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600 wordsapply one of the readings below to a scene in one of the following movies: Choose from Network, Spotlight, Frost/Nixon and one of the articles below


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The Concept of Authoritarian Personality and Celebrity Status Discussion
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W170 Performing the News
Spring 2019
Short Essay 3: Lens-Based Film Analysis
Total Points:
Due Date:
600 words, plus an MLA-formatted Works Cited page
One film scene from Network, Spotlight, or Frost/Nixon
One course essay
Monday, 3/18, by 11:59 p.m.
Identify and define a key concept or claim from one of the essays or book chapters
we’ve read for class. Apply that concept or claim as a lens through which to interpret a
scene from Network, Frost/Nixon, or Spotlight. Show how the film and the article you’ve
chosen address a similar topic and apply the claim from your lens essay to arrive at an
insightful interpretation of the scene you’ve chosen.
Begin by identifying a key concept or argument from the essay that you think can be
usefully applied as a lens through which to analyze select details from the film scene. Be
sure to refer to the article directly in order to precisely define the particular argument or
technical terms you’re working with so that your audience understands what you
Then turn to the scene you’ve chosen and examine the way it’s constructed
referring back to the categories for film analysis we discussed in class (framing, editing,
perspective, social distance, dialogue, sound, etc.). Show how the scene is constructed to
represent a particular topic or idea related to the one you’ve identified in the essay.
Finally, show how the idea or argument from the essay is related to the scene.
Does the scene extend or complicate the idea in some way? Does it address the same
topic as the essay but approach it differently or arrive at a different conclusion? As with
your comparative analysis from Essay 1, think about difference within similarity.
Criteria for Evaluation
1. Does the paper use the lens to arrive at an insightful interpretation of the scene?
2. Does the paper analyze concrete details about how the scene is constructed (i.e. the
categories for film analysis)?
3. Does the paper identify an idea, claim, or argument from the lens essay that is
relevant to the film scene and does it explain the idea accurately to a reader who is
unfamiliar with it?
4. Does the essay exhibit coherence through a logical flow of ideas and the use of welldeveloped paragraphs, transitions, and topic sentences? Does it adhere to MLA citation
standards and contain few, if any, grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors?
“The Authoritarian Personality Revisited: Reading Adorno in the Age of Trump”
Peter Gordon
b2o: an online journal
June 15, 2016
[Note: This is the final section of a longer essay. The first part addresses research Adorno did
with American psychologists in the 1950s on the topic of “the authoritarian personality,” a topic
that some journalists and commentators were bringing up during the 2016 presidential election.]
DJT, or, The Culture Industry as Politics
In the foregoing exposition, I have explored some of the complications in the notion of an
“authoritarian personality,” and, more specifically, I have laid out some of the ways that Adorno
dissented from the official thesis of the 1950 research programme. Throughout this exposition I
have aimed to recover, though chiefly through indirection, some of the themes of Adorno’s
analysis that may have some bearing on our interpretation of current political phenomena in the
United States. More specifically, I have tried to suggest that the notion of an “authoritarian
personality” may not prove adequate. For what Adorno was identifying in fascism was not a
structure of psychology or a political precipitate of a psychological disposition. Rather, it was a
generalized feature of the social order itself. Trumpism, if we can call it that, is far more than
Donald Trump, though it is perhaps also far less than the specter of “fascism” that is sometimes
invoked anxiously by his political critics. If Adorno was right, if his initial insights still obtain,
we might conclude as follows.
Trumpism is not anchored in a specific species of personality that can be distinguished from
other personalities and placed on a scale from which the critic with an ostensibly healthy
psychology is somehow immune. Nor is it confined to the right-wing fringe of the Republican
Party, so that those who self-identify with the left might congratulate themselves that they are not
the ones who are responsible for its creation. Nor can it be explained as the Frankenstein’s
monster of a racism that was once deployed cynically as a dog-whistle by both the Republican
and Democratic parties, and that now expresses itself without embarrassment with plainspoken
American candor. Most of all Trumpism is not the mere upsurge of an angry populism that has
taken elites by surprise.
