PUBLIC DISCUSSION OF American politics follows the lead of American mass culture and has become a ratings-driven commodification of politics as mass entertainment. In the light of this definition, Trumpian politics is bound to ascend the highest stage of dark political culture. What critical theorists of the Frankfurt School said about the “culture industry” (Kulturindustrie) – being guilty of “mass deception” because it “endlessly cheats its consumers out of what it endlessly promises”1 – applies to the dark political culture perfected by Trump and Trumpism.
The culture industry is transfixed by Trump, a bona fide TV star. The combination of amusing and infuriating elements that Trump craftily injects into his tweets and speeches keeps supporters and opponents as well as reporters and commentators glued to what comes out of his mouth. Trump’s Believe-Me (and nobody else) oratory is the manna that keeps his believers excited and going wherever he wants them to go.
Willing himself to entertain at all cost and never be boring, Trump improves his act “like a biased machine learning algorithm,” as “mathbabe” Cathy O’Neill observed:
What that translates to is a constant iterative process whereby he experiments with pushing the conversation this way or that, and he sees how the crowd responds. If they like it, he goes there. If they don’t respond, he never goes there again, because he doesn’t want to be boring. If they respond by getting agitated, that’s a lot better than being bored. That’s how he learns.2
In the wilds of Trump world, there is no penalty for lacking a moral compass and being deceptive, clueless, or plain wrong, only dullness is verboten. Success is achieved when the audience laughs, shouts, and claps; goes merrily after his enemies; pins its hopes exclusively on Trump; and does not believe the “fake media” that says their leader is a conman.
US politics has become a late-night laughing matter on TV and not primarily because of Trump. American TV inherited the “showbiz” business model of the culture industry, which had been created for radio and film in the first half of the twentieth century. Since then, the political culture of America has been warped by the industry’s commercial objective, that is, to entertain as many listeners and viewers as possible, mainly in big cities.
The refining effect of urban wit was noticed early on by critical theory as “compulsory intellectualization of amusement.”3 Contemporary experience confirms this analysis. Political shows, such as The Colbert Report (1,447 episodes), were as popular and lucrative as they were hilarious and sophisticated. However, when one considers that the best American discussions of politics are conducted late at night in TV studios with canned laughter and applause, then this setup itself looks like a bad joke on the political culture of the US.
The traditional understanding of liberals and conservatives alike that politics is a most serious business has evaporated. Populist politicians like Trump are now reaping the electoral benefits of showbiz politics. It is a mind-boggling trajectory from the “nausea” about a post-serious world to that very world. What a Leo Strauss could not imagine in the 1930s (in his comments on Carl Schmitt’s affirmation of “the political”) has been normalized in the US over the last sixty years. That new normal is the hitherto impossible:
It is impossible to mention politics and the state in the same breath as “entertainment”; politics and the state are the only guarantee against the world’s becoming a world of entertainment; therefore, what the opponents of the political want is ultimately tantamount to the establishment of a world of entertainment, a world of amusement, a world without seriousness.4
Trump and his coterie are the beneficiaries of an America unshackled from norms, rules, and etiquette. His freewheeling political performance mocks the sober gravitas of the statesman as a theatrical act to appear “presidential.” So, if politics as entertainment is the curse of our political culture, it is also simultaneously a blessing for the corporate purveyors and supersalaried hosts of talk shows such as:
- The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and Jimmy Fallon on NBC since 1962. NBC is owned by NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.
- Saturday Night Live on NBC since 1975.
- Late Night with David Letterman on NBC from 1982 to 1993, then on CBS from 1993 to 2015. CBS is a flagship property of the CBS Corporation, which in turn is owned by National Amusements.
- Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher on Comedy Central from 1993 to 1996, on ABC from 1997 to 2002, and on HBO since 2003. Comedy Central is an asset of the Viacom conglomerate, which belongs to National Amusements. ABC is owned by Disney-ABC Television Group. HBO belongs to the Time Warner conglomerate.
- Jimmy Kimmel Live! on ABC since 2003.
- The Jon Stewart Show on MTV from 1993 to 1995 and as The Daily Show on Comedy Central from 1999 to 2015, hosted by Trevor Noah since 2015. MTV is also owned by the Viacom conglomerate.
- The Colbert Report on Comedy Central from 2005 to 2014 and as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS since 2015.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES VACCINATE the innocents at home and abroad against unwelcome truths of science and social theory. The presumed plot of “cultural Marxism” is an instructive case. The fact that this conspiracy theory resembles the Nazi prototype of “cultural Bolshevism” (Kulturbolschewismus) should be a warning – the contemporary US has entered the path that led Weimar Germany into a fascist future.
