Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Setting Up a World


Phenomenology and Cultural Amnesia in General Orders No.9

In this article, Tina Richardson reviews General Orders No.9, written and directed by Robert Persons and released in 2009, and reflects on the geography of loss and forgetting:

On its website, General Orders No. 9 describes itself thus: “An experimental documentary that contemplates the signs of loss and change in the American South as potent metaphors of personal and collective destiny”. As a psychogeographer, the word ‘loss’ is not lost on me, since a wealth of psychogeographical accounts and related literary texts exist on this very subject. Written and directed by Robert Persons, the award-winning General Orders No. 9 would make for a very neat analysis along the lines of nostalgia, haunting and memory – quite possibly one of a deconstruction.

Despite this ‘call’ to me from General Orders No. 9 to write about these themes directly, I will be exploring them rather more indirectly through the concept of centring, in particular under the rubric of cultural forgetting such that it is concerned with ideas around concealing and revealing. By comparing the idea of ‘man’s progress’ (in regards to its impact on ‘nature’) with Martin Heidegger’s example of the Greek temple in ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, I will discuss how this forgetting operates through an ideological ‘naturalness’ that enables humans to operate with a high degree of amnesia when it comes to environmental impact.

In his essay Heidegger states that the temple reveals little in terms of its content – it is what it represents that is important because ‘god is present in the temple’ (2000: 89). It is this understanding, and the power invested in the temple by the people, that designates its authority. The temple’s centre of power forms the nexus for the connections and relationships which guide the lives of the people and frame their future. In Persons’ film, this centre appears as the Courthouse in the centre of the Town, which is in the centre of the County, which is in the centre of the State of Georgia in the United States:” Here there is a sense of order. From above and below, from within and without. This shall be the centre of the world. The pillar of heaven” (Persons 2009).
Heidegger’s temple serves many functions. It constitutes the law, society and culture, it is the central point of socio-cultural connections, and it is also the originator of truth and knowledge. The temple “makes visible the invisible” (2000: 89). As Heidegger explains, the early morning light lands on the temple marking the beginning of the day to the people. The form and order of their world is thus defined and the citizens go about their day within this pre-given framework. Later, the sunset signals the closing down of the world, and the people return home having made meaning and sense out of their day. So, too, the people of the Town are guided by the clock tower on the Courthouse, which informs their day, being a reminder of where they are and where they should be. The Courthouse represents order and form, and the Town’s citizens make meaning from this in the same way that the Greeks made meaning from their lived experiences via the temple. The temple/Courthouse “clears and illuminates” (ibid.) by providing delineated physical and existential boundaries, and a well-recognised centre: “The Courthouse is the man and the County is the world [and] the roads of the County meet like the spokes of a wheel and it appears as a world entire” (Persons 2009). This is what Heidegger calls “setting up a world” (2000: 91).
But, this all changes with the development of the new interstate, which scythes its way through the County, coming within half-a-mile of the Courthouse: “The interstate does not serve, it possesses. It has the power to make the land invisible to our attention” (Persons 2009). The City eventually appears at the locus of three interstates, becoming “an image that suggests a centre…but it is a false centre” (Persons 2009). The City has displaced the Courthouse. Yet, the City is unrepresentable and cannot be made sense of in any way that provides meaning to the citizens. The lack of a physical centre has the effect of decentring the postmodern individual, leaving them open to a fluidity that exposes them to unpredictable networks and flows. The film’s narrator (William Davidson – his voice spookily reminiscent of Captain Willard, played by Martin Sheen, in Apocalypse Now) explains to us that he searches for “Some level of communion, some sign of belonging, the realisation of one’s part to the City’s whole” (Persons 2009). This new temple no longer “gives to things their look and to men their outlook on themselves” (Heidegger 2000: 89). Heidegger’s god has now “fled from the temple” (ibid.). The temple is ruined: “You’re not a witness to the ruin. You are the ruin. You are to be witnessed” (Persons 2009).