All of these theories may explain some aspects of the Trump phenomenon, which is sufficiently
complex as to defeat any single framework of analysis. Each of them, in fact, may hold a special
appeal in different precincts of criticism. For the truth is that Trumpism holds a powerful
fascination for its critics precisely because it serves as an object for our negative self-definition.
For his admiring crowds, Trump is refreshing precisely for his ineloquence, for his swagger and
for the allusions to violence that typically remain at the level of tough-talk though at times spill
over into real action. But for his opponents, Trump seems to occasion a kind of hypereloquence,
as if one could perform through language the mind’s distance from mindlessness. For whatever it
is, Trumpism is not us, and that is its hidden consolation. This is the moment of dishonesty in
political criticism, that it forges a negative cathexis against the enemy who permits us better to
define who we are. Trump is indeed entertainment but not only for those whom it entertains. If
Trump enchants his supporters, he awakens a no less powerful fascination for the critics who
loathe him since love and loathing are only two sides of the same coin.
The real importance in Adorno’s criticism, I would suggest, is the fact that he refused to identify
such social pathologies with specific personalities or social groups. Refusing the consolation of a
“scale” that places the critic at the furthest remove from the object of criticism, Adorno had
already glimpsed the emergence of a social order that would do away with the consolation of the
scale altogether, marking all of society with the pathology its liberal critics would reserve only
for others. Trumpism, though it masquerades as society’s rebellion against its own unfreedom,
represents not an actual rebellion but the standardization of rebellion and the saturation of
consciousness by media forms.
If Adorno was right, then Trumpism cannot be interpreted as an instance of a personality or a
psychology; it would have to be recognized as the thoughtlessness of the entire culture. But it is a
thoughtlessness and a penchant for standardization that today marks not just Trump and his
followers but nearly all forms of culture, and nearly all forms of discourse. The eclipse of serious
journalism by punchy soundbites and outraged tweets, and the polarized, standardized reflection
of opinion into forms of humor and theatricalized outrage within narrow niche-markets makes
the category of individual thought increasingly unreal. This is true on the left as well as the right,
and it is especially noteworthy once we countenance what passes for political discourses today.
Instead of a public sphere we have what Habermas long ago called the re-feudalization of society
and the mere performance of publicity before an abject public that has grown accustomed to
inaction. The new media forms have devolved into entertainment, and instead of critical
discourse we see the spectacle of a commentariat, across the ideological spectrum, that prefers
outrage over complexity and dismisses dialectical uncertainty for the narcissistic affirmation of
self-consistent ideologies each of which is parceled out to its own private cable network.
Expression is displacing critique. It should astonish us more than it does that so many people
now confess to learning about the news through comedy shows, where audiences can experience
their convictions only with the an ironist’s laughter. A strange phenomenon of half-belief has
seized consciousness, as if ignorance were tinged with the knowingness and shame that ideology
enables not actual criticism but mere thoughtlessness. A critical public sphere would involve
argument rather than irony. But publicity today has shattered into a series of niche markets
within which one swoons to ones preferred slogan and one already knows what one knows.
Name just about any political position and what sociologists call “pillarization”—or what the
Frankfurt School called “ticket” thinking—will predict almost without fail a full suite of
opinions. This is as true for enthusiasts in the Democratic Party as it is for the zealots who
support Trump. This phenomenon of standardization through the mass media signifies not the
return of fascism but the dissolution of critical consciousness itself, and it heralds the slow
emergence of something rather different than political struggle: the mediatized enactment of
politics in quotation marks where all political substance is slowly being drained away.