Exposés of “cultural Marxism” allege, the critical social theorists of the Frankfurt School used rock and roll, the Beatles, and sexual liberation to undermine the cultural foundations of America. They agglomerate slanted accounts of biographies and intellectual history in a weird bricolage to assert that political correctness endangers American identity, security, and survival. A first “revelation” about the sinister aim of “cultural Marxism” was published in 1992 in FIDELIO Magazine, a journal of the right-wing Lyndon LaRouche movement.5
Michael Minnicino’s essay on “The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and ‘Political Correctness’” told the vexing tale that the “Bolshevik intelligentsia” of this school came out on top of “the philosophical combat of the last two millennia” and imposed their “monstrous theories” upon the unwitting folks of America. To him, the heirs of the Frankfurt School “completely dominate” our universities, “teaching their own students to replace reason with ‘Politically Correct’ ritual exercises.”6
Minnicino’s dramatic account of the plot of “cultural Marxism” laid the demise of “Western Judeo-Christian civilization” at the feet of the Frankfurt School and portended darkly, “in our era of incurable pandemic disease and nuclear weapons, the collapse of Western civilization will very likely take the rest of the world with it to Hell.” But he also envisioned an “underground resistance movement” battling the “counter-Renaissance” of the Frankfurt School to create a “new Renaissance.” According to Minnicino, that populist movement will depend on “seemingly ordinary people”:
Given the successes of the Frankfurt School and its New Dark Age sponsors, these ordinary individuals, with their belief in reason and the difference between right and wrong, will be ‘unpopular.’ But, no really good idea was ever popular, in the beginning.
Trump and Trumpism got the “ordinary people” who are now ready to believe everything about “cultural Marxism” but nothing about demonstrable reason and its capacity to distinguish “really good” from truly bad ideas, or why the moral difference between right and wrong has put their movement and its populist leader on the downside of American democracy.
In 2002, three-times presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan incorporated the “cultural Marxism” plot in a Raspailan diatribe about immigration.7 For Buchanan, Jean Raspail was “prophetic.”8 Buchanan also shamefully contended that the “leading lights” of the Frankfurt School “redirected their talents and energies to undermining the culture of the country that had given them refuge.”9
Buchanan’s backing of the imaginary conspiracy of “cultural Marxism” poisoning the West was consequential. His endorsement injected an outer fringe theory into the bigger right-wing conservative context of America, where it took hold. The anti-Semitic belief that the Jewish luminaries of the Frankfurt School went “from destroying traditional Western culture in Germany to destroying it in the United States”10 has there been circulating ever since.
Recognizing conspiracy theories and their crafty assemblers can be difficult. Martin Jay, the leading American historian of the Frankfurt School, experienced this firsthand. In 1999, he let some “very professional and courteous” people interview him for a video documentary about the development of Critical Theory.
The unwitting professor, pictured in his university surroundings, did his best, but the documentary got the better of him. It “revealed” the sinister Marxist history of political correctness by reassembling Jay’s answers and explanations in the narrative context of “cultural Marxism.” William Lind, the author of the sting operation, provided the misleading commentary oozing professorial gentility with a pipe in his right hand.11 Lind gleefully recalled:
The video is especially valuable because we interviewed the principal American expert on the Frankfurt School, Martin Jay, who was then the chairman of the History Department at Berkeley (and obviously no conservative). He spills the beans.12
Nothing of what Jay had to say was a secret or previously unknown, yet his distinguished academic position bolstered Lind’s tale about the Marxist and Jewish origins of political correctness.13 And look (Figure 1) who posed with Lind (and vice versa) in 2016.
THE FAR-LEFT WELCOMES conspiracy theories as much as the Far-Right. For example, none other than Fidel Castro fell for the presumed peril of “cultural Marxism” invoked by Daniel Estulin in a three-volume “investigative report” on the Bilderberg plot.14
Estulin met Castro in Havana in 2010 (Figure 2). They had an animated conversation about a host of topics ranging from Al Qaeda to the colonization of outer space.15 The Comandante was intrigued by Estulin’s work about the “annual meetings of the world’s most powerful people – the Bilderberg Group.”
The “revelation” about Bilderbergers such as Henry Kissinger conspiring to establish a “globalist hegemony” fit Castro’s own suspicions. A survivor of many American assassination and ousting attempts, he was primed to expect the worst from “the [US] empire.”
Castro was so impressed by Estulin’s “true story” that he used his regular column in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, to quote numerous passages from the “fabulous” second Bilderberg volume verbatim and at great length. For instance:
Sex, drugs and rock and roll, huge demonstrations across the nation, hippies, dropouts, the Nixon presidency and the Vietnam War were tearing at the very fiber of American society. Old and new collided head-on without anyone being aware that this conflict was part of a secret social plan, designed by some of the most brilliant and evil people in the world …16
Castro’s compilation repeated the true and the false of Estulin’s fable. Thus, he affirmed the true but trivial generality that Adorno was “one of the main philosophers of the Frankfurt School of Social Research.” But he also spread the non-trivial falsehood that Adorno “was sent to the United States in 1939 to direct the Princeton Radio Research Project … with the aim of controlling the masses.”