Providing the citizens believed that the temple still contained their god this process of revealing and hiding of the world continued to remake the world anew every day. They needed to be content in their forgetting of the fact that they were actually the builders of the temple in the first place, and were the ones responsible for placing their god there. G. Spencer Brown, a mathematician and expert in boundary algebra, explains: “Thus the world, when ever it appears as a physical universe, must always seem to us, its representatives, to be playing a kind of hide-and-seek with itself. What is revealed will be concealed, but what is concealed will again be revealed” (1972: 106). And it is through this concept of hide-and-seek that cultural amnesia takes place.

The temple had been created by the people for their gods, but in that very act of creation, in that singularity that denoted a new moment in history (and saw representation as symbolising knowledge), man had forgotten that he was the creator of the temple. In a bizarre kind of mass forgetting the temple as representation was forgotten and instead formed the ground upon which man based his life, it became “the naming power of the word” (Heidegger 2000: 91). The temple became the primary position from which all other positions were related (logos), so did the Courthouse. It is through this naturalising process of ideology (Louis Althusser) that the Greeks collectively forgot they were the creators of their temple and thus relocated their power there. Heidegger says that with the “temple-work” the material (the concrete phenomenological matter) does not disappear but causes itself to appear as if for the very first time in the opening of the world (2000: 91). This concretisation of ideology in the temple itself is continually reproduced in every moment. The temple in its “setting forth” (ibid.) out of the material of its manufacture emerges from a ground position. The Greek people, and the citizens of the Town, simply (and self-reflexively) glanced at the symbol of their respective temples, thus actualising their self-created ideology and completing the circle of praxis.

But, this is a double forgetting. The citizens also created the City.
Spencer Brown explains how this takes place: “we somehow cleverly obscured this knowledge from ourselves, in order that we might navigate ourselves through a journey of rediscovery, consisting in series of justifications and proofs with the purpose of again rendering, to ourselves, irrefutable evidence of what we already knew” (1972: 106). This self-reflection is echoed in the film when the narrator says:” At some point we accept that everything – your ideas, your certainty, even what you think is right – they are all deceptions of greater or lesser degree” (Persons 2009). So, we have a glimmer of a revealing that comes to us in moments of clarity, when the game of hide-and-seek with the world becomes a game of existential hide-and-seek: “we somehow cleverly obscured this knowledge from ourselves through a journey of rediscovery, consisting in a series of justifications and proofs with the purpose of again rendering, to ourselves, irrefutable evidence of what we already knew” (Spencer Brown 1972: 106).
But, the lens then closes, the light dims and the world’s course becomes, yet again, inevitable. The realisation of what we have done to the world is pushed aside and we return to that place of security, the knowable centre: “there is only one thing. Nothing else matters. This is the one thing. The County is at the centre of the State. The Town is at the centre of the County. The Courthouse is at the centre of the Town” (Persons 2009).

The film ends.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Collyhurst Calling: 20 Million Years in the Making


By Stephen Marland

The road rises as you leave the billiard table-top topography of Central Manchester, east towards rising hills and the falling valleys of the Irk and Medlock. Your confinement in the tight, huddled streets and architectural canyons, opens to a distant vista of the Pennines, slowly your world seems different, wider.

You are in Collyhurst.

Listen, the whisper of zephyr on silica, hammer on cold steel chisel, there’s music in the air!


Geologists use the term Collyhurst Sandstone for the soft red sandstone, which occurs in North West England. It is a sedimentary rock, created from desert sands blown into dune formations during the Early Permian period, when the area was within the desert belts to the north of the equator.

Historically the area provided much of the stone which built Manchester. The native stone proving easy to work and transport, before the arrival of the canal and rail links that fired the industrial revolution. The rock, however, is not very resistant to erosion and disintegrates relatively quickly, much of that which was built is now well weathered or gone.

We are in a state of permanent, post-Permian impermanence.

The Collyhurst Quarry, no longer worked, was to become a pleasure gardens, the dark abyss illuminated by lantern, music, dance and the illicit romance of the night.


Mr Tinker named his idyll Elysian Gardens, after the place in Greek mythology where the souls of the heroic and the virtuous were laid to rest, and later Vauxhall Gardens, as in London's renowned place of recreation. His gardens were adorned by 3,000 coloured lights and those who paid 1s 6d to enter in the early 1800s were treated to a night which was at once intelligent, rural and delightful.

The band did not play on.

