Contemplating the spectacle

Donald Trump is a bit of a cypher. But I did just come across a very interesting and insightful analysis of his role in politics…

  How can someone who lies as much as Trump does be a “candidate of truth”? And yet paradoxically, that seems in the sense explained by Jodi Dean to be the case. This much, at least, is true for me:

“Others like the way Trump’s brutality, his directness, unsettles and disrupts the branded lies that are the mainstream parties. He’s going to screw the same folks who screwed them.”

  Perhaps the central thesis of Dean’s piece is this:

“As Trump makes explicit the power of money in the contemporary US, he facilitates, stimulates, and circulates enjoyment (jouissance). Trump openly expresses the racism, sexism, contempt, and superiority that codes of civility and political correctness insist be repressed. This expression demonstrates the truth of economic inequality: civility is for the middle class, a normative container for the rage of the dispossessed and the contempt of the dispossessors. The .1 % need not pretend to care.” [emphasis added]

  Among the interesting aspects of this thesis is that it may be empirically testable. And the testing will be fascinating, because perhaps the #1 thing that Americans have been demanding from the political class in the current era is that they pretend to care. Very few U.S. politicians dare to flout this demand. The president of the United States, perhaps least of all.

  Think about many of the things on which White House occupants routinely spend their time: Trips to disaster areas, spent touring the wreckage and comforting victims; Meetings with troops injured in war, and with the grieving families of those killed; Speeches at the funerals of dead law enforcement officers; Meetings with aggrieved special interest groups; Legislation that is sold as a prescription for relieving suffering, with its accompanying need for emotional speeches and bill-signing ceremonies. Many of these functions are widely perceived as obligatory.

  Has Trump shown an ability to really pull of this kind of “caring act” during the campaign, or has he so far managed to largely flout the normal demand that someone in his position care? I confess I don’t really know, because I haven’t been paying close enough attention. I personally find watching politicians perform the kind of ritualistic activities described above to be mildly nauseating and a total bore.

  Trump has shown that he can handle telling people stuff like, “Everything’s going to be great, I promise you that,” which some presumably find comforting. But will such a B-rate performance of the “caring act” be enough to satisfy the masses once he sits in the Oval Office? I don’t know, but it will no doubt be entertaining to watch the drama play out.

  I’ve heard numerous predictions along the lines of saying that Trump will not have the patience for the presidency, and will quit, turn most of the reins of power over to Mike Pence, or something of the sort. Perhaps they sense, without articulating it as well as Jodi Dean has, that Trump doesn’t have the patience to pretend to care, and believe this will sooner or later cause him to voluntarily abandon much or all of the power of the office.

  I don’t believe that will happen. One aspect of the psychological trainwreck that is Donald Trump, is being addicted to power. Anyone with a case of power addiction as severe as his would be highly unlikely to walk away from the most powerful office in the world. Betting on such an outcome seems to me about like the odds of putting an open $500 bottle of liquor next to a wino sitting in the street and begging for money, and expecting him not to drink it.

  Besides the empirical testability of Dean’s thesis, another interesting angle is that, if true, it suggests a problematic aspect of a highly unequal society – that only rampant inequality could have produced the simultaneously entertaining, disgusting, and highly dangerous spectacle of Donald Trump’s political rise.

  Thinking about that spectacle, another thought: Was the recent “scary clown” or “creepy clown” epidemic (see e.g. coincidental? I suspect not.

  While I don’t expect the real-life scary clown soon likely to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to go away on his own, I do think his behavior could easily get him involuntarily removed from office, whether via failing to win reelection or via one of the more drastic means of impeachment or assassination. The latter of which raises disturbing parallels to the fall of the Roman Republic. What if Donald Trump’s career becomes that of a latter-day Julius Caeser? The analogy is obviously comical* (Trump as the victorious conquerer of a barbarian horde armed with cameras rather than spears!), but frightening due to its aftermath: Caeser took the practice of entertaining the masses with bread and circuses to a new level, preserving the trappings of popular rule while openly seeking to amass power and glory to himself. He was of course eventually killed for his arrogance, but in death the power elité came to exalt his memory and after a period of warfare, the vestiges of the Republic were swept away and his anointed heir became the first full-on emperor. Already there is ominous talk of the end of democracy (along with the equally troubling talk that we live in a “post-truth era”).

  What makes George Orwell’s “1984” so terrifying is that it depicts a future in which both democracy and truth have died. Fortunately, in that aspect I believe the novel is not realistic – Truth will ultimately survive, because no matter what happens it is always bound to reality, from which it cannot be separated. The future will not be (in Orwell’s words) “a boot stamping on a human face forever”.

Love & Liberty,
                               ((( starchild )))

*If one postulates Trump as Caeser, then Ron Paul – the admired, principled and politically shrewd elder who has long warned of the impending police state while attempting to fight it off – is clearly our Cicero. And that comparison too has its comical side: Ron Paul, with his rambling and sometimes inarticulate speeches, playing the role of the master orator! Who was it who made that famous remark about history repeating itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce? What would a farcical police state look like?

P.S. – While writing this, the secret Bohemian Grove gatherings of the elité, which many U.S. presidents have attended, flashed into mind. As you may know, they infamously hold a ritual called the “Cremation of Care” in which a mock child sacrifice is enacted. (For those unfamiliar, a video at describes the event – one need not take all the conspiratorial and occult stuff seriously in order to see how such a ritual serves a purpose.) Considered in the light of the political necessity of pretending to greatly care about children and other popular objects of sympathy/empathy, the spiritual need of Bohemian Grove participants to purge themselves of that largely false caring by symbolically burning a child, if only in relative secrecy, makes perfect sense.

P.P.S. – I also posted this comment at – there may be some responses there.

Insightful??It's complete with tin-foil-hat messages about The Grove.

Thanks for this, Starchild. My takeaway here is the idea of prescribed caring orchestrated by government, which requires group think financed by taxation. It also requires lots of sheep at the ballot box. In my view, Trump might be allergic to such idea.

Regarding predictions, well, we already have Big Brother and Big Money running our lives. Will it get worse? My bet would be that it would have for certain gotten worse under Hillary. We know her. We don't know Trump, since he has never held a political office.

Regarding usual aspersions hurled at Trump, I will repeat that it is amusing to me to hear accusations of sexism thown at someone whose business includes women at the very top, or accusations of racism thrown at someone who just appointed a black person to a top cabinet post, or xenophobia thrown at someone who makes business deals all over the world. The best accusation is of "anti LGBT" even when a photo of Peter Thiel and Tim Cook sitting right next to Trump at his recent tycoon meeting made front pages. What Trump seems to intensely dislike is not minorities or foreigners but mediocrity, unfairness, and prescribed pretense (the sheep at the ballot box kind of pretence).

But, we shall see! The future seems to me a blank slate! So heed the advice of "Eternal Vigilance" and have a great New Year!