This, I think, is why the phenomenon of Trumpism remains so difficult to comprehend. As
Adorno recognized long ago, there is a kind of artifice to this rebellion that belongs less to what
we used to call political reality than it does reality television. It is true that Trump says
outrageous things and that (as his champions might say) “he tells it like it is.” But the strange
aspect to this candor is that one cannot get over the impression that he hardly means what he
says. He is as likely to reverse his opinion the next moment and deny what he has just said. Even
those who support him will say that one shouldn’t take offense because this is just Trump being
Trump. When he “tells it like it is” the authenticity of his performance is precisely the
performance of authenticity, rather than the candor of somebody who is announcing without
embarrassment what everyone already thinks. With the casual bluster of a talk-radio host,
attitude displaces meaning, and the telling displaces what is told. It is true, of course, that Trump
constantly invokes political correctness as an evil force of liberal repression, and it is therefore
tempting to consider him a kind of impresario for what liberalism has repressed. But Trumpism
is less the “undoing” of repression than he is an event of political theater in which everyone gets
to experience the apparent dismantling of repression without actually changing anything. Even
his unabashed misogyny, racism, and demagogic remarks about Muslims merely recapitulate a
repertoire of stereotyped attitudes that have long characterized American public discourse. Too
easily condemned as exceptional, Trump’s exceptional “vulgarity” is actually not exceptional at
all: it is a symptom of a culture that has succumbed to the thoughtlessness of received typologies.
Hence the importance of Adorno’s remark that the authoritarian personality represents not a
pathology from which others can claim immunity. It represents “the total structure of our
society” (Adorno 1948: 11). What I am trying to suggest is that if Trumpism seems to belie the
research categories of The Authoritarian Personality we might do better by turning to the
Frankfurt School’s analysis of the culture industry. Trumpism itself, one could argue, is just
another name for the culture industry, where the performance of undoing repression serves as a
means for continuing on precisely as before.
Now, if one were to ask how this ever happened, one would have to admit that its patterns stretch
back in time well before our current age. It was anticipated already in the televised NixonKennedy debates where performance mattered as much as ideology; it was anticipated in the
strange phenomenon of Ronald Reagan, who had the habit of quoting lines from his own
Hollywood films through which he kept alive a fantasy of a vanished America (Rogin 1988).
Contemporary American society has taken up this habit of repetition with a vengeance:
Television screens now proliferate our daily lives: they flash at us both at the airport and at the
gas-station pump, and political campaigns are exercises in the focus-group engineering of
slogans that crowds shout back in unison as if they were repeating the beloved chorus of a
popular song. The strategy of “message-testing” through focus-groups has become a pervasive
and obligatory feature of mass-politics as in mass-produced music (Tringali 2010). The
evacuation of content from politics and the emergence of a de-substantialized and mediatized
performance of political forms is something that is not really new at all. But it has now reached
such a point of extremity that we should hardly be surprised that a man who owes most of his
seeming reality to “reality television” has managed to triumph where the grey eminences of
“real” political experience have failed. Trumpism is politics in quotation marks, but ours is an
age in which the quotation mark has reshaped not only political experience but experience as
At this juncture the comparison to fascism begins to break down. To be sure, to call something
“fascist” can serve many purposes. It is a familiar custom of political rhetoric (“Godwin’s law”)
that the Nazism analogy functions less as description than as expression: it expresses an
emergency and it expresses alarm. I share in the general feeling of alarm. But whatever
Trumpism may be, it is not the fascism of a personality type, or a fascism that would necessarily
enact what it threatens. It is the political consequence of a mediatized public sphere in which
politics in the substantive sense is giving way to the commodification of politics, and politicians
themselves are scrutinized less for their policies than for their so-called “brands.” It would be
hard to deny, of course, that many items from the original list of features describing the
authoritarian personality map all too easily onto Trumpism, especially its chauvinism and
swagger, and its “tough-minded” style. (Curiously, sexual repression would seem to be a point of
discontinuity: Trump has traded the older American convention of sexual moralism for sexual
boasting, a change that has not inhibited his growing appeal among American evangelicals.) But
such a list may remind us that the original fascist movements of the last century were already on
their way to becoming a politics of mere form. If the comparison to fascism remains valid today,
it may have less to do with specific points of ideology than with the replacement of ideology by a
simplified language of self-promotion that now characterizes all politics in an era of mass
communication. To the authors of Dialectic of Enlightenment the comparison between fascism
and advertising was already self-evident: “The blind and rapidly spreading repetition of
designated words links advertising to the totalitarian slogan. The layer of experience which made
words human like those who spoke them has been stripped away, and in its prompt appropriation
language takes on the coldness which hitherto was peculiar to billboards and the advertising
sections of newspapers” (Adorno and Horkheimer 2007:135).