Now landscaped and badged as ‘Sandhills’, something of a misplaced, forlorn inner-city country park. Care worn cast metal arches proclaim the name at every entrance, announcing an event that never really seems to happen. The Lottery funded movement of earth forms gentle yet steep curves of close cut grass, crossed with paths, simply lacks focus. To walk it is to embrace the man-made void, made whole again in the near distant buildings of the city centre, to imagine the mass movement of mass, by river rafts along the Irk Valley. The artifice of the space is overwhelming and all-embracing 280 million years in the making, through geological time to today, in an instant, but where are we going?

The area is literally built on shifting sands, one can’t help but be minded of those wind-blown Permian deserts.


Collyhurst was once at the very centre of industrial Manchester. Large tracts of social housing were built in the area, for a settled workforce and community that fuelled and fed that City’s steady beating heart.

That industry and heart are now elsewhere, the Sixties estates and their inhabitants however, prevail – the people that prospered during the 'good times' are just about hanging on. I talked with passersby who told the familiar tale of the young leaving the area, for fresher fields.

They just don’t think this is a good area to live.

Related links:
Sandhills
Eastford Square
Collyhurst

Saturday, 21 May 2016

It’s a Sociologist’s Paradise: Tripping in Manchester


Yesterday, May 20th 2016, myself and Birmingham artist Ally Standing carried out a research-trip-cum-dérive in Manchester in preparation for our upcoming exhibition entry at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. We will be submitting a special exhibition edition of STEPZ - please click here to find out about the pilot edition from 2015 - with accompanying artwork. STEPZ: Between The Rollerama and the Junk Yard will be available at the exhibition (and online) and is a psychogeography zine inspired by Manchester, Northern Psychogeography and the work of John Cooper Clarke. Below are some of my favourite photos from our day in Manchester.


The above was spotted by Ally on top of The Old Nag’s Head. It’s quite freaky to see, even when you know it is only a mannequin dummy. What can she see from her vantage point? And, how did she climb up there with those high-heels on?


Wet rising ‘cupboards’ are everywhere. So are dry risings (or risers). You see them inside of buildings and, here, outside of buildings. But, have we ever really asked what they are? Well they are valves and networks providing access to water.


This image was on the side of a building. The photo looks a bit 1980s and her outfit looks rather Lene Lovich inspired. The image has been inset into what perhaps was a proper window at some time. We saw a lot of window-tax filled-in windows.


Here Ally is admiring Richard Ashcroft’s suit. This building had graffiti on all the shutters and framed music-related posters all along this side of it. I didn’t make a note of what the building was, but it could have been a music venue.


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Online Cultural Theory Lectures by Doctor Hat


Below is a series of lectures available on YouTube which all take place in the famous Freud Disco Study. The lectures are predominantly of a cultural theory and psychogeography nature and cover areas such as: subjectivity, semiology, psychoanalysis, cartography, urban walking, ideology, etc. You can view an introduction here or click on the links below to take you to more information and to the online lecture itself:

Introduction to the Lecture Series
Are You Interpellated?
What is Myth?
What Does the Map Represent?


Introduction to the Lecture Series




Are You Interpellated?

Abstract: A lecture on the theory of ideology by Louis Althusser. By providing examples from popular culture and psychogeography, this lecture explores the concept of interpellation as discussed by Althusser in 'Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses'.

Audience: Undergraduate students in the area of cultural studies, psychogeography, politics, psychology, media and philosophy. Anyone interested in: neo-Marxist approaches, how ideology operates on individuals and how subjectivity is socio-politically formed.

What’s covered: ideology, interpellation, structuralism, the State, civic life, the family, subjectivity, psychogeography, popular culture (film).



What is Myth?

Abstract: A lecture on Roland Barthes’ Mythologies. Concentrating on his essay ‘Myth Today’, this lecture introduces Barthes’ second-order semiological system and demonstrates how to carry out a semiological analysis.

Audience: Undergraduate students in the area of cultural studies, literature, media and philosophy. Anyone interested in advertising, language or literature.

What’s covered: semiotics, language, myth, ideology, popular culture, structuralism.



