Trump, Republicans, and Revivalism

I’ve been reading this extremely interesting book as part of my research into “spiritual marketing”. It’s called Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture (1994) by historian R. Laurence Moore. It’s a description of how the early marketing of religion became, over time, the religion of marketing. It traces the beginnings of the mass commercialisation of religion to the strange friendship of the founder of revivalism, George Whitefield, with Benjamin Franklin. Whitefield joined together theatre and sermon as performance. And in his day, he had what is today called “rockstar status” (as well as a healthy income to go with it — the prototype of the televangelist).

As I was reading the history of revivalism in the United States, though, I was suddenly struck by the fact that the present Republican National Convention isn’t a political rally so much as a revival meeting. It has all the same, (and in my view bizarre) characteristics of the early camp revivals that Moore describes as “arguably the first large-scale popular entertainments in the United States.” They were, in effect, carnivals and festivals, if not mass orgies. This “revivalist” type of gathering was even reinforced for me after reading a satirical piece by Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker, “Republicans Accused of Plagiarizing Entire Convention Scenario from Book of Revelation“.

This might explain why it has no logic, why it seems incoherent, senseless babble and barbarism. If it’s revivalism, it’s not intended to make sense. It’s theatre, and it’s described perfectly in those terms by Moore: “Like the world of the theater, the revival meeting of whatever degree of emotional heat created a special sense of time during which the normal constraints upon sentiment and behavior were deliberately modified. It is tempting to say that a better analogy to ‘enthusiastic’ camp meetings than the theater is carnival.” It’s purpose is excitement and “venting” and producing emotional heat.

This is fascinating, really. Moore’s book may well be the linchpin I’m looking for to account for marketing 3.0, and for the strange anomaly, noted by some historians of advertising, why so many men destined for the pulpit in early life were drawn, instead, into advertising and branding.

I hope to have more on this later. But the apparent “irrational exuberance” of the Trump campaign and of the present Republican National Convention only makes sense (if that’s the right word) as modeled on the revival meeting.

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15 responses to “Trump, Republicans, and Revivalism”

  1. davidm58 says :

    You’ve spoken numerous times here of Stephen Colbert’s word, “truthiness.” Now he shares more wisdom that resonates with the theme here lately of a post-truth society, with his latest new word: “Trumpiness.”

    “Truthiness is believing something that feels true, even if it isn’t supported by fact. Truthiness comes from the gut, because brains are over-rated. Truthiness has to feel true, but Trumpiness doesn’t even have to do that. In fact, ‘many Trump supporters don’t believe his wildest promises – and they don’t care.’ [actual article from Wash. Post]: …If he doesn’t ever have to mean what he says, that means he can say anything. Truthiness comes from the gut, but Trumpiness comes from much further down the gastro-intestinal tract…

    These legitimately angry voters don’t need a leader to say things that are true or feel true, they need a leader to feel things that feel feels. And that is why I believe Donald Trump is a leader for our times. An emotional megaphone for voters full of rage at a government that achieves nothing; an economic system that leaves them behind; and politics that elects people unfit for the job. And if you don’t share their feeling that you don’t recognize your country anymore, trust me: if Trump wins, you will. And that’s the word!”

    • Scott Preston says :

      That was fun to watch. Mssr. Colbert is brilliant. (and your first link did work so I’ll delete the two other attempts).

      • alex jay says :

        “That was fun to watch. Mssr. Colbert is brilliant.”

        No he’s not. He is a total tool of the establishment as every celebrity in mainstream media. If that constitutes your tastes in entertainment , then you have succumbed to the very mind-control that you have been trying to warn about through your entire blogging history (including your recent post on “marketing 3.0” ). Sad … but then you should stick to your forte of cultural sociological history (Gebser, Hussey etc.), which is peerless and educated me in ways for which I’m grateful.

        However, when it comes to the nitty-gritty of the current temporal-spatial political zeitgeist, you’re so out in left field that it saddens me. You might stop citing that pathetic social-engineering rag, the Guardian, for a start: it diminishes your gravity.as a “wise man”.

        Now, rather than citing well paid and compromised establishment “comedy” shills like Colbert and his ilk, have a listen to a young lady that you won’t hear on your normal ports of call – just a voice crying in the wilderness and heartbroken by system that breeds the Trumps and the Clintons, which are only reflections of a decadent collective amnesia in the public mind and a triumph for the elitist power structure that has held the potential of an all inclusive humanity down since Babylon … or since records began.

