowed misinformation, generated fear, and promised salvation. “He is someone who preys upon people’s confidence in them to deliver on their dreams, to deliver on their needs,” O’Brien says, “knowing full well that they have neither the ability or the intent to deliver on any of that.” Those interviewed from Trump University and the Trump Network agree.Of course, the 2016 election muddied things. As those near the end of “The Confidence Man” point out, it’s become impossible to discern what truly motivates Trump in terms of foreign policy and how much he stands to benefit financially from his seat in the Oval Office. One hopes he knows he’s landed himself in a place where net worth doesn’t translate to success, but it seems he’s historically only ever been about one thing.

So “The Confidence Man” becomes a cautionary tale. It finishes by razing Trump’s image as a political Steve Jobs and reshaping him as someone more in league with P.T. Barnum, the conclusion being that the same artifice that dazzled viewers during The Apprentice has extended to Washington, D.C. While that’s not exactly a new argument — fans of John Oliver will feel like they’re watching more in-depth cuts of his famous Drumpf takedowns, minus the jokes — it’s still unnerving. Trump commands the approval of just under 40% of the nation, and his chicanery will likely continue unnoticed amid screams of “Fake news!” As Davidson laments, “A significant and crucial part of the American people so fundamentally misunderstand the most basic principles of ethics and morality and business practices, and that, to me, is really scary because what choices are they going to keep making, again and again?”

The question leaves a haunting implication: Maybe Trump’s just the beginning.Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Sean Fitz-Gerald is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. Find him on Twitter: @srkfitzgerald.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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