What Does the Map Represent

Abstract: A lecture on mapping that critiques the modernist cartographic project. Themes explored are: the centred subject, inside/outside, map/territory and reality versus representation. This lecture compares the traditional analysis of maps with the psychoanalytical approach to dream analysis.

Audience: Undergraduate students in the area of cultural studies, cartography, postmodern geography, history and psychoanalysis. Anyone interested in maps in general.

What’s covered: cartography, ideology, dream analysis, representation, praxis, Sigmund Freud, Claudio Minca, world fairs.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Abominable Snowman Theory


By Julian Isaacs

Yeti. Yet-i. Yet, in English also means still, whilst the French for yet is encore, which also means again.

Cixous addressed women writing in white ink, the yeti leaves an abominable white footprint in white snow. It is a carbon footprint of a yet to be rewritten text, but the copy is white on white.

This is apperceptively impaired downhill skiing, over glacial lakes, fleeing an avalanche of cognisance, until we take sanctuary in an igloo walled by the abominable footprint and can read again. Waiting, as for Godot, for a St. Bernard with a small barrel of comprehension round its neck.

Mortality is just immortality, without the i-m or I'm and thus holds its own cold glamour. An ice pick, as Trotsky found out to his cost, is both a means of survival on the mountain, and a lethal weapon. A lot can go wrong between the base camp and the superstructure: let us remain conscious that Althusser strangled his wife and went mad. Murder as one of the colder arts: creative writers' darlings, Marxist theorists and Communist leaders are all ripe for the cull. The Andes are a postDada variorum edition of T. H. White, the sword in the crevasse.

The higher we go, the colder we get; the wider, the more evasive the white footprint we search. The higher we go, the harder we search; the search holds an Icarian allure.

The defining feature of the abominable snowman is we only ever see his footprint, his trace. The footprint is like a casting from which the statue has escaped. It is a false palimpsest, not even a slow reveal, a no-reveal. Casting, of course, also means selecting a character to play a part. The author is lost, missing in action, and he has chosen us as readers or interpreters, whilst lumbering away mischievously leaving us little to go on. We have to validate this hollow frame to read it as a clue, a glossary of the unwritten.

Let us examine the semantemes in validate: inside a refrigerated vale of tears are the id and the at, the what and the where.

We now come to the difference between the abominable snowman and the cryogenic analyses. In the latter, the meaning has been frozen within the text and must be thawed to be deciphered, or at least read. In the yeti approach, the text must stay frozen to taste the meaning. It is closer to palaeontology than it is to the ready meal. We have entered the liminal hypothermic territory of post-cryogenics.

So, the yeti. We can stand in his footprint, but not walk in his footprints. Yeti. Yet-i. Yet I is already or yet there, still and again there. I is not, pace Rimbaud, an other, but many others. One man's Regan is another man's Cordelia, and this can change with the casting; our critiquing of a text is contingent upon the level of subjectivity mirrored therein. Ascent is vital: the sublime awe of the base camp hides the potential horror of the peak: one foot wrong and wonder becomes bewilderment.

The beauty of this critical approach is its simple, pious purity; the Lacanian purity of the not yet I.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Psychogeography News - May 2016


The Flâneur – Walking in the City
A recent BBC Radio 4 programme, available here: Laurie Taylor presents a themed programme which explores the history and meaning of the urban stroller, past and present.

Urban Phenomenon
Great images of Shoreham Cement Works by Scott Wright. The Psychogeographer’s Landmark London Stone. A book review on Raw Concrete by Barnabas Calder. A blog about water towers.

Glastonbury Psychogeography
This new book by Paul Weston is a unique blending of Psychogeography and Psychic Questing, providing some remarkable perspectives on the historical mythic landscape of Glastonbury and its powerful genius loci. The works of great visionaries provide a context for the modern experiences of the author. Available here.

Unforgetting Women Architects
An article by Despina Stratigakos about the reasons why we forget women architects. Click here.

The Great Walk
This super film by Clive Austin is now available on youtube where it has been serialised. You can get find the first part here and you can read more about it on my blog.

My Stuff
Particulations blog guest posts: I have a series of psychogeography-related guest posts on my own blog at the moment, you can see a list here. All new ones will be added to the top of the list. Also, here is a link to the Urban Gerbil Back Catalogue.

