We have seen the rise and fall of a long lineage of authoritarian strongmen: Hitler, Mussolini, George Wallace, Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Al-Hassad… and now Donald TRUMP. All of these men used techniques of propaganda and disinformation within the political system to manipulate and rally support. But none of them grabbed hold of the spotlight and rose to power in the way that TRUMP has. He has constructed his authoritarian prowess, not by climbing the political ladder, but through reality television and the tabloid antics of popular culture. What began with the simple, almost hypnotically arresting mantra, “you’re fired,” TRUMP has now lit a fire in the minds of angry white American voters, a movement that threatens to upend and destroy the American political system as we know it. He, has in essence, fired the Republican National Party and replaced it with the TRUMP SHOW, a monolithic brand of unbridled, narcissistic idolatry.
What is truly startling and awe-inspiring in the crudest sense, is how TRUMP has seamlessly transitioned from the mega-star and super-mogul of the Celebrity Apprentice to the Republican front-runner, simply by pivoting from pop performance art to political candidate. TRUMP has retooled his highly crafted television personality as an over-inflated, authoritarian boss, into an angry politician who fires up and inflames the same captivated audience of the mostly white, disaffected working class. As a larger than life, newly minted political figure, TRUMP is determined to “Make America Great Again”: a defiant march to overthrow an establishment class that has caved to such cultural evils as racial tolerance, gay marriage, and affordable health care.
But the effects of TRUMP inserting his notorious brand of performance art into the presidential campaign – his twisting of reality, the blurring of made-for-television theatrics and campaign spectacle – has unleashed a firestorm of anger and violence across America at a level of intensity we haven’t seen since the 1960s. TRUMP, who once played the role of a benign corporate tyrant firing celebrities and wannabe executives, has now turned ugly and dangerous. Since launching his campaign last June, his cutely exaggerated mogul persona has morphed into a terrifying authoritarian monster: feeding the angry mob through open intolerance of racial equality and religious freedom. With cunning precision, TRUMP has stoked the flames of unrest through the sheer reach and magnitude of his tv personality, spewing a torrent of non-stop disinformation through the 24-7 news cycle, an extraordinary litany of lies, exaggerations, insults, and threats. All of which has allowed him, ironically, to re-position himself as the solution to the ensuing violence.
America was ripe for a strongman TRUMP. We created him with our lust for the seductive cult of personality and the dangerous infiltration of celebrity culture into the real world of politics. He has skilfully mesmerized low bandwidth white voters to perform a brilliant portrait of a post real America tailor made for bigots. For most of those angry white voters, TRUMP the tv mogul is one and the same with TRUMP the candidate, a reconstituted John Wayne, with all guns blazing determined to make America great again. However, we’re no longer talking about the mythic struggle between cowboys and Indians, we’re now facing an epic battle between Republicans and Democrats, men and women, the establishment and outsiders, Christians and Muslims, Blacks and Whites, the educated and, to use his own words, the “poorly educated.” Everything in the TRUMP World of Disinsformation is polarized, divisive, and threatening. Yes America, to those of you who still believe in progressive values and the possibility of a more harmonious political climate, in short: “You’re Fired.”