It Came from Something Awful by Dale Beran

It Came from Something Awful by Dale Beran

Author:Dale Beran
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group


Trump the Frog

They will come in your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, in the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will go up on you and your people and all your officials.

—Exodus 8:1–4, as quoted on /pol/ during the 2016 U.S. election

When Trump announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015, from the lobby of his office, his speech condemning Mexicans as “rapists” was considered an offensive publicity stunt. However, it turned out that the politics of offensive publicity stunts aligned in an uncanny way with the vast group of netizens waiting for someone who spoke to their lived experience of racist jokes, screen performances, and garbage ads.

Trump’s appeal was partly due to his strange talent for emitting both the bullying signals of an alpha male and an insecure, loser beta, who, no matter how vigorously he scrubbed, could not shed his status as an outsider whose desperation to be accepted among the elite prevented it from ever happening.

By 2015, the grousing denizens of /pol/, /r9k/, and other chans had turned sharp-elbowed, adolescent one-upmanship into an elaborate ideology framing the whole world as a schoolyard. Hypothetical interactions with women were deemed successful by displays of dominance and literal-minded manifestations of status: clothes, cars, looks, height, wealth, and race.

And this worldview was not confined to romantic interactions. When betas peeked out of their basements, all of life seemed to be a teenage pecking order that appeared to exist in accordance with the binary rhythms of a video game, an endless set of competitions to either win or lose. How else could you explain why you were in your mom’s basement on your computer? Competition in school transitioned seamlessly into competition in an ever-tightening job market. Treating life like a computerized hierarchy drove the creation of the first generation of otaku and hikikomori in hyper-competitive Japan in the 1980s. And by 2015, it had created a vast new group of hikikomori fixated on competition because they seemed to be forever losing.

Trump’s obsession with humiliation (his own and others’), his angry insistence on sorting the world into winners and losers, spoke to all of this. When Trump promised Americans that they would “win so much, you’ll get sick of winning,” who else was that message directed to but the losers?

This was the alignment that Hannah Arendt argued explained the dawn of fascism, when the “refuse of all classes” and the bourgeois businessmen who would be “flattered at being called power-thirsty animal[s]” agreed on how the world worked, viewing it from a distorted perspective visible from the very top and bottom. To both, the nuances of human interactions, relationships, and communities were abstracted into a cascade of zero-sum games.

And so, ironically, self-declaimed losers found their champions among the winners at the summit of the same hierarchy that they believed ground them underfoot. In similar loop-de-loops of logic, Trump claimed that because he himself had been a special interest donating to political campaigns, he was above special interests.


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