The truth is: Adorno had not been “sent” by anybody; he fled the Nazi persecution of German Jews. He did not “direct” the Radio Project, that was the job of Paul Lazarsfeld; but he worked under Lazarsfeld. And finally, Adorno did not aim at “controlling the masses” via popular culture; he in fact decried modern popular culture as mass deception (Massenbetrug).
However, the Princeton project was financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, and Rockefeller money tends to feed the fears of a New World Order conspiracy. Castro’s ratification of the Bilderberg-enhanced conspiracy theory of “cultural Marxism” was immediately and widely reported, for instance by RT17 and the Huffington Post:
Castro suggested that the esoteric Frankfurt School of socialist academics worked with members of the Rockefeller family in the 1950s to pave the way for rock music to “control the masses” by diverting attention from civil rights and social injustice.18
Estulin’s enhancement of the dark idea that the Frankfurt School was behind a “titanic and secret project to turn the values of the United States around” with the thrilling Bilderberg plot was fodder for the growing number of surfers for conspiracy theories in books, articles, and on the Internet.
Taking care of this trend and making sure that no “secret” of the Bilderberg cabal remained hidden, Estulin hawked his “exposures” to an increasing YouTube audience and receptive RT cameras. He spoke about the EU “falling apart at the seams” and that North American and European elites were trying to create a “one-world company.”19 Soon, he unearthed “the darkest secrets of the elites” in a regular weekly RT program Desde la Sombra: From the Shadows.
However, Estulin’s weekly RT program was cancelled when Argentine president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, cut a deal with Putin to include RT en Español in the nationwide broadcasting of Argentina’s publicly owned television network.20 The reason was an Estulin exposure that accused the Argentinian governments of Carlos Menem and Sra. Kirchner and her late husband Néstor of selling the vast region of Patagonia out to the Zionist “masters of the world.”21 The informant for “From the Shadows” was Adrián Salbuchi, an Argentinian anti-Semitic ultranationalist.22
THE DARK FUN of conspiracy theories has moved from the outer fringes to the inner core of the American political discourse. Along the way, the nature of their production and consumption changed radically. Conspiracy theories went from low impact articles and books in the 1990s to high impact websites, digital publications, and social media in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Their clientele grew from a few hundred to a few thousand readers in twenty years but exploded in the last ten years thanks to technological easing. Now, their toxic content reaches millions of eyeballs and involves untold numbers of contributing participants.
This quantitative surge left the content of received conspiracy theories unaffected but made their delivery ever more strident and vulgar. A person who played a leading role in America’s shift to digital coarseness was Andrew Breitbart. His retelling of the story of “cultural Marxism” in Righteous Indignation was utterly repetitive in substance,23 yet extremely nasty in tone.24
Breitbart’s language was meant to be offensive for the sake of getting noticed; it was witty, but not funny, and completely unconcerned about being reminiscent of the hate speech of Hitler and Goebbels (which had driven Critical Theory into exile in the first place). For example: “They [the German Jewish émigrés of the Frankfurt School] had weaponized the cloudy bacteria of their philosophy into full-bore ideological anthrax.”
The contradiction of being raised Jewish and consciously attracting anti-Semitic bigots did not hold Breitbart back from building a stage for the Far Right.25 Breitbart’s friend Larry Solov, co-founder, co-owner, and CEO of Breitbart News Network, recalled how their “new media” company was conceived “one night in Jerusalem” in the summer of 2007: “Andrew turned to me and asked if I would de-partner from the 800-person law firm … and become business partners with him.”26 Solov said “yes” and the two started Breitbart as “a site that would be unapologetically pro-freedom and pro-Israel.”
Breitbart was well-prepared for the startup of a no-holds-barred digital news outlet.27 He had assisted Matt Drudge since the mid-1990s in publishing the online Drudge Report, a right-leaning news aggregator. The Drudge Report rose to instant prominence breaking the scandal of President Clinton’s affair with Monika Lewinsky and Newsweek’s reluctance to publish the scoop.28 In 2005, Breitbart helped Arianna Huffington to launch the Huffington Post, a left-leaning opinion blog. Both Huffington and Breitbart were conservatives at the time, yet by the late 1990s, Huffington had turned liberal.
Breitbart News followed the successful new media enterprises of the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post. It was run out of the basement of Breitbart’s Los Angeles home until board member Steve Bannon provided free office space in Santa Monica.
