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Trump: corporations, media and wealthy donors are conspiring to elect Hillary, from Peter Myers

(1) Trump: corporations, media and wealthy donors are conspiring to elect Hillary
(2) Trump vs Progressives in Culture War. An intensely personal conflict, where arguments take the form of personal insults
(1) Trump: corporations, media and wealthy donors are conspiring to elect Hillary
Trump hones attacks on big corporations, donors and media
His class-based populist appeals are intended to rally white working
class base, but also former Sanders supporters.
By Kenneth P. Vogel
10/01/16 07:55 AM EDT
NOVI, Michigan — As Donald Trump’s campaign works to drive a sharper
message down the home stretch, the GOP nominee is increasingly invoking
the specter of a conspiracy by big corporations, media companies and
donors to elect Hillary Clinton.
The warnings, coming in scripted and sometimes personal attack lines in
nearly every recent speech, are largely geared towards mobilizing
Trump’s base of disaffected white working class voters, according to a
campaign official.
But the official acknowledged that the populist rhetoric also is
intended to appeal to college-educated middle-class voters who tell
pollsters that they believe there are "two sets of rules — one for
insiders, another for the rest of us." That includes former supporters
of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ unsuccessful campaign against Clinton
for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And Trump’s recent condemnations of the elite pillars of American
society — which the source traced to the influence of Trump’s new
campaign executive chairman Steve Bannon and the campaign’s policy
director Stephen Miller — at times echo Sanders closely.
During a Thursday rally in Bedford, N.H., Trump called out "the special
interests, the lobbyists and the corrupt corporate media that have
rigged the system against everyday Americans, and they’ve rigged it for
a long time."
In a variation of a line he’s been including in every speech since his
shaky performance in Monday’s debate, Trump told a crowd Wednesday
afternoon crowd in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that his campaign "is taking on
big business and big media and big donors. We’re taking them on for you."
And, in a Friday evening speech before a raucous crowd in this suburb of
Detroit, Trump added that "the wealthy donors, the large corporations
and the media executives" are "all part of the same corrupt political
establishment. And they nod along when Hillary Clinton slanders you as
‘deplorable’ and ‘irredeemable.’ "
Taken together, it represents the fullest and most concise expression —
and certainly among the most consistent — of an evolving class-based
appeal from an unlikely messenger.
Not only is Trump a billionaire real estate developer who has spent his
adult life consorting with the types of big-shots he’s now spending much
of his stump speech disparaging, but he has been ramping up his outreach
to wealthy donors down the homestretch. He held closed-press fundraisers
at hotels in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Friday evening, and in New York on
Trump has even hinted at the irony in his recent speeches, telling the
Council Bluffs crowd that the big donors and corporate and media
chieftains "go to the same restaurants, they attend the same
conferences, they have the same friends and connections, and some of ‘em
even like me, I’ll be honest with you, but that doesn’t matter."
The discordance aside, the campaign official said recent internal
polling suggests that the message is resonating "big time," among both
working class and college-educated voters, who see 2016 as a "change
The concerted crusade against big donors, big media and big business is
a corollary of a simultaneous effort to cast Clinton as a pawn of
special interests and donors, who is protected by the media.
Trump tied the two together in Friday in Novi, telling the crowd "the
news anchors and the donors and the lobbyists, who are used to do
getting their way, are trying to do everything they can to help crooked
Hillary Clinton, and to cling to their power."
And Trump called Hillary Clinton "an insider fighting only for herself
and her donors. I am an outsider fighting for you. We have a movement
like they’ve never seen in this country before."
Most of Trump’s rallies at which he has been pressing the case have been
in middle-class or upper middle class towns like Novi, which one website
in 2015 named among the snobbiest places in Michigan.
Rebecca Nickel, a 67-year-old college-educated resident of nearby
Fenton, Mich., said after Trump’s speech here that she believed that
wealthy donors, corporations and media executives were all in the "same
boat" holding down the middle class.
"Honey, they built an ark," she said. "They didn't make any room for us,
(2) Trump vs Progressives in Culture War. An intensely personal conflict, where arguments take the form of personal insults
The cultural turn: The politicisation of lifestyle has inflamed public life
Tim Black
Spiked Review August 2016
‘The logic of the Culture Wars has been exhausted. The metaphor has run
its course.’ (1) So concluded historian Andrew Hartman in his
magisterial study, A War for the Soul of America: A History of the
Culture Wars. When the book was published, in Spring 2015, it was not an
unusual opinion. Others, too, argued that this decades-old conflict
between imperiled social conservatives and emboldened progressives,
between those who feared the dissolution of traditional family life, the
degradation of Christian values and the undermining of the work ethic,
and those who support abortion, sexual liberation and the
ever-increasing panoply of so-called progressive causes, had well and
truly run its course. The arguments had lost their force, the combatants
their energy, the issues their pique. Who now, outside the batty fringes
of evangelical Christianity and those clinging desperately to their
guns, disagreed with the progressive consensus?, asked the victors. The
Supreme Court decision in 2015 to legalise same-sex marriage across the
US was merely the long-awaited coda to the Culture Wars, proof, if any
were needed, that the progressives had vanquished their worn-out opponents.
