Pop culture makes people ignorant

United States

Georg Seesslen

To person

is a writer, cineast and critic. At the beginning of 2017 his book "Trump! Populism and Politics" was published by Bertz und Fischer.

If you look at the US President and no longer the election campaigner Donald Trump through the glasses of pop criticism, the first question that arises is the legitimation of such an approach, which of course does not want to replace political criticism. After all, a politician is described here in terms and models that have nothing to do with politics in any direct way, but are at best reflections and means of transport: In popular culture, political life is represented indirectly.

In democracy, politics belongs to the sphere of rational discourse, which relates to information, interests, texts, laws and models and in which all things have their causes and effects, follow a general obligation to logic, reason and morality and, if even with some effort here and there, always let explain at the end. Pop culture belongs to the sphere of entertainment, fictions, dreams, myths, affect images and simulations under a bell of constant fantasy, in which it is not a matter of logical connections or the transparency of the motifs, but of feelings, imagery, effects and any reason structurally withdraws.

In the highly developed post-industrial societies we have largely learned to cope with living in these two worlds. For example, we make a very precise distinction between a television crime thriller and the reality of police and judicial work or a doctor series and real medical preventive care and welfare. But the two spheres have been mixed for a long time, and that goes far beyond someone asking the actor of a hospital series for a medical diagnosis or hooligans continuing the game on the green grass in bloody arguments on the street.

Politics becomes pop becomes politics

From the everyday cooking show to the reality soap, more and more formats of popular culture are blurring the line between a depiction of the "first" reality and the construction of a "second" reality. Last but not least, Donald Trump himself set standards long before his presidential candidacy with his thoroughly "realistic" and malicious casting show "The Apprentice" by offering the winners of the show jobs in his companies.

In the past decades, the hopeful consensus has been that, although pop culture and politics increasingly come to partial agreements - an election campaign like an advertising campaign, a party congress like a show event - they can also be separated again - the one chosen as a pop star is then transformed into a sensible one. moral political actor. Media impact could be dismissed as a fleeting picture of real political work. The promise of the presidential candidate Donald Trump was that there would be no such separation with him. The fatality of this construction is beginning to show itself: His followers appreciated this "wholeness" as a special form of political honesty, but in fact the issue is that a politician has lost the ability to take off his popular cultural mask. The one who fell for Donald Trump most fundamentally is Donald Trump.

Regardless of a political or moral assessment of his decrees, his communication or his personnel decisions, it has been shown that much of what might still count as staging, deliberate role play and provocative rule violation in the election campaign is now being adopted into a form and technique of governance . Trump's rhetoric continues to be about emotion and affect at the expense of facts and the rules of checks and balances, and his polemics against representatives of the critical press exceeds the level of irritation that even a liberal political culture accords its protagonists.

Trump places himself outside of the democratic political discourse and instead chooses the "alternative reality" of popular culture, entertainment and fictional dream machines as the arena for the argument about himself and his actions as US President. Seeing Trump as a protagonist of pop culture has nothing to do with remote psychological diagnosis. It is not about the psyche of this president, even bizarre signals may occasionally emerge from this, but about the roles he has chosen himself or the public ascribed to him, a game with signs and concepts that go beyond discursive rationality. A populist politician makes politics with elements of popular culture.

A not inconsiderable part of this culture responds to this with a politicization of pop, because this application had and still has features of a hostile takeover. Rock groups banned Trump from using their music in his performances, "Star Wars" fans oppose chief advisor Stephen Bannon's ludicrous comparison of his politics with Darth Vader and the "dark side of power", and even the most recent Academy Awards were on their salary examined as an anti-Trump gesture. Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Lady Gaga, Alec Baldwin or Michael Moore, to name just a few of the celebrities from show business who have spoken out vehemently against Trump, for their part, cannot help but use a mixture of political and pop-cultural language answer, as a moral distancing as well as a carnival caricature.

Donald Trump, that is a general consensus even before taking sides, has (not only) divided American society, and this division is not only taking place in the area of ‚Äč‚Äčinterests and convictions, but also in that of images, performances, and imaginations. It is therefore not only legitimate, but also urgently necessary, to extend the criticism of him into this area as well - especially since the sphere of politics remains perplexed and speechless with regard to the phenomenon of Donald Trump as US President. Not only has a catastrophe occurred in her narrative of the world, but rather the catastrophe of the narrative itself: the possibility that a Donald Trump could become President of the United States was not foreseen from a discursive-rational perspective and along interests that conditioned by reason and morality, not even explainable. But what use is rejection without understanding? There remains the detour via the mythology of popular culture.