The Silent Majority : How Culture Will Help Trump
I’m not a Trump fan, let’s just get that out of the way. I’m just a guy with a keyboard but I’m also a guy who thinks about culture and people.
I work across different segments of the population. I see people who are broke, rich, dumb, smart, labourers, accountants, doctors, radio hosts, plumbers, dancers, painters, even a few musicians.
I also write about culture and as a result end up thinking about it a lot. Where does it come from, how does it change, who participates in it and how can it be used as a force for good?
Relevant to this story is the fact that I come from a relatively privileged position. I went to private schools, graduated from a good university, and live among the top 10% of society. I suspect many of you reading this do as well. I wouldn’t mention this except that the truth is 80% of pop culture is made for me….or us.
When you watch the news, standup comedy, listen to music, you realize that there’s a monochrome sheen over everything. Assuming you’re into what’s popular, the voice is the same, the message is the same (usually just left of centre) and even the edgiest stuff is anodyne.
Pop culture is the watered down version of a fringe culture that was made for a specific niche. Pop culture may be made for the masses but it’s also alienating. Especially when its production is concentrated in the hands of a few, very similar people.
Inevitably a cabal of people decide on the tastes of a generation. I’m not saying this is a cult or conspiracy. I’m saying it’s natural that you associate with people you like, your tastes will naturally align, and the voice of whatever comes out will likely be relatively similar.
Now let’s say you don’t align with that voice, let’s say you really never did. The music is catchy, some of the shows are good, but the culture is just not yours. You might as well as be watching British shows instead of American ones. Who’s speaking for you? Who’s capturing your problems? What do you rely on to express your joys and pains.
The answer is nothing, in your own country.
This might only be partially true and somewhat of an exaggeration but perception is everything. Not identifying with your own culture and feeling powerless to change that is a depressing and angering feeling. So what do you do? You create a counter culture.
Which leads us to Trump. Are people more or less alienated? My guess is more and Trump (in)articulates that. People don’t care about his policies, people who voted for Obama, also voted for Trump. They didn’t suddenly turn into idiots and racists. His supporters cross over with Bernie’s. All of these candidates are in some sense revolutionary. They’re all something different.
In 2016, people didn’t enjoy watching Trump for his intelligence or his policies. There was nothing serious. They watched him because he was ostensibly revolting against the very things people were feeling alienated by (although of course this was a lie). He expressed all the horrible stuff that was going unexpressed.
These are not people who are horrible human beings. They’re people who want to buck the system because the system doesn’t speak to them. Though Trump is in power, music, TV, movies, comedy, art is largely left wing and politically correct. More importantly, it’s the dominant narrative.
Its dominance also gives it a sneering, superior quality that gets people’s back up. CNN’s inability to understand the Trump win, is really their inability to understand almost half the country. Rachel Maddow’s smarmy take on the news just talks down to anyone who doesn’t tow the line — and she’s not even funny. At least Bill Maher to his credit will talk to anyone, no matter that his predictable jokes cater to his insipid audience of lemmings.
Even I, left of centre, hate these people. That type of hate breeds a counter culture that at times can get quite ugly.
Unlike other counter cultures, this one has a frighteningly large nucleus of support. Everyone from racists, to nationalists, to people who are unemployed, to students burdened with unbearable debt, to the everyday guy who’s just tired of government fucking things up can support Trump. You don’t have to get deep into his policies to enjoy giving the establishment the middle finger.
That’s what we’re seeing across the globe: Trump is a human middle finger, ditto for Brexit, Salvini, LePen, Vox, and Modi. They are the personification of “fuck you.” At the heart of it, lies the counter culture.
Unless we, as a society, do something to open up a pressure valve, we’re just going to see more angry people trying to find ways to tell us to eff off. Culture, art, public policies — all of these can serve to stave off certain electoral death but to really change the people’s minds, we need to change the way we talk to each other. That starts with culture.