But, today, that seems like a premature conclusion. And that’s not just
because Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has gained
popular traction among white working-class America, galvanising a
socially conservative opposition to almost everything the Culture Wars’
supposed victors deem as progressive causes today. Nor is it a premature
conclusion simply because it’s clear that culture wars are now being
fought with equal zeal throughout Western society, from the
working-class revolt of Brexit, rich as it was in profound cultural
antagonism, to the simmering anti-establishment discontent now turning
Europe into tribes of the ‘left behind’ vs their affluent,
ostentatiously cosmopolitan, Brussels-leaning superiors.
No, culture wars are proliferating, entrenching, deepening, because,
over the past half century, the cultural domain has been thoroughly
politicised. And with culture now established as the main site of
political conflict, what was once largely private is now unquestionably
public. In other words, the different ways in which people live their
lives, indeed express themselves – their consumption habits, their
leisure pursuits, their intimate relationships, their idiolects – have
become matters of public contestation, issues to be fought over and
legislated on. The historical shift is marked. Political battles are no
longer fought over people’s ability to buy food – they’re fought over
what and how people eat; they’re no longer fought over equal rights –
they’re fought over people’s ‘unwitting’ attitudes to difference;
they’re no longer fought over the organisation of the economy – they’re
fought over people’s economic behaviour, be it the greed of bankers or
the avarice of businessmen. Political economy has been eclipsed by
cultural politics.
The relativisation of culture
Why has this happened? Why is politics today so completely culturalised?
Why are conflicts that might once have been fought out in terms of
economics, over, say, the distribution of the social product, now fought
out in terms of culture, in terms, that is, of people’s beliefs and
attitudes, their sense of who they are, their identities?
The development of the idea of culture, its semantic revolution and
expansion, sheds light on this shift. As Raymond Williams notes in
Culture and Society (1958), prior to the Industrial Revolution, the word
‘culture’ meant little more than the ‘tending of natural growth’ and
then, by analogy, human training. German Enlightenment thinkers
developed a stronger version of this idea of self-cultivation, Bildung.
But during the 19th century, initially in Romantic opposition to, and
mainly as a legitimating complement to, emergent industrial capitalism,
the meaning of culture broadened and deepened. It started to denote a
body of art and literature in general, and, more importantly, it started
to be treated as the repository of the humanity – the values and meaning
– that the social relations and social activity in capitalist society,
from Thomas Carlyle’s ‘cash nexus’ to Matthew Arnold’s ‘business
concerns’, appeared to lack. As Arnold himself put it in Culture and
Anarchy (1869): ‘Culture, which is the study of perfection [or, as
Arnold famously puts it elsewhere, the study of "the best which has been
thought and said in the world": TB], leads us… to conceive of true human
perfection, developing all sides of our humanity; and as a general
perfection, developing all sides of our humanity; and as a general
perfection, developing all parts of our society.’ (2)
Culture wars are proliferating, entrenching, deepening, because, over
the past half century, the cultural domain has been thoroughly politicised
But the ability to articulate this ideal of culture, a universal process
of cultivating everyone’s best self according to a common human
inheritance, rests not only on the elite’s self-confidence, but on its
correlate, too: a ruling consensus as to what is ‘the best which has
been thought and said’ – what it is that society ought to value. It
rests, in other words, on a strong sense of cultural and social
authority, and its intellectual foundation in Enlightenment thought. And
it’s precisely the slow, almost imperceptible, but no less profound
decomposition of cultural and social authority, and the retreat from
Enlightenment thought, during the latter half of the 19th century – with
the spectre of socialism and communism proving all too haunting – that
transforms the post-19th-century meaning of culture. Culture preserves
its newly broadened sense as the process by which everyone is cultivated
in a body of values, meanings and so on, but it ceases to be an idea of
what is best, of what ought to give meaning to all people, a universal
repository of value. Instead, it becomes descriptive, anthropological
and plural, as just the set of meanings and values held by a particular
group of people in a particular setting. Indeed, so value-free is
‘culture’ today that there’s little that we do that is not deemed
cultural. Hence, while a few unabashed snobs still talk of ‘high
culture’, many more talk of ‘black culture’, ‘trans culture’, even
‘office culture’.
