Lacanian Review Online 267: The Trump Symptom

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When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do

(Leonard Cohen, The Partisan)

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LRO 267
13th January 2021

 




The Trump Symptom
Gustavo Dessal

“Domestic Terrorism”, Hillary Clinton wrote on her Twitter account referring to the hordes Trump sent to the Capitol last Wednesday. From everything I’ve read about it, that diagnosis seems spot on. Terrorism can be practiced in many ways, with vest bombs, backpacks activated by a cell phone call, or shots in the back of the head. But there are also indirect ways, like the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, defended by President Trump, when a fanatic ran over several people in his car and killed a woman. Or the slow extermination of the black population carried out by the police of that country. 

Since his seizure of power, Trump and his henchmen have exercised terror in its various forms. It’s not original, nor is it a legacy of the right. The complicity of the Republican Party in attacking the Capitol is absolute. Some of its members have been active accomplices, others passive, but they are all guilty of allowing a psychopath to lead the country into a state of degradation from which they may never recover. Even the Morgan Bank, not exactly a humanitarian institution, has asked Vice President Mike Pence to exercise an article of the 25th Amendment to immediately remove Trump. Americans who retain a modicum of decency are watching in horror as their country collapses, assaulted by the savage mob, as the international press collects the impression of a US whose image is less than a trinket on a cheap TV show. Even Mark Zuckerberg, another fundamental accomplice along with Twitter and some TV stations, has shut down Trump’s account. 

It’s too late to repair the damage that terror has done to that nation. The terror that has persecuted journalists, the black population, anyone who dared to question the mafia interests of the President, his family and his friends. The height of his degenerate narcissism is [evident in] one of his last tweets, in which, having pardoned a good number of his collaborators prosecuted for serious crimes, he claims he has the power to pardon himself and is contemplating the idea. It would be extraordinary. The latest act of a phoney that the Republican Party has allowed to destroy society and accelerate the COVID death of 365,000 people. Another indirect variant of terror. As I write this, I read that bombs have been found in two buildings near the Capitol that could be deactivated in time. Fed up with circumlocutions and half-truths, Hillary Clinton went straight to the point and named the issue: Trump represents state terrorism at the heart of a democracy, and is even protected by that democracy.

The role of much of the media (and particularly social networks) in the spread of terror has been of such magnitude that someone like Farhad Manjoo, a New York Times columnist and one of the most authoritative voices on technology issues, went so far as to state last Thursday that in view of everything that has happened perhaps it would have been better if the Internet had never been invented. The media has allowed and fuelled the unstoppable circulation of all kinds of infamies, attacks on coexistence, incitements to racial hatred and a constant erosion of democratic principles.

The press, television, and social media have acted as sounding boards for the diarrhoeal effusions of the Trump Symptom. Donald Trump is much more than a depraved maniac who has managed to implant terror supported by raiding parties drawn from the rabble. Trump is one of the symptoms that capitalism can adopt when circumstances allow it and it suits capitalism’s interests. In the last century it was the Hitler symptom. Eric Vuillard, in his novel The Order of the Day, portrayed the role of big capital in Hitler’s rise and construction of the Third Reich.

The propaganda strategy established by Goebbels has inspired Trump. For example, the Popularization Principle, according to which “All propaganda must be popular, adapting itself to the least intelligent of the individuals to whom it is  directed. The larger the mass to be convinced, the smaller the mental effort to make. The receptive capacity of the masses is limited and their understanding is poor; they also forget things easily.” Also the Orchestration Principle which states: “Propaganda must be limited to a small number of ideas and must repeat them tirelessly, presented over and over from different perspectives but always converging on the same concept. Without fissures or doubts.”

Trump’s initial advisor Steve Bannon, who is currently in Spain and trying to set up a group of ultra-right European parties, has adapted Goebbels’ principles to social media. Trump will pass, but his poisonous legacy will not. Trumpism has created a school. Isabel Díaz Ayuso, President of the Community of Madrid, is the sinister doll of ventriloquist Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, another disciple of Goebbels and former adviser to former Prime Minister Aznar. Ayuso moves her little mouth and it even seems to be the one who speaks the language of Trumpist politics. The originality of Trump and his advisors has been the astuteness in making use of their country’s democratic institutions and to create a network of domestic terrorism that has already been emulated in Brazil and will gradually spread to other regions. “Domestic Terrorism” is the new policy that comes with the return of the pendulum. First it was necessary for everything to dissolve like a sugar lump in a glass of water. Ethics, the idea of community, compassion, love, caring for one’s fellow man. Once this first step has been taken, the social fabric is reformatted according to the neoliberal creed: tyranny disguised as the right to freedom, even the right to spread COVID as one pleases. The mask turned into a muzzle was an extraordinary propaganda discovery. Thousands of heads working at once to manufacture messages that are then replicated by millions of bots. Ah, the wonders Goebbels would have done with only one-tenth of today’s technologies!

 


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