Breitbart’s untimely death at age 43 in March 2012 was pivotal: Bannon became executive chairman of Breitbart. He and the big money behind him (the Mercers; see chapter 6 on Dark Free Speech) intensified the “media war,”29 which Breitbart had started, and refocused it from the advancement of the Tea Party to the campaign of Ted Cruz and then the election of Trump.30 Winning this war for Trump and T-Plus was greatly helped by the assistance dark political culture and its upstanding comedians provided.
AMERICAN POLITICAL CULTURE is almost evenly divided, and US politics is hotly debated, albeit in the opposing trenches of two solidly fortified camps. Think of the partisan audience of Fox News on the one hand and MSNBC on the other. Few viewers watch and consider both sides. Trespassing is discouraged.
Mainstream media, cosmopolitan elites, Republican and Democratic establishments – they all lost against a foe who may have been joking when he praised the power of Satan.31 He took advantage of the cultural darkness, so the blind did not see what was coming. American comedians pilloried Bannon and Trump night after night, and week after week – but they only managed to domesticate Trump and Trumpism.
Alec Baldwin and Mikey Day did their best playing Trump and “Grim Reaper” Bannon on Saturday Night Live. On February 4, 2017, they called the leaders of Australia, Mexico, and Germany from the studio’s Oval Office and terminated each insulting conversation with slamming the phone down shouting, “Prepare to Go to War.” The studio audience enjoyed the hilariousness of it all.32 A clumsy writer for Cosmopolitan, the women’s magazine for fashion, beauty, and sex tips, lauded the great entertainment value of the satire:
There’s not much to say other than you have to watch the cold open from yesterday’s Saturday Night Live and then laugh and laugh until you cry real tears. Alec Baldwin is dead-on as Trump, and the Grim Reaper is dead-on as Trump’s #1 advisor/puppet master, Steve Bannon. Prepare to giggle a lot and then that giggle followed by a cold shiver that moves up and down your spine and then infiltrate your soul. But other than that: Everything’s fine!!!33
Really? – The skit reached its climax to roaring laughter when Bannon’s impersonator in the grim reaper costume asked, “Can I have my desk back?” Baldwin-Trump answered, “Yes, of course, Mr. President, I sit at my desk,” moved over to a small replica of the Resolute desk and obediently played with a children’s toy (Figure 3).34
The real Trump of course never condoned attention not focused on him. He was angered for months by a Time cover featuring Bannon as “The Great Manipulator” and hated the moniker “President Bannon” for his chief strategist.35 Anyway, the unwelcome nickname bloomed on Twitter (under the hashtag #PresidentBannon) and inspired cartoonists everywhere.36 Yet these political jokes did not derail Trump; they made Trump jealous but did not bring him down. The culture industry’s comedic interventions had only one predictable result: Trump was “giving Bannon the cold shoulder.”37
TRUMP AROSE FROM the culture industry a seasoned entertainment professional. Nearly thirty years of involvement in various radio and TV shows as guest, host, and owner made Trump an expert in the big business of American mass entertainment. His expertise included:
- Numerous appearances on the Howard Stern Show from the late 1990s to 2004.
- Hosting the NBC game show The Apprentice from 2004 to 2015.
- Buying Miss Universe, Inc., from ITT Corporation in 1996 and running it as the Miss Universe beauty pageant from 1996 to 2014, first with CBS from 1996 to 2002 and then with NBC from 2003 to 2014.
- Hosting the pay-per-view show of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) WrestleMania IV and V at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City in 1988 and 1999.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Trump’s journey to the White House began with his support of make-believe or “professional” wrestling, which afforded Trump a boisterous new audience. In 2013, Trump was called a “WrestleMania institution” and inducted into the “celebrity wing” of the WWE Hall of Fame with the words “Donald might very well be a great president of the United States.”38
A memorable event in this world of bombastic strong men was WrestleMania XXIII. It was staged in 2007 and billed as the “battle of the billionaires” with Trump on one side and owner, chairman, and CEO of WWE, Vince McMahon, on the other. Advertised as “Hair vs. Hair,” the winner of the fight would get to humiliate his opponent by shaving the loser’s head.
The two men taunted each other for weeks but choose substitute fighters for the match: African American wrestler Bobby Lashley as stand-in for Trump and American Samoan wrestler Edward Smith Fatu (ring name Umaga) for McMahon. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin of “attitude era” fame was the referee. Trump-Lashley won and both shaved McMahon’s head bald. Another highlight of this staged contest was the moment when Trump suddenly attacked McMahon from behind, threw him down and pounded his head.39
A doctored version of this episode surfaced in July 2017 in a video tweet posted by Trump. It replayed the violent scene of Trump pummeling McMahon but now with the CNN logo plastered over McMahon’s head.40 The message was clear: this president is a fighter. He battles the “fake news” punching an “enemy of the American people” – what could be wrong with that?
