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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/1/15

Fascist Trump, Neoliberal Hillary, and Progressive Bernie: Three Contrasting Performance Styles

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Trump campaign announcement

Fascist leaders have a way of appearing like clowns to rational liberal observers. This was true of Mussolini, Hitler, and lately Bush. It is hard to believe that with their ludicrous explanations of the way the world works they can gain any traction, but they always become enormously popular in the blink of an eye and the rationalist intelligentsia rub their eyes in disbelief. Precisely the same thing is happening with Trump now.

Trump's pout versus Mussolini's chin: one of Mussolini's classic speeches from1932, with some of his ridiculous physical postures on display.

Consider the originator of fascism, Mussolini, and notice the remarkable similarities between his and Trump's performances: the same supercilious mockery of democrats, journalists, liberals, human rights campaigners, do-gooders; the same puerile postures and gestures, hard to imagine on a national stage except that it is actually happening; the same denial of past history and present circumstances in favor of creating a brand-new reality in accordance with the wishes of the adoring masses; the same preening self-admiration as the hero who alone embodies the wishes of the outwitted, outmaneuvered, outgunned people and will lead them to salvation; the same identification of nation with leader, until Mussolini (or Trump) becomes the nation, until the nation is unimaginable without him as its singular reincarnation.

The war drums and patriotic music are missing, for now, and it is all done with a self-referential, ironic, calculated cool--the subtext of Trump's performance is always that it is a performance after all, as is all politics, so we better get used to his perpetual mockery of the performance at the meta-level--that goes down well with consumers of reality TV.

What led to all this, to Trump's emergence, to this new insanity?

I would like to go back to Hillary Clinton's embodiment of the corrupt liberal style fascists like Trump are always assailing, beginning with her contentless book tour of last summer and punctuated by her opening campaign commercial, a terrifying advertisement for a neoliberal fantasy seeking to dismiss economic reality, as completely out of tune with present circumstances as Trump's fascist fantasy. Hillary's campaign commercial bothered me no end when it came out in April, and it hasn't let go of me yet. It begs to be deconstructed frame by frame for the delusional economic exceptionalism it propounds. It's a vision of a neoliberal America based on an imagined meritocracy that is as frightening as it is vacuous and severe and unforgiving. One mistake, in this world of strict rules and upward mobility, and you're done.

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Anis Shivani is the author of several critically acclaimed books of fiction, poetry, and criticism, including Anatolia and Other Stories (2009), Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies (2011), The Fifth Lash and Other Stories (more...)

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