The Wirral Park Roundabout Mystery


by Paul Weston

Adapted from material in Glastonbury Psychogeography.

Wearyall Hill is the location that serves as the foundation for the Glastonbury mythos. Joseph of Arimathea allegedly landed there and planted his staff in the ground, which sprouted as the Holy Thorn, whose descendent made world news when decapitated in 2010. From one end it is possible to contemplate perhaps the best panoramic view of Glastonbury, taking in the Tor, Chalice Hill, and Abbey Ruins. The opposite direction provides a radically different perspective.

The A361 runs along one side of the hill, meeting the A39 at the Wirral Park Roundabout, which sports a distinctive megalithic-style stone at its centre. Alongside the mythic hill and standing stone, the roundabout is a super-modern non-place nexus. Clustering around it are two chain hotels, Premier Inn and Travel Lodge, a supermarket, fast-food outlets, a petrol station, garden centre, and so on. There has proved to be tension in the proximity of the sacred and profane.

In May 1996 I started working for IMCO Plastics in a factory near the roundabout. I walked back and forth there every working day for nearly four years. This meant walking along one side of the foot of Wearyall Hill and passing the roundabout. I tried to pay attention to any subtle nuances that might have distinguished one day from another.

In summer 1996 McDonalds opened a branch near the garage on the roundabout. Many of my co-workers were happy about this and there was quite an exodus during lunchbreaks over the road. I was aware that the presence of the multinational giant on the threshold of Glastonbury was making a few people twitchy. How long before the centre of town was invaded by globalised franchises who were governed by money and statistics and a bigger picture in which local character and concerns were irrelevant?

A few months went by and the McDonalds lunchbreak had become normal for a number of IMCO workers. One morning a shock awaited me. As the roundabout came into sight so too did the realisation that where McDonalds had been was now a burnt out smoking shell of a building. This was an incredible thing to see. I resisted the immediate feeling that arose to whoop and holler and punch the sky. Maybe some injuries or even fatalities had ensued in the conflagration? I soon came to hear that nobody had been injured. The fire had indeed been the result of arson. Nobody was ever prosecuted for it. McDonalds have never attempted to return that close to Glastonbury.

If we take the roundabout as a Psychogeographical zone then the McDonalds arson partakes of the spirit of politics and protest of the French source material and also Iain Sinclair’s increasing despair over the globalisation and modernisation of London and what that has cost in human and cultural terms.

In 1998 a terrible tragedy occurred. There was an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease in the area. A dozen people went down with it. Three actually died. Only a few potential sources were identified. A water tower at IMCO was investigated and pronounced guilty. How on earth had the victims contracted it? They had all been to the outdoor section of B&Q’s garden centre, immediately adjacent to and overlooked by the tower. The store was right on the edge of the roundabout.

The McDonalds arson and the toxic tragedy were two of the most powerful events to occur in Glastonbury in that decade. They seemed to mark out the vicinity of the roundabout as damned odd and worth pondering upon.

If the nineties was the era of Ronald McSatan then the noughties saw the arrival of the state of Tescopoly. The monster supermarket carved out a huge share of the market and opened new branches everywhere with strategies that allowed it to enter into local community infrastructure whilst established businesses in the vicinity failed.

IMCO changed its name to Avalon Plastics and built new premises very near to the old. The pestilential buildings were demolished and Tesco parachuted one of their identikit stores on to the site. I found this to be entirely apt. The neon-lit sign on the roof dominates the sky at night around town. It has been joined by the illuminated visage of Colonel Sanders as Kentucky Fried Chicken succeeded where McDonalds failed and established an outlet on the roundabout. I continue to watch the area with interest.

Glastonbury Psychogeography is available on Amazon UK.

Bio
Paul Weston is the author of Glastonbury Psychogeography, Mysterium Artorius, Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus, Avalonian Aeon, and The Glastonbury Zodiac and Earth Mysteries UFOlogy. Having majored in Comparative Religion for a Combined Arts Degree (which involved a dissertation on Nazi occultism later incorporated into one of his books), he eventually became completely absorbed into the Glastonbury matrix and was fortunate to be closely involved in the Psychic Questing work of Andrew Collins. A frequent lecturer, his other main influences include Colin Wilson, Dion Fortune, Mother Meera, John Cowper Powys, Osho, Psychogeography, Gurdjieff, Anthony Robbins, and UFOlogy.