Otherwise, Trump and McMahon were business partners and friends. Vince and Linda McMahon gave $5 million to the Trump Foundation between 2004 and 2014.41 In 2016, McMahon’s wife supported the Trump campaign with $7 million. Her reward was a Trump cabinet position in early 2017 as administrator of the Small Business Administration.42
Even more important for Trump’s personal development and public recognition was The Apprentice, a long-running reality show that grew from 20 to 28 million viewers at the end of its first season (January to April 2004). The popular TV show made the already famous Trump a household name in the US and abroad, where it was franchised to several dozen countries. It also turned “The Donald”43 into the straight-talking “host-boss” character who does not sacrifice manly talk for wimpy (politically correct) TV speak.
The Apprentice taught Trump to value high ratings and seek “the love and respect of Middle America.” The game show creator recalled that Trump drew “a direct line from the show’s success to the possibility that he’d shoot for the nation’s top job” saying, “Maybe I’ll run for president one day.”44 For Jim Dowd, public relations chief of NBC, the show was “the bridge” to the 2016 election campaign. TV critic Emily Nussbaum concluded, “if ‘The Apprentice’ didn’t get Trump elected, it is surely what made him electable.”45
Trump’s entertainment education for president would have been incomplete without the early language lessons of The Howard Stern Show. Shock jock Howard Stern – trademarked “King of all Media”46 – was consistently winning the all-decisive, lucrative ratings game talking raunchily about sex. The fact that Stern’s radio show was making tons of money not despite but because of its language was an eye- and dirty mouth-opener for Trump, a frequent guest.47 If nothing else, Stern’s show freed Trump from the shackles of politically correct speech.
The “mock camaraderie”48 of Trump and Stern was forged in the 1990s when Trump was buffeted by financial and personal instability.49 It was a “mutually manipulative relationship” in which Stern had the upper hand. However, Stern sensed his guest’s popular potential. In August 2015, almost one year in advance, he predicted Trump would win the Republican nomination in July 2016, “no matter what he says, people dig him.”50
“Digging” Trump and his potential voters did not translate into an endorsement. Stern supported Clinton for president. “I don’t dislike Trump as a candidate,” said Stern after Clinton’s nomination, “but I am absolutely enamored by Hillary.”51
In February 2017, Stern mischievously suggested that Trump only ran to get “a couple more bucks out of NBC” for The Apprentice and was now secretly wishing Clinton had won. The story showed Trump and Stern at a Knicks basketball game in 2005 with the new women in their lives (Melania Knauss and Beth Ostrosky) between them.52
These shots pitched both men – leaning into each other, talking animatedly, all-smiles – as close friends, a false positive. The cheerful images belied that Stern voted twice for Clinton, in the primary of 2008 and the general election of 2016. The political jokes of late-night comedians are like these photos. They are embedded in our dark political culture which distorts reality, promotes the unacceptable, and normalizes the anomalous.
RADICAL TRUMPISM IS no joke. Trump may not be the person to bring the projects of T-Plus to their natural conclusion (the abolition of American democracy), but he has already shifted the Overton window (see figure 1 in chapter 1) into previously unacceptable areas and modes of public speech and behavior.
American comedians are valiantly pushing back against Trump and Trumpism, but their jokes inadvertently accelerate the public’s adjustment with what was anomalous before, say ridicule of, and violence against, journalists. The development of establishing a “new normal” via comedy and satire is the peculiar meaning of normalization under conditions of politics as entertainment:
This process happens in the places where you least expect political events to transpire. It’s on the late-night talk show, when the comedian giggles as he tousles Donald Trump’s hair, signaling that this madman can take a joke; it’s in the life-style magazine that works to humanize him [Trump] and those around him, suggesting that people with furniture dipped in gold are just like us; it’s in the conversations where one person dampens another’s alarmism by wondering, Have you ever actually seen a Klansman?53
Trump’s hair was ruffled by Jimmy Fallon of The Tonight Show in September 2016. Criticized by his fellow comedians for “humanizing” the then-candidate Trump, Fallon later defended himself by saying, “I almost did it to minimize him.”54 Fallon’s harder hitting colleagues like SNL’s Tina Fey were right, yet they are steering the American public in the same direction. Consider, for example, calling Trump a racist on SNL.
