Postmodern Simulations and Modernist Convenient Truths

Trump conservatives manage both to embrace some tenants of postmodernity, primarily the truth-less void of Baudrillard’s simulations, while at the same time dismissing the ambiguous nature of postmodern identities. Instead they demand that the inherent truths of “traditional” gender and sex roles be upheld without question.

In a post-need based economy advertisers make their products stand out by establishing codes of meaning. When all pickup trucks fulfill the need trucks are supposed to fulfill, an effort must be made to elevate the truck brand itself, the idea invoked by it that is, above the utility value of the truck itself. This branding, a la Naomi Klein, very much applies to the news media outlets of the day. So the “Ford Truck man” may well also be the “Fox News man.” This begins as a matter of seeming preference, but over time comes to have great significance for the consumer. With the investment in one brand or another his very identity is at stake. Codes illuminate what one product or another is made to represent, and with great cunning, marketers are adept at exploiting prejudices and cultural boundaries.

Fox news has become the Ford F-150. CNN is a Honda Accord. MSNBC is a Toyota Prius. When deliberating your purchase there is no need to debate the utility, or truth-value as it may be, of one or the other. The decision is evident. To be the truck man is to be certain, unequivocal, steadfast, unwavering, proud, American, and most importantly, masculine. This is the emotional link that has come to bind a segment of the population to the network of American propaganda. Trump’s refrain of “fake news” is rewarding for the truck man highlighting what he already knows, that the other options are inadequate, even effeminate. The realness or fakeness of the news is not of issue, as the decision has already been made, and for reasons wholly unrelated to truth or untruth.

In this way advanced consumer culture has spearheaded the postmodern era. We are led to dutifully mold our sense of self from a range of consumer goods. But modernist essentialism makes a return in at least one strand of the Trump conservative brand. The realness of most things can be made up as you go, but gender roles and sexual identity must remain fixed. Here truth has no truthiness. Trump chastised his staff, women were supposed to look like women. North Carolina’s bathrooms must be bastions of the gender binary. Transgendered youth must go back to being the boys and girls God intended them to be. It is as if we’re living in the worst of modernity and the worst of the postmodern simultaneously.