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Explaining Donald Trump


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Posted

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. :lol: 

 
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, 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 fettered communication by reducing the masses to mere consumers of information, never producers. That allows the ruling class to exert more control over the minds of the consumers. 
 
It seems to me that the article is stuck 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 genteeled rivals according to 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. 

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Posted

So, Americans really f*cking hate Mexicans. Gotcha. ;)

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Posted

... 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. 

Is that pessimistic view fabricated by the ways or nature (rather than the intentions) of the media? Or, is that pessimism a verdict, a judgment expressed against the society and the world revealed through the various media? For that matter, does the pessimism indicate judgment against those very same media, and, if so, what characteristics would the media have to make manifest in order for it to seem that the media offer a glimpse of something other than the pessimism which seems appropriate as judgment against the present?

 

Trump is winning because it is the end of Empire.

Is the popularity of Trump part of the general pessimism? Or, does Trump impart a sense of hopefulness? I think it is the former - almost as if Trump would end up exacerbating what is here being discussed as pessimism. I have not met anyone who is inclined to be (of necessity excessively) charitable towards Trump who at the same time feels that Trump brings forth optimism.

 

As to the end of Empire, maybe it is; maybe it is not. I heard a lot of end of empire sort of talk during the '70s.

 

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.

I'll agree that there has been a cultural shift even if that shift has nothing to do with end of empire and even if its origin cannot be localized to 2005. To the extent that this shift is well or best characterized in terms of a turn away from and against politeness, is it the culmination of what has been brought to us by the internet in conjunction with the shibboleth of an egalitarianism that is taken as superseding the messiness of what seems like relatively groundless judgment?

 

So, Americans really f*cking hate Mexicans. Gotcha. ;)

In the abstract, it does seem accurate to say that Americans in general have become less welcome to the very notion of immigration. In the concrete, that same attitude does soften, for instance when folks in southeastern Louisiana are asked whether New Orleans would have been rebuilt were it not for the, uh, Texicans. Although usually cast as opposition to illegal immigration (which is reasonable simply as a concern over whether a nation should be at least somewhat effective in having control over its borders), the general anti-immigration tenor indicates a context in which a great many people feel that the only course of action available is to try to conserve the wealth that they currently have. This is a vein of the pessimistic sense, and the issue which never seems to come up or get addressed is why it is - what has occurred such - that so few people have the feeling that there is now not as much opportunity as it seemed like there used to be.

 

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Posted

I did not watch The Really Real Reality TV Show last night on CNN, nor did I watch The Really Real Children's Reality TV Show which preceded it, but I did see an ABC online article about the kiddies' political performance which I find to be pertinent to discussion about contemporary American - if not generally Western - culture, a culture which is best described in one word as fearful.

 

The reason the article caught my attention is because it regarded the way Ahmed Mohamed was treated by his teachers and the police when he brought to school a digital clock which he had himself constructed. Were it up to me, the teachers and the police who responded with the - ahem - cautiousness that resulted in that 14 year-old being arrested would be fired, if only because those adults displayed a repulsive ordinariness, that ordinariness being the fear so rampant in contemporary culture. Still, even worse - and yet so very ordinary - is the way Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham responded to moderator Jack Tapper when he brought up what happened with and to Ahmed Mohamed:

 

Tonight, CNN debate moderator Jake Tapper asked Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal about the difference between vigilance and discrimination against the Muslim community, premising the question on Mohamed's arrest.

"I don't think a 14-year-old should ever get arrested for bringing a clock to school,” Jindal said. “I'm glad that police are careful."

The Louisiana governor went on to criticize the Muslim community for not doing enough to "denounce violence."

 

But wait, it gets better. Well, actually worse:

 

"The biggest discrimination is going on against Christian business owners and individuals who believe in traditional forms of marriage. They are throwing this woman in jail in Kentucky. Let's talk about that," said Jindal in a reference to Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

 

Not a word about how an intellectually interested 14 year-old individual human being got treated!!! No, just the requisite praise for the police and an (equally requisite?) indictment of the "Muslim community", whether that be the American Muslims, Muslims in the West, or simply Muslims in general. Never mind that this indictment has been issued before. Then again, maybe it is an immortal indictment. After all, it was to be found getting plenty of play after the Charlie Hebdo murders, but what got next to no attention were the "46 examples of Muslim outrage" in response to that atrocity. I did not fact check any of those forty-six examples, and I am not especially interested in why those denunciations did not succeed in getting well publicized, because the call for - the insistence upon - outrage on the part of Muslims (especially when that insistence comes from the mouth of politicians) is a feint. Not only is it very likely impossible to do "enough to 'denouce violence'" to satisfy the indictors, but the feint serves to hide the fact that the very notion of engagement will not be considered.

 

And here is where the matter goes beyond the issue of Muslims and Islam, because the unwillingness or the inability to engage (meaning with at least an initial presumed-to-be-ultimately-justified respectfulness towards the encountered other)  seems to be culturally flaunted as if indicating either certainty, strength, or principled-ness rather than the rightly shameful way of being that it is.

