Trump, the Freedom Kids and Fascist Aesthetics

It’s been a couple weeks since those cute little Riefenstahl clones put themselves on a stage of a rally for Donald Trump in Florida and gave us the GOP ear-worm of primary season. A lot has happened since then, and none of Trump’s actions really have diverted from his usual script of “Satan’s campaign for class president acted out on the front walkway of a Hobby Lobby.” Point being, you might well have forgotten about the “Freedom Kids” in the past couple weeks, just because Donald Trump is nothing if not consistently devious and brilliantly conniving.

Nonetheless, there is something instructive in the Freedom Kids, something that can shed light on at least one aspect of why Trump is such a phenomenon and maybe help clarify the persistent (and, frankly, annoying) debate about whether The Donald is in fact a true-blue fascist or whether the designation is little more than a (well-deserved) slur. And it's a something that can be illuminated by the always brilliant, always tragic, never sugar-coated Marxist scholar Walter Benjamin. Goes to show, once again, that Benjamin's shadow deserves to loom much larger over modern radical politics than we have perhaps allowed for.

My hope is that the article I had published about Trump and the Freedom Kids at In These Times today can maybe influence this discussion. Briefly: no, he’s not a fascist, but the savviness with which he employs art, aesthetics and fragmented ideas could very well have been pulled from Marinetti’s playbook.

First few paragraphs are below, full article is at ITT.

Donald Trump does not make it easy to refrain calling him a fascist.

To be sure, people have been willing to call him that well before Democratic non-entity Martin O’Malley called him that. Since then, the debate has not so much boiled over as been reduced to a simmer, percolating and waiting for the billionaire-candidate to say or do something that would once again push it back up over the top.

Enter the “Freedom Kids,” three adorable little girls who opened up Trump’s campaign stop in Tampa, Florida. To the tune of the “Over There”—the feel-good hit of trenches and mustard gas—they invited the audience to join them in celebrating as America’s enemies “face the music.” Behold... (Read more)

Slingshots and Dabkes

May all your slingshots have Dabkes. May all your intifadas inspire dancing.

#شاهد| لقطة طريفة من شاب فلسطيني خلال مواجهات مع قوات الاحتلال تصوير: Faten Elwanتابعونا على انستغرام:

Posted by Shehab News Agency on Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I made another meme...

I think I may need professional help...

In all seriousness, however, there has been some good material released about Walter Benjamin lately. I read this as very positive. Benjamin's understanding of history, aesthetics, culture, modernity and so much else make him a crucial yet undervalued resource for any Marxist. I'm in full agreement with Neil Davidson and others who claim that Benjamin needs to be counted as part of a real, dynamic, revolutionary socialist tradition.

First is MacKenzie Wark's piece at Public Seminar insisting on the relevance of Benjamin's media theories for today. This is a particularly relevant argument given how dominant postmodernists like Marshall McLuhan are in contemporary media studies, imbuing a quasi-mystical power to the media itself. Benjamin's thoughts on the matter are far more material without becoming mechanical or deterministic. The more they can be integrated into a Marxist framework the better.

Then there's the audio from this presentation given at Berkeley by the authors of Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, Howard Eiland and Michael Jennings. The book was released last year (I have yet to read it myself but am planning to shortly) and the presentation was given this past November, but the audio made its way to the website of Heathwood Institute only yesterday.

The presentation is worth listening to. It's rambling and often quite dry, but its most interesting moments are when the authors are clearly grappling with how one best renders the life and work of Benjamin. One should listen to it with a few grains of salt on hand, however: the authors have some very unkind words for Terry Eagleton's Walter Benjamin: Or, Towards a Revolutionary Criticism. Their gripe? That Eagleton claims Benjamin for Marxism against the efforts of a literary criticism divorced from a socialist project. Taking issue with this seems silly to me, given that there is no way to reasonably reckon with Benjamin's strengths as a critic without fairly approaching his Marxism. Parsing the two apart is rather like trying to pull apart the twines of a rope: you can certainly do it, but the rope loses all ability to fulfill its aim. Nonetheless, an interesting listen.

On a similar note, I'm currently working on an essay about what Benjamin's theories about the aestheticization of politics can teach us about Donald Trump. Stay tuned for it.