Well, it happened exactly one year before the election. Candidate Trump had been invited to deliver SNL’s opening monologue. Flanked by two Trump impersonators, the candidate was interrupted by the shout “Trump’s a racist!” “Who is that?” Trump asked. It was the comedian Larry David. Standing up in the audience, David yelled again, “Trump’s a racist!” Surprised, Trump said to no one in particular, “Why would he do that?” David shrugged, “I heard if I did that, they’d give me $5,000.” Trump’s response – “As a businessman, I can fully respect that”55 – got what mattered most to everybody: Applause.
Was Trump’s performance “an inside joke between Trump and David at the expense of those who had genuinely protested NBC’s decision to host a leading Republican candidate known for his racism and vitriol”?56 Did the “friendly relationship” between Trump and SNL go “awry” after the November 2015 monologue?57 Are these the most important questions to ask?
American talk shows cracked more jokes about Trump in the first 100 days of his presidency than his three predecessors attracted in their first year.58 Yet politics is no joke and more political jokes than ever are not the solution but part of the problem.59
Jokes cannot heal the damage Trump and T-Plus inflict upon the American democracy. Laughter does not hurt in a political culture that rewards entertainment and craves money. And the jokes that sting in the era of Trump can ricochet and turn against their makers:
When Republicans see these harsh jokes – which echo down through the morning news shows and the chattering day’s worth of viral clips, along with those of Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers – they don’t just see a handful of comics mocking them. They see HBO, Comedy Central, TBS, ABC, CBS, and NBC. In other words, they see exactly what Donald Trump has taught them: that the entire media landscape loathes them, their values, their family, and their religion.60
The eight winds depicted in the early modern image on the PART II page above are coming full circle in the postmodern condition of Trump world – the final chapter of my manuscript.
- Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Translated by Edmund Jephcott, first. ed. 1947. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002. p. 111. Written in American exile, the mass culture verdict of the Frankfurt School theorists was formulated in 1944, exactly one hundred years after Marx’ critique of religion as “opium of the people” (1844).
- Cathy O’Neill, “Donald Trump is like a biased machine learning algorithm.” Mathbabe, 11 Aug. 2016.
- Horkheimer and Adorno, op. cit., p. 114: “The fusion of culture and entertainment is brought about today not only by the debasement of culture but equally by the compulsory intellectualization of amusement.”
- Leo Strauss, “Notes on Carl Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political.” Issuu, p. 116.
- See Dennis King, Lyndon Larouche and the New American Fascism. New York: Doubleday, 1989, and Helen Gilbert, Lyndon Larouche: Fascism Restyled for the New Millennium. Red Banner Reader. Seattle, WA: Red Letter Press, 2003.
- Michael Minnicino, “The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and ‘Political Correctness’,” Schiller Institute, 18 Nov. 2011, reprinted from the Winter 1992 issue of FIDELIO Magazine. The scare that American universities are “dominated” by Frankfurt School professors and students has no base in reality; their numbers are miniscule.
- See Patrick J. Buchanan, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil our Country and Civilization. 1st ed. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2002, chapter 4: “Four Who Made a Revolution.”
- Buchanan, op. cit., p. 100. For Raspail’s dark demography, see chapter 8 above.
- Buchanan, op. cit., p. 80.
- William S. Lind, “What Is Cultural Marxism?” Accessed 1 July 2017. For more on Lind, see Bruce Wilson, “Donald Trump Meets William S. Lind.” 4th Generation Warfare (blog), 3 July 2016.
- See “The History of Political Correctness (Complete).” YouTube, 30 March 2011.
- William S. Lind, “The Roots of Political Correctness.” The American Conservative, 19 Nov. 2009. Lind assembled the video on behalf of Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation. Weyrich, who had coined the term “moral majority,” was a co-founder with Jerry Falwell Sr. of the eponymous Christian Right movement of the late 1970s, the earlier Heritage Foundation and other conservative Washington think tanks.
- For Jay’s account, see Martin Jay, “Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe.” Salmagundi Magazine, 24 Nov. 2011.
- See Daniel Estulin, The True Story of the Bilderberg Group. Walterville: TrineDay, 2009. First published in Spain as La verdadera historia del Club Bilderberg. Barcelona: Ediciones del Bronce, 2005. This was Estulin’s first Bilderberg volume. His second was Los secretos del club Bilderberg. Barcelona, Ediciones del Bronce, 2006. The third was Los señores de las sombras: la verdad sobre el tejido de intereses ocultos que decide el destino del mundo. Barcelona: Ediciones del Bronce, 2007.
- See Daniel Estulin and Fidel Castro, “Humanity must preserve itself in order to live for thousands of years.” Radio Cadena Agramonte, 28 August 2010. Estulin is a Lithuanian-born Russian who had moved to Canada in 1980 and later to Spain. He gave his three Bilderberg books to Castro with the dedication, “We shall win the war when the power of love exceeds the love of power.” Estulin is showing Castro his dedication in Figure 2. Castro responded, “We will win the war by not waging it.”
