There’s nothing funnier than watching the punditocracy twist themselves into pretzels in trying to explain why Donald Trump hasn’t already imploded by now like they all thought.
Here are two recent articles on Trump that I found intriguing, if not quite accurate. The first one, “Trump: Politics of the Spectacle,” by Natasha Maria at Trigger Warning, comes down to a simple formation: In America, people get the politician they deserve.
By relying on a passé French theorist from the sixties, Guy Debord on the Spectacle, Maria has not gone far enough, nor is she willing to concede how much the modern media has repressed communication by reducing the masses to mere consumers of information, never producers. That allows the ruling class to exert even more control over the minds of the consumers.
It seems to me that the article is stuck in a no-man’s land between Debord’s Spectacle, Marshall McLuhan’s Medium is the Message, and Baudrillard’s Simulacrum: the bleaky lucid perception that the society of spectacle is inescapable, and the horror of a shallow postmodern society where the sign has finally become the Simulacrum that signifies nothing. Nothing at all. The crucial step Maria has not taken is the admission that the media, be it the Internet, television, or the decaying institution of print, is a black hole that swallows all meaning and pukes them out as static noise, leaving us with nothing but a pessimistic view of grand fraud and universal imbecility, of general banality and omnipresent turpitude.
The article on Think Progress by Judd Legum, “This French Philosopher is the Only One Who Can Explain the Donald Trump Phenomenon”, outlines the success of Trump over his more genteel rivals by exhuming yet another French theorist from the sixties, Roland Barthes. Basically the article claims that Trump is winning because he is applying the lessons of wrestling while his rivals are losing by relying on the traditional strategies of politics that is based on boxing: rules and decorum. No doubt this distinction is illuminating, but it fails to account for the reason why Trump is winning now, as opposed to in the past or why other larger than life candidates haven’t been as successful until now.
Trump is winning because it is the end of Empire. There has been a cultural paradigm shift in America since 2005 in which the civil and well- mannered polite celebrity has lost all credibility. Audiences are no longer attracted to the well-rehearsed, perfectly polled interviews. Trump’s unapologetic way of campaigning has struck a chord within the times : unscripted and unsupervised honesty in the realm of politics.
Bret Easton Ellis’ argument is that the lies of Empire has lost all credibility. Instead of polite hypocrisy, Americans yearn for a new self-expression: raw and undiluted. Trump as the perfect celebrity of post-Empire America no longer gives a fuck and that’s what makes the American public love him more.
Fame & politics has changed in America. No longer do people become famous for their talent; instead we see extremists emerge to relevance and disappear quickly. In this age of hyper-conscious social media, attention has shrunk to 140 characters, which shortens fame, forcing 15-minuters to possess something totally “amazeballs” or at least a YouTube clip to go viral.
Moreover the final proof of post-Empire culture is the resigned acceptance, if not total endorsement, of the media. No longer punching out the paparazzi, the celebrity or politician has to accept parasites like TMZ and play by the new rules, accept that mockery is the permanent currency. Trump had and he is winning.
He has no shame, offers no apologies, and is ready to troll haters at the drop of the hat. Outdated relics and dinosaurs continue to delude themselves that we are still living in the Empire. They bitch, moan and whine that Trump and the other post-Empire guys aren’t polite enough or say the “right” things or kiss appropriate ass. The Empire’s tasteful, civil and well-mannered behavior has zero credibility in the post-Empire context. Pax Americana is so last year and good riddance to the patronizing political correctness.