Sunday, October 09, 2016
Trumped down posted by Richard Seymour
The IMF, which calls Trump 'Voldemort' on account of the threat he seemingly poses to their idea of global economic order, will breathe a sigh of relief if the RNC are successful. Wall Street, which must already be looking with horror at Brexit and May's decidedly Trumpian turn, will too. So will, of course, any of the major constituencies whom he would cheerfully have victimised - women, immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, leftists, protesters, etc.
It is as though Bret Easton Ellis had decided to rewrite the mafia boss genre as a tale of ruling class soul-dead depravity. I can thoroughly well imagine Bill Clinton talking exactly like this, and suspect that this kind of braggodocious (dixit Trump) side of rape culture is common at the top of US politics. Certainly, Bush jr seems to have been entirely at home in the conversation.
But at some point, we should inquire into the other modalities of rape culture. It is obvious that the stuff about Trump being 'newly married' is a species of it. Would sexual assault be okay if his marriage was getting on a little, and he was bored? What about the 'wives and daughters' stuff? Isn't this clearly implicated in the dichotomy between good and bad women that sustains rape culture - as if, those who aren't anyone's wives and daughters, who are socially dislocated, are fit to treat as 'whores'.
More broadly, we might want to inquire into the libidinal underside of the reactions. I'm not interested in moralising about this, but it seems obvious that in the cool light of retrospect, analysis of the lulzy coverage will disclose a rich seam of excitement and fascination, barely disguised in all the jokes. The hubbub of "omg, can't believe he said that" is invested in glee at the transgressive nature of such "lewd" discussion of sexual assault, much like the fascination with his openly Oedipalised sexual objectification and denigration of his daughter. Isn't there an obvious enjoyment even in repeating his words in the fashion of this headline? We certainly get a kick out of imitating his highly imitable swagger and speech patterns. We enjoy Trump (although it goes without saying that we don't all enjoy Trump in the same way, if for no other reason than that patriarchy, 'whiteness', class resentments, geographical and social stagnation, and so on, do not affect everyone in the same way).
I am not at all claiming that people should stop making these jokes, and any attempt to make that happen by fiat would be doomed anyway. One of the functions of jokes is to give a certain regulated access to transgressive enjoyment, wherein we can advance an idea without 'meaning' it. So it is always a question of context, of how the joke works, at whose expense. I am just saying that we should analyse it, if we want to understand where the appeal of Trumpism comes from. Even if his campaign now collapses, as it seems to be doing, the psychopolitical sources of Trumpism won't dissipate on that account.