Trump and War and Cinema


Here’s a small sampling of passages in Paul Virilio’s War and Cinema where I saw fit to make a marginal note about Donald Trump. Some are more suggestive than others, and the passages aren’t meant to create a 1:1 correlation between the subject matter and Trump (e.g. sometimes they suggest important differences or flag an issue surrounding the young Trump presidency, like the recent Syria bombing). In many places, the correlations fall flat because Trump doesn’t have the aesthetic tastes of a perverse “visionary” like Hitler, and cinematic technologies and trends have evolved. Moreover, I think there’s something new to be said about Trump, a reality television star turned politician, another chapter in the history of War and Cinema. In any case, Virilio, as an investigator of the politics of screens and screens of politics, is an important guide for our daily livestream of the Trump Show.

“Ronald Reagan himself, seated on a throne, presided with his wife over hallucinatory games worthy of Lewis Carroll or Monty Python.” (56)

“…there can be no doubt that the world-wide Reagan Show involved an attempt to go beyond the ancient founding rites of the state.” (58)

“Perhaps it has not been properly understood that these miracle-working stage directors [Mussolini and Hitler] no longer ruled but were themselves directors.” (67)

“Only recently has it been realized that the Allies’ victory in the Second World War was at least partly due to their grasp of the real nature of the Nazi Lebensraum, and to their decision to attack the core of Hitler’s power by undermining his charismatic infallibility. They did this by making themselves the leading innovators in film technology.” (74)

“Total war takes us from military secrecy (the second-hand, recorded truth of the battlefield) to the overexposure of live broadcast.” (83)

The West, after adjusting from the political illusions of the theatre-city (Athens, Rome, Venice) to those of the cinema-city (Hollywood, Cinecitta, Nuremberg), has now plunged into the transpolitical pan-cinema of the nucear age, into an entirely cinematic vision of the world. Those American TV channels which broadcast news footage around the clock–without script or comment–have understood this point very well. Because in fact this isn’t really  news footage any longer, but the raw material of vision, the most trustworthy kind possible. The extraordinary commercialization of audiovisual technology is responding to the same demand.” (83)

“The twentieth century moved on to the division of time, where the surprise effect came from the sudden appearance of pictures and signs on a monitor, and where screens were designed to simulate, rather than dissimulate, a war that ever more closely resembled non-stop cinema or round-the-clock television.” (90)

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