“The borders between politics and reality shows have shifted”: Franco Berardi on the US presidential race as reality show

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Franco Bifo Berardi, author of Heroes, scrutinizes neoliberal politicians’ media strategy and far right aggressive nationalism. 

After the Summer of the Greek humiliation, came the Autumn of rejected migration, then the Winter of European disintegration, before at last the Spring of Donald Trump. 


I don’t know if Trump will win the election of November, I don’t think so, although the polls are now exposing a minor advantage to Hillary Clinton. Either way, his impressive ascent needs to be understood.

Let’s begin from afar.

To the German workers, impoverished and humiliated by the Anglo-French financial aggression, Hitler said: you’re not exploited nor unemployed workers, you are Aryan winners. National-Socialism came out from this change in perception.

The same change of self-perception and political prospect is proposed today by a large front that ranges from Trump to Putin and includes Katzinskij, Orban, Le Pen, Boris Johnson and so on. To the impoverished workers of Euro-America they simply say: “stop thinking of yourselves as defeated workers, think of yourself as the white race that is raising again.”

The dynamics that brought National Socialism to power are operating once again. Simultaneously, in the Mediterranean basin, the old colonial order is falling apart. The coinciding stagnation and impoverishment of the white working-class and the deflagration of the geopolitical order is producing an original form of aggressive white nationalism. Trump and the growing forces of the European far right encourage a subjectivity related to a colonial and racial identity that is desperately resurfacing as a consequence of its own economic, demographic and geopolitical decline. The looming war between neoliberal globalism and nationalist anti-globalism will turn towards tragedy.

To the journalists who were asking questions about Donald Trump’s victory in the Republican Party, Obama answered with intelligent irony: “We are not talking of entertainment, this is not a reality show, this is a contest for the Presidency of the United States…” Sadly, Obama is wrong. The borders between politics and reality shows have shifted, and modern political rationality seems unable to understand that the contest for the US Presidency is, in fact, a reality show. Obama is becoming a character in the show of which Trump is on the way to be the director.

Italians have previously experienced this mix of farce and authoritarian power. Berlusconi came to the fore with a campaign of commercial advertising based on two words from the soccer lexicon: Forza Italia. In this case too the old politicians commented ironically, that elections are not entertainment. On March 27th 1994, Forza Italia won the elections, and reshaped the language of politics forever.

Traditional politicians think that politics is an all-encompassing public discourse, and that advertising is just a peculiar sub-sphere of that public discourse. Berlusconi however, revealed that politics is now a sub-sphere of the media discourse.

The Trumps’ triumph is politically inexplicable. This however is because those who have voted at the Republican primaries and those who might vote in November, do not belong to the political field, but to the media-sphere of the reality show.

During his diplomatic travels in Asia, reassuring those political allies who resented the opinions expressed by Trump, Obama said, “the person who expressed these opinions does not know much about foreign policy and nuclear policy, and about the world in general.”

Obviously Obama is right: Trump is totally ignorant about the historical, economic and anthropological meaning of what he is talking about, but Obama seems oblivious that ignorance is not an obstacle on the way of contemporary power.

Americans voted (twice) for a guy who believed the Taliban to be a rock band, until the Taliban came from the sky heading towards the towers of Manhattan. That guy changed the history of the world, starting the infinite war that is destroying a large region of the world. We should fully understand that ignorance has great potency when it is driven by humiliation and despair.

The neoliberal dogma has thrown the majority of western workers into despair. They cannot rebel as exploited workers since the Left is also a thug of financial aggression.

In 1933, German workers voted for the party that called them white Aryans and Germans, and for the party that claimed the Jews and the Roma people as mortal enemies. Today the workers of Euro-America want to hear Trump’s argument, together with that of Putin, Le Pen and Boris Johnson. They want to be told that they are a superior race, and that they will prevail over migrant people, by constraining them in concentration camps all along the Mediterranean Coast.

Now, are all happy because in Austrian presidential elections, the far right only won 49.7%. Morgan Stanley goads European governments to change their laws, to enable full implementation of the free market. Merkel, Hollande, Valls and their allies obey without delay and hurry to fulfil the orders of the bank system.

They are paving the way for the worst. Do they know it?

 

May 24th 2016

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