Note: I am making no assertion of facts. This article represents my opinion.
So, Melania Trump’s second holiday decoration of the White House was released. And it’s just as strange as last year’s. This got my ol’ noggin’ a thinkin’… What’s with the style?
Surely, Melania’s a stylish elite socialite. That’s a lot of pressure to look sharp.
So why the blood red trees? Why the stark cold skeleton hallways?
Having worked with & around financial elites, I can offer one theory:
Perhaps it has something to do with the lack of true threats in their lives (in terms of physical survival & reproduction) and so — much like how horror movies are popular among middle class people — the high-stress grotesque feels exotic to wealthy aesthetes; whereas to people who generally live high-stress lives prefer a total & immersive escapism (which is the opposite of a high-stress grotesque experience).
And so now I'm fascinated by the paradox between the supposed "War on Christmas" (the wholesome all-American depiction of Christmas supported by Trump people) ~ and this high-stress / grotesque Trump White House Christmas spectacle, which reminds me of a David Cronenberg set... But that doesn’t matter to the fans of Donald Trump!
When they look at these photos, what they see is more the absence of something than the addition of something. When they look at Melania, they see the absence of Michelle Obama — and most disgustingly, they see the absence of a conspiracy theory they created & shared with each other for years: that Michelle Obama’s secretly a man.
Supporters of Donald Trump repeat the assertion that Melania represents “the reintroduction of class into the White House.” You can see it in the Reedit board above. This is a common thing that’s been repeated since 2015. “Melania is going to bring class to the White House.”
It doesn’t take a genius to see this is not-secretly coded racism. The silent argument is that Michelle Obama had no class. The thing being unspoken is that they feel relief looking at the first lady of the White House and seeing a white lady. Even better than she looks like a sculpture, because white supremacists get to project their fantasies onto her.
However, I think something even more sinister is being expressed with these decorations. Because the disconnect between the Coca-Cola Americana Christmas, and their cold sterile elitist decorations are impossible to ignore. It reminded me so much of futurist-fascism.
What are fascist aesthetics?
Is it really just images of strong men, giant buildings, and slick uniforms with shiny boots? Not necessarily. Fascism has no specific style, in the same way fascism has no simple description. It is a sneaky, fluid thing that’s impossible to grab.
My theory is that “fascism” is the organized-political form of a deep & dark impulse inside the human species: that of the pre-historical neanderthal-like dominance hierarchies.
Dominance-based hyper-loyal tribes worked for humans & pre-humans for hundreds of thousands of years. That’s a long ass time.
In fact, there’s evidence to suggest humans were able to advance as the dominant species because our ancestors straight up murdered all of the neanderthals… We can be a brutal, dominating, destructive species. And perhaps that worked when our brows were short & thick, and we were living short lives — only to fuck and procreate and die.
But now we are a social creature, no longer running in fear from the night, or from seasons, or from predator animals. And we have tall, expressive foreheads communicating subtleties of emotions to prove it. We are not the same creatures of pre-history.
And so, my theory, is that “fascism” is the modern version of this pre-historical social organization, trying to “bubble up” again from our collective unconscious, to destroy (even if just compulsively & without reason) the collective work of human civilization. That’s why it’s also my belief that fascism & authoritarianism in general is humanity’s greatest threat.
So long as there are people, there will be threats of global fascism.
What got me fascinated by this subject is my devotion to art.
Many years ago, when I was first studying these subjects, I started with a simple hypothesis: The antidote to brutal politics is more beauty. The more beauty in the world, the better the world gets. This was a natural thought since I’m an artist; art is about pleasure; and so more art = more pleasure = better world. LOL. Well, that was the reasoning...
There was only one little problem with this theory… The Nazis.
No matter how hard I tried to ignore it, the Nazis were an aesthetic phenomenon more than they were a political one. Their everything was based on style: oration, rallies, propaganda, social organization, even their holocaust, to the devoted Nazi, was an aesthetic thing.
There was no way for me to square the relationship between beautification & the Holocaust.
It was a huge thorn in my theory. The Nazis thought they were making the world more “pure,” and thus, more “beautiful.” So beauty is not exactly a good or bad thing. It wasn’t a good thing here!
The idea of beauty can be used to justify the worst cruelties.
I see the relationship between power & aesthetics is a big topic. And in the era of Trump, and global far-right ultranationalism, the concept of fascist aesthetics are extremely important. Because we are being surrounded with it. Yeah, for real.