The conceptual groundwork for this transformation was being laid at the
same time as Culture and Anarchy was making an impact. In Primitive
Culture (1871), EB Taylor began to purge culture of its normative
dimension. Culture was less a principle and more a catch-all for a
particular society’s way of life, or, as Taylor put it, the name given
to a ‘complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, moral,
customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a
member of society’. By the time of Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture
(1934) – a study of three separate tribes of South American Indians –
Benedict was comfortable asserting that which would have been anathema
to Arnold, ‘the relativity of cultures’. Over the next few decades, the
anthropologisation of culture continued apace, culminating in Clifford
Geertz’s Interpretations of Cultures (1973), which defined cultures as
‘webs of significance’, ‘system[s] of symbols and meanings’, that people
use to impose order on, and to give meaning to, the social world.
Culture had long ceased to be a judgement on how people are in the name
of how they ought to be, as it was in Arnold – it is just how people live.
In the development of the idea of culture, from a universal sphere of
value to which all ought to aspire, to a particular way in which a
particular community lives and interprets the world, one can clearly see
the relativisation of culture, indeed cultures. It wasn’t one-way
traffic, of course. Interwar poets and writers, such as TS Eliot or EM
Forster, still worked with the Arnoldian ideal of culture, but this was
largely a rearguard action. A sense of cultural loss, not confidence,
marked the writers and, to use DH Lawrence’s pejorative, Kulturträger of
the interwar years. As they saw it, the wasteland was upon them.
In a sense, many of the literary and artistic modernists of the interwar
years were before their time. They were the canaries in the mine, the
snobs in retreat. In their disillusionment, in their palpable sense of
loss, they registered something profoundly important: the disintegration
of social and cultural authority (albeit as a crisis of tradition). This
is what was to explode across Western society during the Sixties, as a
contest for cultural and social authority, a contest over the values and
meanings that society ought to hold, a contest between the square 1950s
and the counterculture, between the old politics and the New Left. And
this is what is key about the relativisation of culture, its
transformation into little more than anthropological shorthand for what
certain people from a certain background in a certain place do and
believe. Looked at as a relationship between different communities,
different nations, different tribes, each with their culture, it’s
possible to believe that this relativity of cultures results in
live-and-let-live pluralism. But when those different cultures exist
within a society, within a community, within a nation, the relativity
starts to generate friction. That is, cultural relativism is in fact a
cultural conflict, a conflict between, as Raymond Williams put it, whole
ways of life. And it’s a conflict that has become more and more
inflamed, not only in the absence of cultural and social authority, but
in the subsequent battle for cultural and social authority, a battle to
(re-)establish a particular way of life, a particular set of values, as
Pierre Bourdieu’s masterwork Distinction is important here. Published in
1979, it is, as he calls it, ‘a sort of ethnography of France’ based on
fieldwork carried out during the mid-1960s. Its aim is to reveal not
only the class bases for differences in ‘taste’, but to show how these
differences in taste are part of a class-based struggle for status or
‘distinction’. Now there’s little doubt it is a brilliant work of
sociological demystification. Through Immanuel Kant’s classifications of
judgement – of, effectively, good and bad taste – Bourdieu is able to
discern classes of people. He then broadens it out to establish the
relationship between the ‘universe of economic and social conditions’
and ‘the universe of lifestyles’. He then switches the relationship
around, showing how a hierarchy of taste and lifestyles legitimates a
hierarchy of social classes.
The long-extant hierarchy of taste and lifestyle was, thanks to the
postwar decomposition of social and political authority, becoming an
open struggle at the time Bourdieu was researching and writing. And this
is where Bourdieu proves particularly insightful. He is able to see the
conflict seething beneath the cultural surface. He is able to glimpse
what happens when social conflict is fought out in terms of lifestyle,
of taste, in terms of competing ‘arts of living’. It is experienced as
an attack on people themselves, on the entirety of their being, their
values, their viewpoints, their beliefs. ‘In matters of taste, more than
anywhere else’, writes Bourdieu, ‘all determination is negation; and
tastes are perhaps first and foremost distastes, disgust provoked by
horror or visceral intolerance ("sick-making") of the tastes of others.’
He continues: ‘Aesthetic intolerance can be terribly violent. Aversion
to different lifestyles is perhaps one of the strongest barriers between
classes: class endogamy is evidence of this. The most intolerable thing
for those who regard themselves as the possessors of legitimate culture
is the sacrilegious reuniting of tastes which taste dictates shall be
separate… At stake in every struggle over art there is also the
imposition of an art of living, that is, the transmutation of an
arbitrary way of living into the legitimate way of life which casts
every other way of living into arbitrariness.’
