We all knew in the beginning he was a clown, a jester, a fool, out to prove he would become the Great Leader, who would transform the world. We all knew he was a buffoon, with coiffed hair and dubious airs, a wanna-be tyrant fixated on commanding the attention of the world with exaggerated & ridiculous bravado. Yes, we laughed, unable to take this faux madman seriously, he was a product of the Media, a medial construction, role-playing, a circus act of performance. No, we’re not just talking about Charlie Chaplin’s Adenoid Hynkel, the hilariously absurd parody of Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator, no we’re talking about an even more hilarious absurdism that has morphed over time into a very bad & dangerous sequel.
This laughable real-estate tycoon who lived a gold-plated existence atop his Gotham Tower, who transformed into a reality tv star to amplify his life as a theater of the absurd, only to announce himself as the man who would Make America Great Again while descending the elevator in the Tower’s nouveau riche lobby accompanied by his statuesque model-wife, all before ripping apart at the seams the political norms of American politics in a high octane performance that went far, far, far beyond the Chaplin satire, mainlining his revised brand of XTreme TRUMPology into the veins of the Heartland before ultimately injecting a deadly Spell into the mind & soul of the entire Republican Party.
Sadly, the TRUMPian mask has never come off, unlike Chaplin’s moving epiphany at the end of The Great Dictator when he denounces his own Hitlerian caricature and declares to the world that there is indeed raw hope of humanity rising from the ashes of fascism. No, this revelation has never occurred in real-life TRUMPism. What we have witnessed instead over the past five years, since that monumental glide down the escalator, is the escalation of fear, divisiveness, hatred, abuse, and the denouncement of all our better angels one after the next: no revelation, no epiphany, no hope. Instead, what TRUMP has realized is well beyond mere reality television, rather, the insertion of an epic All-Media-Channel Spectacle into life itself, a work that is greater and more pervasive than anything, anyone has ever brought to the screen: On Becoming the Great Dictator.
We thought, perhaps, we hoped, we prayed in an impossible belief in divine justice, that the Impeachment would bring him down, or at least, expose him for what he is: a ruthless, self-possessed narcissist who only believes in his power to command 100% Total Attention of everyone on the planet. We witnessed the impeachment saga unfold as an extraordinary civics lesson that played out like a Hamiltonian theater work, with the house managers arguing a powerful litany of constitutional aspirations, high & noble, so perfectly correct and condemning.
But alas, much to our horror & disbelief, the Republicans performed like viscous pit bulls rabidly lashing out, reaching deep down in their twisted reasoning for hysterical rants that focused on meaningless procedural minutia to intentionally ignore the avalanche of facts, testimony, and evidence crashing all around them. As the democrats proceeded to confirm the grandest of all drug deal schemes, they painted a damning portrait of TRUMP diabolically gaming the system of US diplomacy into a mafioso-style hit squad. The trading of barbs between the GOP & Dems turned out to be a riveting, televisual spectacle: at times a heartfelt appeal to our better angels through powerful, cathartic pleas for protecting whatever democratic norms still survive in the battered constitution, versus the angry, pounding Republican defense of insanity that anything goes when a lawless gang leader cum US President is so clearly abusing the power of the Oval Office.
And so, the closing of the Impeachment episode of THE MOVIE has moved TRUMPism one giant leap closer to the dictatorial role he so deftly improvised when he rode down that gilded escalator at Gotham Tower. After last Friday’s epic Senatorial betrayal of constitutional ideals – no witnesses, no evidence, no truth – we are now left exhausted & expired by the 24/7 always-on Media Torrent of Impeachment. The Media amplification of the Spectacle, particularly the faux-reality detours & seductive disinformation of FOX News pushing the signal-to-noise ratio to the cranking point, Impeachment Hysteria has justifiably collapsed in on itself because people have simply had enough: TRUMP has won through the effects of annihilation, distortion & chaos.
Of course, this was the intent all along in the intricacies of the plot design, to perform a radical blitzkrieg on the American public with a dizzying array of twisted, inane reasonings, and absurdly conflicting lies, to the point where it is no longer possible to digest any of it. This is precisely the classic playbook of how authoritarians upend democracies: they employ the Media to push rational thinking to the breaking point with propaganda that incites absolute confusion & loss of reason through the exhaustion of XTreme ideology.
Alas, this movie is not going to end like a Hollywood parable with a grand catharsis of Charlie Chaplin delivering a soliloquy to the good of all mankind, rather, TRUMP’s televisual series breeds & travels virally through the arteries of the Media, infecting weak politicians & citizens alike, then metastasizing as a dangerous political contamination that threatens to destroy a once active democracy: only to be expelled as inert material into the deep, swirling, bubbling, cauldron of history. In the next scene of On Becoming a Great Dictator, we are about to see a liberated TRUMP emerge from Impeachment like an enraged monster thirsting for blood & new flesh. As a backdrop we’ll see him bounding in front of a hallowed out Republican party, nothing more than a shadow: cowering, withered, sold-out, a ravaged cadaver annihilated by abuse. This is the face of authoritarianism: TRUMP’s continual Becoming. The TRUMPian threat will incite even more hate & venom in his followers, ready to attack on his behalf at a minutes notice, fists held high, cheering as one collective mob, unrestrained, shameless. This is the face of authoritarianism: we’ve seen it before.
On Becoming the Great Dictator is a movie that is running continuously everywhere, on every screen, every news feed, ad nauseam & without end. But I will conclude my apocalyptic post with Chaplin’s inspiring words from the famous & final speech of The Great Dictator, an impossible character insertion of the Jewish barber as Adenoid Hynkel, declaring an epiphany of raw hope:
To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. – Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator