This is Your Brain on Trump

If you can believe your eyes, and ears, your screens, your Twitter feed, this is your mind, your country, our very public American life, “on Trump.”  There is no following this story, this confounding condition, this inescapable event called Trump.  

In a sort of 6-months checkup, we’re just taking impressions from near and far: what does it mean for a country, a culture, for our sleep cycles, our sanity, to be “on Trump,” for so long now? And what is it doing to us, alone or together?

Emmett Rensin is a young counter-commentator, still in his 20s.  His vision of the new culture war jumped off the page of the Los Angeles Review of Books.  It’s a fight in our collective soul between the raging Id – the fantasy desires  — of the new power center; and the Blathering Super Ego – the No-impulse in the technocratic center. He tells us that the Establishment-aligned Super Ego is:

A collective of human beings who have absorbed and internalized very deeply this whole notion of like what politics is; what are adult politics; what are the standards of behavior; what can win, what can’t win; how to behave. And they’re watching that just get blown up.

This week, the subject is the unavoidable You Know Who, and what a two-year fixation on a single tragi-comic anti-hero is doing to the mind and spirit of the Great Republic. Laurie Penny is a young English writer who emerged — as Christopher Hitchens did many years ago — as a columnist with the New Statesman in London.  She calls herself a feminist and “social justice bard.” In our conversation, she shares how the culture wars of today are being fought on the battlefield of our collective imagination. She believes that storytelling — liberated from old models based around heroic white masculinity — will prove decisive. 

Angela Nagle was born American in Houston of Irish parents, then grew up in Dublin, where she writes for The Irish Times and a host of hot online sites.  She is known as an astute tracker of the big trends and hidden nooks in the Alt-Right online culture. Her new book Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right chronicles her intrepid journey through these dark, shadowy digital worlds.

We asked David Bosworth, our seer in Seattle, for the long view of the Trump moment in the history of our culture, our tech, our economy. He’s a critic who writes novels, too, and a celebrated teacher at the University of Washington.  He tells us that we’re looking at the birth of something as big and complex as the birth of modernity in the time of Shakespeare and Cervantes.  The future is unforeseeable, he says, but it was made in our time in America.

And some advice: People write their headaches to Liza Featherstone at The Nation Magazine under the heading: “Asking for a Friend.”  If you want your Trump-addled brain to come back to life, Liza has a life tip for you.

See a full transcript of this show on Medium.

Guest List
Emmett Rensin
political essayist and contributing editor for The Los Angeles Review of Books.
Laurie Penny
social justice activist, feminist and author of  The Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults
David Bosworth
professor of English at the University of Washington and author of  Conscientious Thinking: Making Sense in an Age of Idiot Savants and The Demise of Virtue in Virtual America
Liza Featherstone
journalist and contributing editor to The Nation

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