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Posted

I couldn't help but put this quote of from Huckabee from last nights "debate" which was really just trying to get what I called "click bait" on the TV.  I couldn't follow his logic at all,  but I am sure somewhere that makes sense.

Huckabee: "We made accommodation to the Fort Hood shooter to let him grow a beard. We made accommodations to the detainees at Gitmo — I’ve been to Gitmo, and I’ve seen the accommodations that we made to the Muslim detainees who killed Americans.

You’re telling me that you cannot make an accommodation for an elected Democrat county clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky? What else is it other than the criminalization of her faith and the exaltation of the faith of everyone else who might be a Fort Hood shooter or a detainee at Gitmo?"

Doesn't this distill down to: "If you are allowed to grow a beard because of your religion when you are in jail, you can also deny rights to people because of your religion if you want, regardless of any laws, when you aren't in jail."

Because growing a beard denies your face the right of shaving.

-Scott

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Posted

Huckabee: "We made accommodation to the Fort Hood shooter to let him grow a beard. We made accommodations to the detainees at Gitmo — I’ve been to Gitmo, and I’ve seen the accommodations that we made to the Muslim detainees who killed Americans.

You’re telling me that you cannot make an accommodation for an elected Democrat county clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky? What else is it other than the criminalization of her faith and the exaltation of the faith of everyone else who might be a Fort Hood shooter or a detainee at Gitmo?"

Is it okay to criminalize religious faith-based polygamy - as but one example - despite the fact that polygamy is or could arguably be Biblically based? Uh, I think Huckabee and the other discrimination-screechers think so. I also think that the jailers would have, while she was being detained, let her have a Bible, refrain from cutting her hair, possibly even refuse blood transfusions (were they needed), grow a beard, or whatever else could be easily done for the sake of accommodating her faith.

 

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Posted

From here:

 

All he heard was a question about training camps, which he said we have to look into," Lewandowski said. "The media want to make this an issue about Obama, but it's about him waging a war on Christianity."

 

From discrimination according to Jindal, to criminalization according to Huckabee, to war according to Trump. Okay, a Trump spokesperson. I think the term war better corresponds to the perspectives of the portions of the electorate to which appeal is being made in all three instances. More interesting, but also related, is why it is that Trump's response to the asserted Muslim problem/question is unlikely to be of detriment to him: First of all, the initial news reports seem more focused on the Obama part of the assertion rather than on the Muslims (and their supposed training camps) part of the claim, but Trump's intended audience (and it could just as well be referred to as the Republicans' intended audience) are predominantly the people who so viscerally dislike Obama that they will be inclined to favor almost anything said against Obama.

 

Secondly, the members of that intended audience are woefully ignorant about the thinking of American Muslims (if those audience members even personally know or have engaged with any Muslims) despite the fact that more than a few of those same expected voters will no doubt regale anyone who will listen with their indubitable knowledge/expertise regarding the history of Islam as if such a history justified the proclaimed broad judgment against at least the trustworthiness of any Muslim. That ignorance in conjunction with over a decade of widely promulgated insinuations suggesting (when not outright accusations against) Muslims as inherently more likely enemy others, along with the American Muslim communities' own cluelessness about how to counter with a better presentation of what they are actually like (which is not to say that such a better presentation would not create tensions within Muslim communities themselves, in large part because those communities are still largely immigrant - even if naturalized - rather than American-born and also because of the current nature of American Muslims' religious education and the extent of their willingness and ability to philosophically investigate/challenge their own manners of expression - a problem neither limited to Muslims nor to religious belief) has resulted in a more entrenched and now almost reflexive bias/prejudice against anything Islamic and anyone who puts forth an alternative perspective/judgment,

 

Given that few politicians have ever been actual leaders, and given that the goal of politicians (beyond getting themselves some notoriety) is to get elected, it is in no way surprising that politicians are extremely reticent to even seem to stand outside of the prevailing attitudes of those whom the politicians see as most likely to give them their votes. In other words, what would be surprising would be to see a politician put forth a thoughtful, a meaningful counter-perspective (where thoughtfulness and meaningfulness are dependent upon avoiding the now almost useless and shallow expressions in terms of discrimination, racism, and the like).

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Posted

Is it fair to say that the post-Empire narrative happens to suit people in dominant social positions? I am thinking here of a form of the propaganda model in which the inclusion of Trump functions to demonstrate that US politics is based on vigorous argument and even challenges the traditional order, when in fact it is just as narrowly circumscribed as ever. In the UK the main opposition party has elected as leader a man who ostensibly espouses policies that lots of people agree with (for example, nationalising the railways) and, at any rate, represent more divergent ideas than is traditional in politics of recent times (although in fact more in line with macroeconomic theory), but he is being vilified by the media. I wonder if the latter is more of a challenge than Trump or not?

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