Revisiting Baudrillard’s “America” in the Age of Trump and the Kardashians

Photo by continentcontinent.cc | CC BY 2.0

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
Everyone going home lost in thought?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
There are no barbarians any longer.
Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

— C.P. Cavafy, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’, in Collected Poems, London 1998, p.14

Enough words have been spilled over Donald Trump’s presidency to render moot anything I might say about the candidate and his politics.  Or rather, his anti-politics, since as a quintessential “post truth” politician Trump has any variety of radically contingent twitter-inflected positions on this or that issue, some making very little sense (even to Trump himself, one suspects).  And yet all of this nonetheless partakes of the political.

Far more interesting to me is the conjuncture which supports the form of consciousness bearing the name “Donald Trump”, and the similar forms constitutive of those who support him.

Thinking about the above led me to revisit Jean Baudrillard’s extended essay Amerique, which can however be mistaken for a coffee table book, published in 1986, with the English version America appearing in 1989.  Part travelogue (albeit of the instant snapshot variety), part philosophical disquisition in the…

Read more