Donald Trump in the age of video-politics

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Donald Trump has become, without doubt, an interesting media icon with respect to the next presidential elections in the United States. From the perspective of communication, the question is posed in the following terms: how is it possible that a person with such meager political (and personal) merits has reached such a high profile?


It is true that he is an unruly histrionic millionaire, with ample experience in television. Nevertheless, his national and international political vision, does not appear to go beyond the comments exchanged among friends in the corner of a bar: a cocktail of simplistic opinions, not much different from those of the people to whom they are directed. To examine the basic discourse of this figure, we note that, like Le Pen on the other side of the Atlantic, he adjusts to opinions that are amply adopted in certain sectors of the US population. These are mainly expressions of "political rudeness" that install a toxic discourse for a public that is precisely seeking a person of this kind to represent them.


There is a clear extreme right radicalism in his affirmations -- not exempt from ingenuity -- such as claiming to deal with the problem of Latino immigrants by building a wall at the Mexican border, financed by the Mexican government (sic!). Trump has cleverly constructed a niche in American society so that he speaks for his own, a sector that is sufficiently sizeable as to give him a star role among republican candidates.


The case of Trump demonstrates that politics and the media go hand in hand in the so-called western democracies. "Video-politics" is the way that the majority of political figures are now established in the whole world. An age in which what counts is not the rationality or the deliberation of the arguments but on the contrary the spectacular character of their interventions. In this sense, Donald Trump has shown signs of being "a media personage" of great importance. Each of his "performances" -- a mixture of clown and a leader of cheap trash -- is calibrated to increase his rating in the media and get on the front pages in the world.


The formula is not new, others have followed this road. Hitler was one of the first to use the scarecrows of an "internal threat" to bring the masses together around fear and hatred. It is enough to remember Goebbels. All propaganda has to be popular, adapting its level to the least intelligent of the individuals to whom it is directed. The greater the mass to be convinced, the less mental force must be required. The receptive capacity of the masses is limited and their understanding is thin.  In addition they have a great ability to forget. After all, "If a lie is repeated sufficiently, it ends up becoming truth".


Yesterday the Jews in Germany, today the Arabs in France and the Latinos in the United States. The question that remains is whether the degradation of "American democracy" has been sufficient to support a person with the characteristics of Donald Trump as an aspirant to the White House. It is premature to attempt an answer since history tends to give us surprises. As has been said, one idiot is an idiot, two idiots are two idiots, but several thousand form a political movement. 


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)



- Álvaro Cuadra is a researcher and teacher at the Faculty of Social Communication (FACSO), Universidad Central del Ecuador.
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