- Fidel Castro, “Reflexiones del compañero Fidel: The World Government.” Dated 17 August 2010. Diario Granma, 11 March 2014.
- See Robert Bridge, “Castro Lashes out at Secretive Bilderberg Group.” RT International, 19 August 2010.
- “Bilderberg Group Book Fascinates Fidel Castro.” HuffPost, 18 Aug. 2010, updated 25 May 2011.
- See “Daniel Estulin Exclusive: Bilderberg Are Terrified!” RT YouTube, 4 June 2010.
- See Fabián Bosoer and Federico Finchelstein, “Russia Today, Argentina Tomorrow.” The New York Times, 21 Oct. 2014. After Mauricio Macri had replaced Cristina Kirchner in December 2015, the Argentinian state media agency cancelled the free transmission of RT; see “Argentina to suspend RT from national broadcasting.” RT, 10 June 2016.
- See “La patagonia en oferta” (Patagonia on sale), RT, 13 Oct. 2014, subsequently deleted on RT but still available on YouTube. The Zionist angle of this conspiracy theory is bankum, but large Patagonian land sales to “First World billionaires” are not; see Pepe Escobar, “Patagonia: The End of the World Is on Sale.” HuffPost, 23 Aug. 2010.
- See “Adrian Salbuchi” in the Spanish Wikipedia and Salbuchi’s homepage.
- See Andrew Breitbart, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World! New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2011 (Paperback 2012), p. 124: “Marx and Hegel had paved the way for the Progressives, who in turn had paved the way for the Frankfurt School, who had then attacked the American way of life by pushing ‘cultural Marxism’ through ‘critical theory.’ The Frankfurt School thinkers had come up with the rationale for radical environmentalism, artistic communism, psychological deconstruction of their opponents, and multiculturalism. Most of all, they had come up with the concept of ‘repressive tolerance,’ aka political correctness.”
- See Breitbart, op. cit., chapter 6 (“Breakthrough”), which covers “cultural Marxism” coming “stealthily to our shores” and “the rhetorical garbage these jokers [of the Frankfurt School] were spewing” (p. 123).
- This contradiction was discussed in 2017 at the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Israel: “Anti-Semitic, yet Pro-Israel?” Secret Tel Aviv, 5 July 2017. The event invitation noted the “increasing popularity of right-wing parties and politicians all over Europe and in the US … that can no longer be ignored … In their efforts to demonize Muslims and the religion of Islam, many of them claim to support the state of Israel. Yet, in many cases, anti-Semitism is deeply entrenched in the history and structures of these movements and widespread among their supporters.”
- Larry Solov, “Breitbart News Network: Born in the USA, Conceived in Israel.” Breitbart, 17 Nov. 2015.
- See Rebecca Mead, “Rage Machine: Andrew Breitbart’s empire of bluster.” The New Yorker, 17 May 2010.
- See “Newsweek Kills Story on White House Intern.” Drudge Report, 17 Jan. 1998.
- Breitbart, op. cit., p. 3: “Make no mistake: America is in a media war. It is an extension of the Cold War that never ended but shifted to an electronic front.” Breitbart’s enemy in this war was “the international left” represented by the members of the Frankfurt School, “who had moved to heaven on earth from Nazi Germany and apparently could not handle the fun, the sun, and the roaring good times. Ingratitude is not strong enough a word to describe these hideous malcontents” (p. 115).
- See Michael M. Grynbaum and John Herrman, “Breitbart Rises from Outlier to Potent Voice in Campaign.” The New York Times, 26 Aug. 2016.
- See the Bannon quote on the PART I page above.
- See Oval Office Cold Open, SNL, 4 Feb. 2017.
- Laura Beck, “Steve Bannon Portrayed as President Grim Reaper in Hilariously Terrifying ‘SNL’ Cold Open.” Cosmopolitan, 5 Feb. 2017.
- See Elahe Izadi, “Alec Baldwin returns as Trump on SNL, where an evil Bannon is actually president.” Washington Post, 5 Feb. 2017. NB: The article was published in the Post’s “Arts and Entertainment” section.
- See Charlie Spiering, “TIME Cover Features Stephen K. Bannon.” Breitbart, 2 Feb. 2017, and Mallory Shelbourne, “Trump Reportedly Annoyed by Time Cover with Bannon.” The Hill, 15 April 2017.
- For example, a Canadian cartoonist drew a little Trump sitting in big Bannon’s lap; see Liam Britten, “Vancouver artist’s anti-Trump cartoon takes off on social media.” CBC News, 2 Feb. 2017.
- Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni, “Steve Bannon’s disappearing act: Once dubbed ‘The Great Manipulator,’ Trump’s senior advisor steps back in bid to save his job.” POLITICO, 21 July 2017.
