Trump, Propaganda, and the Politics of Ressentiment

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This article frames Trump's politics through a genealogy of propaganda, going back to P.T. Barnum in the 19th century and moving through the crowd psychologist Gustave Le Bon and the public relations counsel Edward Bernays in the 20th. This genealogy shows how propaganda was developed as a tool by eager professionals who would hire themselves to the elite to control the masses. Trump’s propaganda presents a break in that he has not only removed professionals from control over his propaganda, he has mobilized it as a force against them. His lower and middle class supporters may not materially gain from Trump’s politics, but they get to vent their ressentiment on the professional class and see them too become the targets of propagandistic control. Ultimately, the conflict between working class whites, those without college degrees, and professionals earns little for its participants and occludes the role that elites play in class dynamics in the United States. This article adds substance and context to the claims that Trump’s appeal is anti-professional while showing that the claims that his supporters are ‘voting against their interests’ does not reflect the real psychological benefits many Trumpists get from supporting him.
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First archival date: 2017-10-19
Latest version: 2 (2018-02-09)
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