Did Dada Foreshadow Trumpism?

Do you watch the news to see Donald Trump's face every night, or just to catch the Powerball numbers and latest weather maps? There are news junkies and news avoiders, but somewhere in between is the Huh? generation. In his hilarious 'Lie Witness News' sendups Jimmy Kimmel has capitalized on the apparent need for people to pretend they know something when they really don't.

Ask most people a question about the news and they will answer, whether they know what you're talking about or not. "What do you think of Mike Pence's new false teeth?". "Oh I think they look great" replies a dolt who probably doesn't know who Mike Pence is.

Dada artists, group photograph, 1920


Some idiots will even go into great detail, pretending they know the answer you're looking for. What does this reveal about the state of our education and insecurity? Everyone has to be a know-it-all, but why are folks so afraid say "I don't know".

When Trump says stupid things like "Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan of criminal MS-13 killers to come into the country, take your jobs, rape your wives, and vote", his supporters cheer. It would be just as insane for a Democratic politician to claim "Republicans want to give free machine-guns to every five year old and lock every brown-eyed person in concentration camps".

Wait, you say, why is this article in the Art section?

It's because this drift from 'normal' thinking is a feature of Surrealism, characterized by a denial of logic in the influrence on political thought and practice, philosophy, and social theory. This way of thinking resolves contradictory ideas, and is undeniably linked to fascism. It arose from the Dada movement's attack on prevailing values during WWI.

Morning of the Magicians

More than 50 years ago a book appeared in France called 'Morning of the Magicians' by Louis Pauwels and Jaques Bergier. It is considered a classic of radical literature, challenging perspectives on everything from politics to the supernatural.

In one fascinating section called 'A few years in the absolute elsewhere' the authors describe how educated middle class Germans took a mental detour from other developed countries over a very short period of time. Their social ideas changed as they began believing in wild conspiracy theories, denying traditional science and embracing the occult. Ordinary folks who, just a few years earlier had been bakers or mechanics, soon came to embrace murder as a logical and good thing to do. Right and wrong were flipped upside down.


After WWII ended the German people snapped out of it and came to their senses. Many couldn't believe they believed what they believed in the previous decade. It was if they had been mesmerized and manipulated by some irresistable force or fear. Pauwels and Bergier frame this time as 'absolute elsewhere' to make the point that even familiar people and ideas can become alien in the blink of an eye.

Trump is rightly cast as the same type of manipulative fear monger that Adolph Hitler was, but the real danger is not from Trump; it is from the willing idiocy we take for granted. Extreme right-wing and left-wing ideas tend to move further toward the fringes as greater numbers of people forego critical thinking in favor of anger and revenge. From those edges will eventually rise an evil politician who actually believes it is a good idea to give five year olds machine guns to kill brown-eyed aliens. It's happened before.

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