Whether it is being done purposefully or not (I think to a large degree this movement is being driven by powerful people sympathetic to far-right ultranationalism), there is a creeping fascist aesthetic in our world. It is actively trying to make itself more influential.
In the essay, Style versus Ideology: Towards a Conceptualization of Fascist Aesthetics (written by Ulrich Schmid), fascist aesthetics can be described with 6 commonalities:
1. Fascism is, to a considerable extent, a phenomenon of style.
2. Fascist aesthetics is not restricted to one specific style.
3. Fascism is engaged in a constant rivalry with other forms of modernism.
4. Future and past are amalgamated into a timeless present using myths.
5. Fascist art does not imitate reality, but it creates its own reality.
6. Fascist aesthetics reinstates art into social life; out of galleries & into behaviors.
So back to Melania’s Christmas trees.
On a basic psychoanalytical level, they represent some dark things:
The 2017 design clearly communicates “coldness” “starkness” “winter gothic” — I might add descriptions like “portal of transformation” “skeletons” etc.
The new 208 design clearly communicates “blood,” “pagans,” and “monolithic.”
I simply do not think “Christmas” when I look at those ornaments… And I’m supposed to be the Che Guevara AntiFa George Soros Hillary Clinton cultural-Marxist atheist liberal! lol
To be fair, creepy red tree hallway isn’t the only White House Christmas decor. And it may very well be a deliberate provocation of the media (but still, that plays into the fascism narrative), however the weird part is SO WEIRD that it sticks out as a symptom expressing something.
What I personally think of when I see those trees is “fascist aesthetic.”
I think “Zarah Leander directed by Douglas Sirk.”
So I did a bit of research about this aesthetic and it turns out — it’s rooted in history.
The first distinguishing thing the 2017-2018 palettes do is they totally reinterpret the meaning of Christmas (and Christmas decor). This total reinterpretation is at tension against Trump’s whole “returning Christmas to its traditional place in society” shtick.
For some reason that also reminded me of the jacket Melania once wore to visit the children her husband ordered into detention camps. It may as well be the manifesto of this entire administration, as her jacket read — “I don’t really care. Do you?”
The clues aren’t even subtle, people!
One of the defining keys of a fascist-aesthetic is the total reinterpretation of reality.
"Fascism wanted to replace reality with its own demiurgic project. Reality was not accepted as a given fact, but as a deficient material which had to be modeled and turned into beauty…
Fascist art does not want to depict or represent reality – it creates reality. Thus, reality becomes a metaphor of itself – only selected aspects are able to make their way through the fascist grid of perception…
…the whole fascist movement can be interpreted as an allegorical project as it tries to reduce the empirical world to an abstract background and to supersede it with its own metaphorical reality, eventually becoming the exclusive frame of reference for individuals..."
The other striking thing about the Christmas decor is their dark aura. If you squint your eyes you can see the wonder of Christmas in them, but if you step back and just look at the design it’s quite ominous. It’s excessive & grotesque.
Yes, stylistically they are striking — but so are the dynamic shots in Triumph of the Will.
"There is a widespread cliché that identifies fascist aesthetics with monumental neo-classicism. Such an interpretation restricts fascist art to the personal taste of Adolf Hitler...
However, the stylistic phenomenology of fascist aesthetics was in fact much broader. A comparative analysis of German and Italian pieces of art leads to troubling and contradictory evidence"
A fascist aesthetic is not just neo-classical sculptures of idealized naked white people. It’s not just swastikas. A fascist aesthetic is many things, but most importantly, it’s THE thing.
Fascism is an aesthetic. Not a specific one. But fascism is more aesthetic than politic.
It’s hard to define fascism as a political thing. But it begins & ends as an aesthetic.
Scholars often disagree on how to define fascism, even those after World War 2. The most that’s offered is the Italian Doctrine of Fascism (1932), and the German National-Socialist’s 25 point political platform.
What authors, scientists, and historians are agreeing, however is that fascism is a way of being combining a certain logic (often not real) with a certain style. And that these two things combine into one thing which forms an aesthetic movement. This is why fascism is an aesthetic thing. The little codes, signs, symbols, rallies, and rituals they exchange also reveal their plans for the world if & when they take power in the future.
As the aesthetic grows, so does the fascism...
I’m just going to paste a bunch of excerpts from the essay I just read:
“Fascism is no longer interpreted as a political ideology, but as a social culture.