All of the above may invite skepticism. In the most recent decades the Frankfurt School’s
analysis of the culture industry has admittedly lost much of its luster, no doubt in part because its
extreme fatalism harmonizes so poorly with democratic sensibilities. But it is questionable (if
commonplace) principle that one is permitted to refute a line of social criticism simply because it
is felt to be an affront to one’s political aspirations. Adorno himself, we should recall, anticipated
precisely this kind of resistance in his remarks on the “democratic bias” in social research. But
he could hardly have anticipated the strange phenomenon whereby his own name would circulate
as a commodity (in the form, for example, of Eric Jarosinski’s satirical book, Nein, which sports
an image of Adorno on the cover and probably sells far more copies than any book by Adorno
himself). It was Adorno’s greatest misfortune that some of his most memorable aphorisms would
survive him only to become a series of quotable clichés. In an ironic turn he might have
appreciated, the culture industry today has taken its final vengeance by penetrating the realm of
criticism itself, transforming intellectuals themselves into paragons of late-capitalist celebrity
(Gray 2012). “In psychoanalysis,” Adorno observed, “nothing is true except the exaggerations.”
This very aperçu is itself an exaggeration and it ranks among the most readily abused phrases in
the Adornian archive. But today it may call for revision. After all, psychoanalytic categories
remain valid only so long as we can plausibly speak of the psyche as a real referent. But what
passes for politics today in the United States has its etiology not in determinate forms of
psychological character but rather in modes of mindless spectacle that may awaken doubt as to
whether the “mind” remains a useful category of political analysis.
But precisely this insight (which I have admittedly stated with some exaggeration) may permit us
to retain at least a core insight of the original research agenda from fifty years ago. It was a
guiding premise of the Frankfurt School that one might develop through psychoanalysis a
correlation between individual psychology and ideological commitment. But later efforts to
revise the idea of the authoritarian personality may have neglected the more radical insight that
Adorno wished to inject into the research agenda, namely, that psychological character itself is
conditional upon historically variant social and culture forms. Rather than tracing the occurrence
of an authoritarian consciousness, we might want to trace that authoritarianism to a
standardization of consciousness that today leaves no precinct of our culture unmarked. This
might alert us to the far more unsettling and ironic proposition that today both realms—the
political and the psychological—are threatened with dissolution. Seen from this perspective, the
attempt to describe Trumpism with the pathologizing language of character types only works as a
defense against the deeper possibility that Trump, far from being a violation of the norm, may
actually signify an emergent norm of the social order as such. If any of the foregoing is correct,
then we should countenance the sobering proposition that, even if Trump himself should suffer
an electoral defeat, the social phenomena that made him possible can be expected to grow only
more powerful in the future.
“Celebrity Warfare: Image and Politics in the Age of Trump”
Stephen Marche
Los Angeles Review of Books
May 23, 2017

Celebrity Warfare: Image and Politics in the Age of Trump

Donald Trump is the most powerful man on earth and the world’s foremost celebrity. The
difference is increasingly negligible. Power and celebrity are becoming one and the same. If
Kanye West were to declare his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020,
no one could stop him — not the press, not the party functionaries, not even Saturday Night Live.
Other celebrities are openly considering the newly revealed electoral possibilities of their
positions. On Saturday Night Live just last week, Dwa …
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