Thursday, November 10, 2016

As Adorno recognized long ago, there is a kind of artifice to this rebellion that belongs less to what we used to call political reality than it does reality television.  It is true that Trump says outrageous things and that (as his champions might say) “he tells it like it is.”  But the strange aspect to this candor is that one cannot get over the impression that he hardly means what he says.  He is as likely to reverse his opinion the next moment and deny what he has just said.  Even those who support him will say that one shouldn’t take offense because this is just Trump being Trump.  When he “tells it like it is” the authenticity of his performance is precisely the performance of authenticity, rather than the candor of somebody who is announcing without embarrassment what everyone already thinks.  With the casual bluster of a talk-radio host, attitude displaces meaning, and the telling displaces what is told.  It is true, of course, that Trump constantly invokes political correctness as an evil force of liberal repression, and it is therefore tempting to consider him a kind of impresario for what liberalism has repressed. But Trumpism is less the “undoing” of repression than he is an event of political theater in which everyone gets to experience the apparent dismantling of repression without actually changing anything. Even his unabashed misogyny, racism, and demagogic remarks about Muslims merely recapitulate a repertoire of stereotyped attitudes that have long characterized American public discourse.  Too easily condemned as exceptional, Trump’s exceptional “vulgarity” is actually not exceptional at all:  it is a symptom of a culture that has succumbed to the thoughtlessness of received typologies.  Hence the importance of Adorno’s remark that the authoritarian personality represents not a pathology from which others can claim immunity.  It represents “the total structure of our society".
Peter E. Gordon — The Authoritarian Personality Revisited: Reading Adorno in the Age of Trump

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