Myth Today: Truth and Triumph in a Trump World

Figure 1: Truth/Trump

“What is a myth, today” Roland Barthes asks in the opening line to his essay ‘Myth Today’ (2000: 109). Writing in the 1950s it seems questionable that he could have foreseen a presidential election result like that of the United States of America on 9 November 2016, however his essay presents us with its possibility in regards to how language operates: neatly explained in Barthes’ own second level of connotation, the myth: “myth is a type of speech” he answers (ibid.). For those studying the speech act, Donald Trump’s win has provided much food for thought in regards to truth (and reality), and the election campaign has renewed interest in the concept of post-truth, even spawning its own hashtag: #post-truth.

As for the election win itself, not that we can separate the win from the speech acts, in ‘Dominici, or the Triumph of Literature’ Barthes discusses the problems in regards to the lack of a commonality in a shared language when it comes to hierarchy. Reporting on the murder trial of Gaston Dominic in 1952, Barthes explains the difference between those in power (in this case the Presiding Judge), and ‘the other’ (the accused), when it comes to language (2000: 43-44). He also lists some of the ad hominem terms that were used in the trial to describe the accused and explains that this is how language triumphs in a system of inequality: “this ‘universal’ language comes just at the right time to lend a new strength to the psychology of the masters: it allows it always to take other men as objects, to describe and condemn at one stroke” (2000: 45).

Trump’s language has been thoroughly analysed in the media and in academic texts, well before the few months leading up to the election. I do not plan to include a discourse analysis of what he has said, since this has been well-covered elsewhere. What I would like to do is open a discussion on the idea of truth, as it sits within Barthes concept of myth, in an attempt to understand how the denigrating language Trump used towards particular groups had little negative effect on his popularity, nor the outcome of the election. To pick just three examples, Trump is well-quoted for his pride in “grabbing women by the pussy” (Fishwick 2016), for accusing Mexican immigrants of “bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists” (Neate 2015), and for his anti-Muslim/anti-immigration sentiment: "I'm putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, if I win, they're going back" (Basu 2015).

Figure 2: Roland Barthes' Semiological Structure of the Myth

Explaining how the sign on the denotative level of signification (language) becomes the signifier on the connotative level (myth) (2000: 115), Barthes states that myth “is not defined by the object of its message, but by the way in which it utter its message…Every object in the world can pass from a closed, silent, existence to an oral state, open to appropriation by society, for there is no law, whether natural or not, which forbids talking about things” (2000: 109). Trump’s speech acts have been dispersed and devoured through what Barthes calls “a type of social usage” (ibid.) and I believe that what at one time we found unacceptable, is being given currency at a time when some groups in society feel that they have been failed by the government over a protracted time. Upon repeated use these messages become normalised, they become “filled with a situation” (Barthes 2000: 119). If today we look at the title ‘President-elect Trump’ as a sign, we cannot now separate this phrase from what he said, or from his triumphant win. This is what makes up the concept of the sign, it “reconstitutes a chain of causes and effects, motives and intentions” (ibid.). Value has been attached to what Trump said by some quarters (seemingly, mostly, the disenfranchised white working class), because, despite the content of his rhetoric he still won. This means the myth has been legitimised:
Myth is a value, truth is no guarantee for it; nothing prevents it from being a perpetual alibi: it is enough that its signifier has two sides for it always to have an 'elsewhere' at its disposal. The meaning is always there to present the form; the form is always there to outdistance the meaning. And there never is any contradiction, conflict, or split between the meaning and the form: they are never at the same place (Barthes 2000: 123).
What I think many of us were amazed by was Trump’s blatant use of sexist and racist descriptors (what is known as “unapologetic racism”). He made no attempt to conceal the way he felt about his particular minority group du jour. Not only did he have a complete disregard to political correctness, but also felt no compunction in openly speaking his mind without the use of ‘filters’. He attached no importance to what is known as “preference falsification” (Timur Kuran): the act of not saying what you really think due to social pressure. This has the function of giving...
racists new heart by suggesting that many more people share their beliefs than they might hitherto have believed. Trump’s electoral success tells them that at the least racism is not a politically disqualifying problem for presidential candidates any more, and that perhaps for many voters it is a plus rather than a minus. Second, it tells them that if they themselves publicly express their racism, they are less likely to be socially punished than they previously believed (Farrell 2016).
It is in this way that the myth becomes codified: “the fundamental character of the mythical concept is to be appropriated” (Barthes 2000: 119). What Barthes means here, though, is how the first level of the sign is taken up into the second level, thus turning it into myth. However, it is also this shift that puts it into circulation and brings it to light: the myth does not conceal anything, rather “its function is to distort, not to make disappear” (2000: 121). The myth, once promulgated, becomes personalised by those who take it up and support Trump. They see themselves as the victim in a dynamic which can conveniently create a scapegoat of any number of minority groups. The supporters of Trump recognise themselves in the myth presented to them: “it is I whom it has come to seek. It is turned towards me, I am subjected to its intentional force” (Barthes 2000: 124).