- Aaron Oster, “Donald Trump and WWE: How the Road to the White House Began at ‘WrestleMania’.” Rolling Stone, 1 Feb. 2016.
- See Edwin Rios, “6 Unreal Moments from Trump’s pro Wrestling Career.” Mother Jones, 4 July 2017.
- See Michael M. Grynbaum, “Trump Tweets a Video of Him Wrestling ‘CNN’ to the Ground.” The New York Times, 2 July 2017.
- See David A. Fahrenthold and Rosalind S. Helderman, “Missing from Trump’s list of charitable giving: His own personal cash.” Washington Post, 10 April 2016.
- See Daniella Diaz, “Linda McMahon picked to be Small Business administrator.” CNN, 9 Dec. 2016.
- Amy Argetsinger, “Why does everyone call Donald Trump ‘The Donald’? It’s an interesting story.” Washington Post, 1 Sept. 2015.
- Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, “The Inside Story of How ‘The Apprentice’ Rescued Donald Trump.” Fortune, 8 Sept. 2016.
- Emily Nussbaum, “The TV That Created Donald Trump.” The New Yorker, 24 July 2017.
- See “KING OF ALL MEDIA – Trademark Details.” Justia Trademarks, 13 Nov. 2007.
- See Chris Herbert and Barry Rubin, “Every appearance Donald Trump made on the Howard Stern Show (almost).”
- See Virginia Heffernan, “How Howard Stern Owned Donald Trump.” POLITICO Magazine, 6 Oct. 2016.
- Trump’s woes at the time ranged from looming economic ruin caused by his failing casino ventures in Atlantic City to the breakup of his marriage to Ivana Trump (married 1977, divorced 1992) with its familial consequences (such as Donald Jr. not speaking to his father for a year) and then the rocky connection with a former beauty queen from Georgia, Marla Maples (they dated since 1989, married 1993, separated 1997, and divorced 1999).
- Judy Kurtz, “Howard Stern predicts Trump will win GOP nod: ‘People dig him’.” TheHill, 24 August 2015.
- Geoff Edgers, “Howard Stern makes his pitch: Why Hillary Clinton should do my show.” Washington Post, 1 Aug. 2016.
- See Elizabeth Durand Streisand, “Howard Stern Claims Donald Trump Wants Hillary Clinton to Be President.” Yahoo Celebrity, 3 Feb. 2017; also Laura Beck, “Howard Stern Is Very Worried About the Mental State of His Friend Donald Trump.” Cosmopolitan, 4 Feb. 2017.
- Hua Hsu, “What Normalization Means.” The New Yorker, 13 Nov. 2016.
- Rebecca Rubin, “Jimmy Fallon Opens Up About That Trump Hair Ruffle.” Variety, 17 May 2017.
- Bradford Richardson, “Larry David yells ‘Trump’s a racist’ during ‘SNL’ monologue.” TheHill, 8 Nov. 2015; also Tessa Stuart, “Larry David Wins $5,000 for Calling Donald Trump a Racist on ‘SNL’.” Rolling Stone, 8 Nov. 2015. The reward of $5,000 had been offered by “Deport Racism,” a Latino rights PAC; see Oliver Darcy, “Deport Racism Group Creates Disturbing Video Featuring Kids Hurl Profanity at Donald Trump.” TheBlaze, 3 Nov. 2015.
- Katie Halper, “Does Larry David Deserve $5,000 for Kinda, Sorta Calling Donald Trump a Racist?” The Nation, 12 Nov. 2015.
- Dave Itzkoff, “Trump and ‘S.N.L.’: A Look Back at a Complicated Relationship.” The New York Times, 9 Feb. 2017.
- See “Trump Jokes Set Record for First 100 Days.” Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, 4 May 2017: “President Trump was the target of 1060 jokes during his first 100 days in office, more than his recent predecessors attracted during their entire first year in office – Barack Obama in 2009 (936 jokes), George W. Bush in 2001 (546 jokes), and Bill Clinton in 1993 (440 jokes).”
- A book, which seems to contradict this statement, makes that point too. See Robert S. Lichter, Jody C. Baumgartner, and Jonathan S. Morris, Politics Is a Joke! How TV Comedians Are Remaking Political Life. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2015, p. 216 f.: “Today, late night television offers more ways for us to indulge that desire [to laugh at politicians] then there were a generation ago. But the joke may be on the audience. What we laugh at affects what we think about politicians and how we think about politics, whether we know it or not.”
- Caitlin Flanagan, “How Late-Night Comedy Fueled the Rise of Trump: Sneering hosts have alienated conservatives and made liberals smug.” The Atlantic, May 2017.