        • Scott Preston says :

          I’m not at a location where I can actually hear the audio for your link, but I don’t think it’s yours to decide who or what I should not be citing in my posts — that’s your inner totalitarian coming out.

          The mood of “gravitas” isn’t my chief predilection, although it may well be yours. Levitas and gravitas are two moods of the soul and one is not more brilliant than another, or superior to the other. That’s a dualistic evaluation, and if you’ve gleaned anything from the Chrysalis over these years, it should be by now, that I don’t hold dualistic thinking in very high regard. In this, you seemingly still don’t get what Blake means when he writes that “Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.” The tragic and the comedic are not that far apart as moods. The only reason they seem to be to you is because you take yourself too seriously, and that leads to morbidity and moroseness.

        • Scott Preston says :

          “Corporate media on the left”? Well, those of us outside the US understand different things by “liberal” and “left” that often leads to confusion when listening or reading US media… including “Sane Progressive”, it seems.

          26:40 minutes to say what the Pope said in a short, pithy statement: “Duplicity is the currency of the day”. To be sure, it is. The question is, how did it get that way such that it has become “the new normal”? Moralising about it isn’t answering the question. Righteous indignation and moral outrage hasn’t yet proved a cure for it either. Duplicity is a diseased state of being. It’s an existential sickness, and not principally a moral issue.

          Since righteous indignation and moral outrage have yet to have any influence or effect on the course of “civilisation”, perhaps it’s because they are barking up the wrong tree? The slings and arrows of moral outrage and righteous indignation, with a view to making guilt, make absolutely no impression on a age when God is dead, religion is floundering, and which is given over only to technology and pure will to power.

          Rather, you have to show that duplicity and hubris have real world consequences, and aren’t just moral issues because in such a historical context, righteous indignation is a limp noodle.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I imagine you caught Jake Ellison’s piece “Earth is hotter than ever — prosecute inaction?” in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer?

      http://www.seattlepi.com/local/science/article/Record-global-heat-persists-Next-president-8399670.php

      Reads like we’re already past the point of no return — environmentally and especially politically. Have yet to read Zhou’s essay on that, which Ellison mentions in the article. But in political terms, it sounds quite disheartening. As much as I would like to think that we can still dodge the bullet, it looks increasingly unlikely that we will.

      • davidm58 says :

        No, I hadn’t seen that Seattle PI piece yet.
        I did just watch this “Newsroom” episode where Jeff Daniels’ character interviews someone from the EPA who gives a surprisingly stark and gloomy outlook regarding climate change.

        Mother Jones “fact checked” this fictional interview:
        http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/11/climate-desk-fact-checks-aaron-sorkins-climate-science-newsroom

        So, if we’re already past the point of no return, what does this say about the possibility of an integral consciousness structure to emerge?

        • Scott Preston says :

          I’ll have to check your links when I get home (am not there at present) but as far as integral consciousness goes, I think Gebser foresaw his “global catastrophe” as even a necessary condition of its full emergence, what in alchemical terms we would call “passage through the crucible” — the stressor or challenge that was needed to midwife it’s full emergence. He spends a lot of time in EPO on the stressors, in fact, and how we can survive them.

          So, I don’t think he anticipated total planetary destruction, but a presentiment that what we are calling the “sixth extinction event” would be followed by a seventh generation event, as it were. That’s his faith, as it was Nietzsche’s faith that his forecast of “two centuries of nihilism” would be survived by the “transhuman”, but not by the “human, all-too-human” who he calls “Last Man” (and in quite a literal meaning). Of course, Gebser was thoroughly familiar with Nietzsche and may have taken that from Nietzsche.

          I am cognisant, though, of Seth’s warning, as I posted earlier, that if certain changes to human consciousness are not made, then the planet will perish.

          For Gebser, dualism was unsustainable, particularly when it came to issues of the collective and the individualistic, or the public and the private, and so also in terms of good and evil. This “polarisation” of the ostensible opposites or contraries, that builds up like an electric charge before a discharge, is the disturbing thing we read in Zhou’s commentary in the SeattlePI. That’s what startled the author, Ellison, about Zhou’s research. It is this dualism, and the tendency to think in dualisms, that is the great danger. And I think a lot of people are sensing that these days,, whether consciously or not very consciously.

          This is true even in terms of our tendency to reduce everything to producer and consumer, or supply and demand. There is also in this opposition a growing tension of conflicting interests and energies — which, at a certain intensification, like energy becomes explosive. Then it only becomes a question of how to contain the explosion so that it doesn’t intensify into total nihilism, which would be indeed, as Gebser states, “the end of the earth and its mankind”.