Figure 3: What Did Trump Say? What Words Are Associated With Him?

Barthes explains how this works in a similar way to how Louis Althusser describes interpellation: “it comes and seeks me out in order to oblige me to acknowledge the body of intentions which have motivated it and arranged it there as the signal of an individual history, as a confidence and complicity: it is a real call” (2000: 125). The Trump supporter has recognised the call and is interpellated as subject to the cause. The message is received as a kind of obviousness, presented as the natural order of things: “A conjuring trick has taken place; it has turned reality inside out, it has emptied it of history and has filled it with nature” (2000: 142).

In regards to what most of us would see as lies from Trump, for the myth this is not quite the whole story: “Myth hides nothing and flaunts nothing: it distorts; myth is neither lie nor a confession: it is an inflexion” (Barthes 2000: 129). Barthes sees the myth as a type of “compromise” that has the ability to escape any kind of linguistic contradiction that could result from its exposure, any attempt to “liquidate the concept” will simply “naturalize it” (2000: 125). Myth “transforms history into nature” (ibid.) and we know this is how it operates as history is our evidence of this, because myth “is not read as a motive, but as a reason” (ibid.). Barthes goes on to explain that it does not even matter if later on people realise that something is a myth, because “its action is assumed to be stronger than the rational explanations which may later belie it” (2000: 130) and we saw this when female Trump supporters were interviewed about his sexist comments: most did not change their minds about supporting him. Nevertheless what is important to remember is that “We are all potential Dominicis”, even those who voted for Trump, because we can all be “deprived of language, or worse, rigged out in that of our accusers, humiliated and condemned by it. To rob a man of his language in the very name of language: this is the first step in all legal murders” (2000: 46).

Donald Trump won the election because of what he said, not despite it – this much is true. For those that voted for him, and for his other supporters and soon-to-be presidential ‘team’, the content of Trump’s speech-acts operated on them through connotation, the second-level of semiology, the myth. Trump utilised the myth to set himself up as the cult leader par excellence. His self-appointed place as saviour of the side-lined has made him a ‘perfect’ leader in a post-truth world.

Bibliography:
Barthes, Roland. 2000. Mythologies, trans. by Annette Lavers (London: Vintage).
Basu, Tanya, ‘Trump Says He’ll Send Refugees back to Syria if Elected’, Time, (30 September 2015), < http://time.com/4056951/trump-syria-refugees/> [accessed 23 November 2016]
Farrell, Henry, ‘Trump’s Election Has Undermined ‘Political Correctness’. That Might Actually Be a Problem’, The Washington Post, (19 November 2016), [accessed 23 November 2016]
Fishwick, Carmen, ‘Can You Be a Feminist and Vote for Donald Trump? Yes You Can’, The Guardian, (17 November 2016), [accessed 21 November 2016]
Neate, Rupert, ‘Donald Trump Doubles Down on Mexico ‘rapists’ Comment Despite Outrage’, The Guardian, (2 July 2015), [accessed 21 November 2016]

Image Credits:
1 Designed by the author.

2 Created by the author based on Roland Barthes own model in Myth Today.
3 Compiled and designed by the author.