Sociologists focus on collective patterns of behavior, on the social construction of individuality, on the organisation of public and private spaces, and on the regulation of interaction…
The fascist project can be understood then as a total work of art where each element has to fit stylistically.
Consequently, style in behavior, clothing and manner of speaking are basic manifestations of the fascist reality. Thus, the fascist attention to everyday culture should be analysed against this background. Moreover, the stylistic imperatives made sure that individual loyalty to the system could be easily controlled…
The Nazi & Fascist regimes opted for different aesthetic styles but adhered to a similar function of art —
Art provided the visible & palpable surface of a fascist ideology which was hard to grapple…
Art carries out a pre-modern function in a fascist society.
It can be likened to sacral paintings in the context of medieval Catholicism. These paintings were not perceived as ‘art’ opposing to ‘practical life’. Art was the essence of popular beliefs. No one could stand aside from this system of values and signs.
Art represents the metaphysical vision of a total state – this state appears neither in bureaucratic structures nor in legal regulations, but in splendid stagings of power.
Goebbels stated programmatically that ‘the state will transform itself from a constitutional state into a state which will be basically a community of artistic creation.’
Fascist aesthetics is an instrument of revelation. The fascist state appears to people in rituals, representations and symbols. The fascists knew exactly that their apparition was basically their essence. To put it bluntly: the fascist state was what it seemed.
As soon as the permanent show was interrupted, the whole system collapsed. As soon as the permanent show was interrupted, the whole system collapsed.
This general orientation towards visibility and perception is also the reason for the preference in fascist art for allegories.
The fascist state was something which was not palpable – it had to be represented. Fascist institutions relied on their representation, because they had no functionalist legitimation…
Fascism narrates an allegorical tale which no longer allows for realistic denotation. The metaphoric level… [is] the only language which creates an acceptable sense of orientation in a world being reduced to the fascist project…
Design and ritual completed each other and defined a community with highly elaborated stylistic norms. Fascist art defines not only the design of life, but also its behavioral patterns.
Fascist aesthetics had a clear pragmatic function, perhaps comparable to a trap.
First, it should attract people to the fashionable outlook, and secondly tie them irrevocably to the fascist project. In doing so, fascist aesthetics repeats the captive strategies of the medieval Catholic church, where the believers were overwhelmed by the beauty of sacral art.
Art is not segregated from the public sphere and exiled to museums and exhibitions.
Instead, social life itself has to become art.
The look, the design and the rituals of fascism are not its secondary attributes, but its very essence.
The average citizen had to be attracted by the beautiful spectacle and to be bound by ritual.
This strategy is of course modeled upon religious patterns. It does not come as a surprise that fascist aesthetics carries out similar pragmatic functions to sacral art.
The fascist state as staged in mass events, everyday culture and art was an allegory for the higher aspirations of fascism which were expressed in terms like Moeller van den Bruck’s ‘Third Reich’ or Mussolini’s ‘Spiritual Community’.”
So what’s the big take away?
Melania’s Christmas trees may be in the fascist-futurist style, but they’re benign. All they do is communicate a deeper impulse inside the White House. Even if subconscious. (It’s not.)
Why is the Trump movement fascist, and not his opposition?
Because his populist movement is following those of previous, historical fascist movements. Because Trump has expressed sympathies with dictators / dictatorship rule / and accepted the support of violent counter-protesters / white supremacists.
Because Trump is the charismatic figurehead at the top of a long chain of hierarchy. Because of the systematic attempt to control the information stream of his populist followers (most of the fake news is for them…). Because Trump is functionally dismantling checks & balances on his power. Because Trump is indirectly condoning the murder of journalists. Because of the racist drive of the movement. And because politically, fascism is a far-right nationalist movement.
It doesn’t look like the threat of fascism will go away in our lifetimes. We’re experiencing a resurgence of a “Nazi international” right now and probably will for many years…
Modern fascism will not look like old fascism. Even old fascisms were different in styles.
Inside America, Trump’s fascism has a murky & amorphous quality to it: being Judeo-Christian when necessary; Wall Street excess when needed; Reagan-bravado when needed; white supremacist when needed; Internet futuristic when needed; or just state propaganda.
Do not expect giant statues of Donald Trump (although, actually, do expect it! lol).
But do expect the continuing onslaught of psychological global warfare, backed by gangs of violent street thugs and domestic terrorists, all being energized by the current president of the United States — surrounded by an administration of fascist aesthetes.