The aestheticisation of politics
With the ebb of the Cold War, and, with it, the disappearance of the
West’s moral and political authority, complete with feel-good
sloganeering about freedom and democracy, that came with opposing the
Soviet Union, the already politicised domain of culture – segregated,
relativised and antagonised – became the site of an even more intense
struggle. In the US, of course, the 1992 presidential election brought
many of these trends to the fore, with debates focused on Hillary
Clinton denigrating stay-at-home mums who ‘bake cookies’, independent
candidate Ross Perot calling a black audience ‘you people’, and Bill
Clinton’s evasion of Vietnam War service. Bill’s attempt to
de-culturalise the debate with his infamous declamation, ‘It’s the
economy, stupid’, was to no avail – after all, the economic debate was
over. There Is No Alternative. Instead, as Patrick Buchanan put it in
the run-up to the 1992 Republican National Convention, all sides were
engaged in ‘a war for the soul of America… [a war] about who we are,
about what we believe… about the Judaeo-Christian values and beliefs
upon which this nation was built’.
In the UK, the thorough culturalisation of politics was slower to come
to the boil, but, from the mid-1990s, it was there all right, bubbling
away. You can hear it in then prime minister Tony Blair’s 1999 New
Year’s Eve speech, attacking the ‘forces of conservatism’; it’s there in
Labour MP Frank Field’s 2003 claim that Britain is moving away from the
‘politics of class to the politics of behaviour’, the opening salvo in
what has since become an all-out assault on the lifestyles of vast
swathes of the UK; and it’s there in the battles over the legalisation
of gay marriage.
And, of course, it was all too apparent in the course of the referendum
on Britain’s membership of the EU. Indeed, since Brexit, many
commentators have been quick to call the division it dragged out into
the open a culture war. And, in a sense, it is. But there are necessary
qualifications, too. First, to the extent it was a culture war, it was
one-sided. Think of the binaries the referendum generated: open-minded
vs closed-minded; outward-looking vs inward-looking; pro-European vs
Little Englander; multicultural vs monocultural; pro-immigrant vs
racist/bigot. In all, the moral weight, the virtuous lustre, the near
self-evident rightness, is on one side – the side of the Remainer. Those
who voted to leave the EU have largely had their cultural character
imposed on them by others.
When social conflict is fought out in terms of lifestyle, of taste, it
is experienced as an attack on people themselves
And this captures something. It shows that they did not engage in a
culture war so much as find themselves dragged into one. For years now,
Britain’s indigenous working classes have long experienced the
demonisation of their ‘whole way of life’, from the foods they eat to
the attitudes they hold. For years they have experienced what Bourdieu
described as having their ‘art of living’ cast into arbitrariness, their
tastes and lifestyles mocked, criticised and rendered somehow less
legitimate. In one of his last speeches as Labour leader in 2006, Blair
said that the new debate in politics was not left against right, but
‘open vs closed’ – openness to immigration, to diversity, and so on. And
he was right. Politics has been waged as a war on those with supposedly
‘closed’ minds, those who ‘cling’ to older traditions and rituals, those
who, in the case of Brexit, prefer a national democracy to a
transnational oligarchy. And this year, the ‘closed’ fought back.
But there’s something else, too. Not only has culture been completely
politicised, and turned into an object of public contestation; politics
has also become culturalised, aestheticised. It has been turned into a
way of expressing oneself, of marking one’s distinction to others, of
showcasing one’s superior political taste – a question, as one Guardian
journalist put it, of ‘who we are’. Being political today – whether that
involves expressing one’s feminism, or proudly proclaiming ‘black lives
matter’ – has become a way of saying something determinate not about the
world, but about oneself, and, in the process, negating others.
Conservative lettrist Joseph Epstein calls this new political type ‘the
virtucrat’ – ‘the new prig… [who] will nail you for not having his
opinion on Israel or the environment’. He is ‘a moral snob’, Epstein
continues; ‘not only is he smug about the righteousness of his views but
he imputes bad faith to anyone who doesn’t share them’ (4).
And this is a profound problem. The aestheticisation of politics, the
emergence of an intense political snobbery, lends debate an intractable,
compromise-defying quality. It comes to appear not just as a conflict
between utterly incompatible ways of life, but also as an intensely
personal conflict, where arguments take the form of personal insults,
and electoral defeats are experienced as personal affronts. In the
strangely emotional reaction of Remainers to the referendum result,
which included vituperative columns about racists in our midst, public
tears and, absurdly, post-vote marches, one can see the the flipside of
the polticisation of culture and lifestyle; the stylisation of politics,
its mutation into a means not of winning the support of others, but of
asserting their inferiority, of casting their lives into arbitrariness.
Tim Black is editor of the spiked review.
(1) A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars, by
Andrew Hartman, University of Chicago Press, 2015, p285
(2) Culture and Anarchy, by Matthew Arnold , Oxford University Press,
1977, p11
(3) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, by Pierre
Bourdieu, Routledge, 1986 p43, pp48-49
(4) Snobbery: The American Version, by Joseph Epstein, Mariner Books,
2002 p158
Peter Myers