Terror Management Theory and US Fascism

Per Baudrillard etc: The items/clothing/appliances we acquire/use are signifiers constructing our internal and external personas, through public display and the construction of our personal environment (the space in which we internally perform our “private” self.) The purchase of or refusal to purchase commodities is the primary means by which human identity is constructed in late capitalism.

The president is a commodity. The US population has been purposely trained over several decades to see their political choices as being primarily lifestyle signifiers. “I voted for X because I am this sort of person.” vs. “I voted for X because X furthers x, y, z causes.”

Implied lifestyle associations is the primary way language by which data collected on everyone through the internet, grocery store etc is actually sorted and catalogued. The Amazon “If you liked Tucker Max you might like 12 Pack Men’s Shaving Razors” became the Facebook “If you like this page or check in at this location you likely have this income level and work in this industry.”

It can cross reference face recognition tagged photos that are posted. This is how FB and Google analyze your activities in order to target advertising. “Smart billboards” and “smart cities” shows a social organization that developed as much from the shopping mall as the stasi. This is a noisy gaudy fascism.  The aspirational fantasies that were pacifying the populace cease to do so. The customary reassurances of eventual reacceptance into society, the endless fictional romances and killing sprees that seasonally reiterate our self-actualization fantasies, serve as the delayed payoff for the unbearable neurotic loneliness that is the actual experience of our myths of “self-reliance”.
Of course, no one can ever feel “actualized” in the current environment. The cultural monomyth doesn’t hold. Few outside the self-proclaimed meritocracy cult (perhaps even few within it) actually believe what they’re doing benefits society in any way. “Ethical consumerism” is   largely a socially self-imposed sin tax.

The irrational behavior on display on all sides is not the behavior of a society fighting for its life but one with different factions bitterly set on which hole they want to crawl into and die. On some level, by going to the brink they think they will prove that they can’t die.

People around the world are turning to the new fascists because climate change, automation and other horrors bring about universal cultural mortality salience. Mortality salience makes individuals cling to  cultural norms aggressively because the seeming immutability of the society itself is largely a constructed blinder against the awareness of death. The culture shifts to the right and becomes isolationist. Increased mortality salience has been linked to increased religiosity and would go some way to explaining why the Christian right embraced Trump, a man who superficially embraces none of their values.

The racist mob embraces the charismatic leader because the charismatic leader is willing to lie to them. When Trump tweets obvious lies, this is taken by his followers as a sign of virility because it represents a convincing umbrella against the possibility of death. Death being the pervasive tenor of the era, the denial of death in this case becomes the denial of reality itself. Post-truth etc etc

I’ve run into many people while walking dogs who say “Well I hope that it succeeds.” Which is sort of like seeing your house burning down and saying “Well I hope it all burns down. Fuck it.”

Do we actually think we are immortal? Is that why man smokes cigarettes?

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3 comments

  1. “It’s not gonna’ kill me, I’m too tough to die! More “stuff” stretches me into the future, I’ll always be here, just like my stuff. Celebrating misogyny is going to get weird. “Submissive Wife Contests”? “When to slap your wife?” Getting to obedience in the bedroom? Is there an antidote for this? Hey, USA, We’re gonna build a wall here in Canada, and Brad Wall (Premier of Saskatchewan) {Can ya’ say that?} is gonna build’er.

  2. “The president is a commodity. The US population has been purposely trained over several decades to see their political choices as being primarily lifestyle signifiers. “I voted for X because I am this sort of person.” vs. “I voted for X because X furthers x, y, z causes.”” a brilliant paragraph and observation , sir. Politics is commodities. Religion, terrorism, civilization itself has become …simply…a commodity. Indeed , you are right…it always was those things.
    The inventor of money should have been beaten to death with sticks by the rest of the ‘primates’ which still had a sense of dignity.

  3. This fear of death and impermanence might also explain an exaggerated (yet not totally illusory) fear of “involuntary celibacy” on the (mainly young) MRA right. There’s no longer the assurance that you will have children to carry your legacy into the future (in a lot of ways the “traditional family” has become a class privilege). So you see yourself as part of the last generation, a fear that global warming has made real (in a way the prospect of nuclear war had made real in the past).

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