          This is the dreadful thing in Fukuyama’s “end of history”, it’s literal aspect. “The end of history” and denialism are conjoined Siamese twins, because the end of history presumes that the fateful conflict of opposites (dualism) has been overcome. That’s a great delusion. It’s the same delusion (and denialism) that infects Perle and Frum’s “An End to Evil” and Rolf Jensen’s “The Dream Society” too.

          This rot is going to be the death of us.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Interesting article in today’s Guardian by Catherine Shoard that speaks to this very thing about ‘post-truth society’. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Rolf Jensen’s “Dream Society” as I read it…

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/21/words-jason-bourne-matt-damon-film-hollywood-dialogue

    It also brought to mind Rosenstock-Huessy’s “grammatical method” and his insight into social disintegration and “diseases of speech” which is probably where we should look to interpret issues such as Stroad raises.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    Nothing particularly to do with this post, but I thought I’ld share this anyway… we dodged a big one a couple of nights ago. Others around here weren’t so fortunate. I stood watching the approaching storm for a couple of hours. It was quite the spectacle! There was an incredible amount of energy in this storm, as you might gather from this article and pictures.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/fierce-sask-storm-photos-funnel-clouds-hail-and-clouds-lightning-1.3687447

  4. Scott Preston says :

    I woke up this morning with that dreadful ditty on my mind: “Give me that old style religion”. What a horrible thing to have on your mind in the freshness of the dawn! But I suppose it was connected with what I posted last night about the Trump campaign and revivalism.

    “Give me that old style religion” might just as well get you fundamentalism, crusadism, jihadism, or Inquisition. Revivalism is, in essence, disguised Dionyisan madness and orgy. It has exactly the same features. And as Heraclitus put it in his day, as noted by Gebser, Hades was close whenever the Dionysian was celebrated — Hades being the alter ego of Dionysus just as the Gorgon (Medusa) was the alter Ego of Athena (Minerva).

    Take especial note of that when thinking about a potential Trump presidency.

    “Give me that old time religion”, I suppose, accounts for my antipathy to conservatism and conservative decadence. It’s apparent innocent exuberance masks a disease. I have no such reactionary nostalgia. Everything about that ditty makes my skin crawl.

    I think we all know that it just won’t do. We need a new revelation –a new breakthrough, a new understanding of the meaning of “spiritual”.

    Inasmuch as the RNC has all the features of “old style” revivalism, it also, for that reason, has the features of Dionysian madness, including the fact that Dionysus was the patron god of drama, theatre and theatricality generally. “Revivalism” wasn’t really in any sense “spiritual” at all. It was Dionysian ritual.

  5. Andrew says :

    Hello Mr. Preston:)
    1) Hey, DM, I hope things are well with you:)
    2) Sadly, Alex is right about Colbert; although true that one can have tremendous talent and still shill for the oligarchic duopoly.
    3) On plagiarism: the oligarchic duopoly puppet masters put on a show about cloning but one has to have a certain spiritual eye to see what was really going on with the wives of these leaders . I bring this up because Alex mentioned Babylon . You guys can do your own math on this one and come to your own conclusions.
    4) I ran across Debbie’s channel earlier in the year . One of the few calling it like it is. Brilliant!
    5) Non-duality can also be thought of as unity theism. From this perspective there is only one sign being given at the end of the age of the gentiles and that is the covenants the demiurge* made with the children of Isaac and Ishmael; and of course, the children of Christendom caught in the middle of this age old drama and incorrectly taking sides- although probably true that it’s the goats and tares siding with Israel and bombing the hell of of Ismael- the sheep generally find it all horribly depressing ( see Debbie’s channel again)
    * the demiurge can be thought of as the god of this world; not the source of all but subservient to the all. i suspect the demiurge is implementing the conditions to the, ‘I’m going to blow it all up again’ because the cats been let out of the bag, so to speak. This accounts for Nietzsche’s idea of the eternal recurrence and that vague unsettling feeling that we’ve all been here before . Interesting to note the Hebrew word in the beginning of Genesis is re-create ….
    6) Anyway, carry on! One of the best spiritual blogs on the net, Btw…….

    • Scott Preston says :

      My first impression of Colbert was the same. It was only a short time ago that I first came across him (when he invented the term ‘truthiness’). I’ve since changed my mind. He has a deliciously ironic wit, and a sardonic sense of himself and our times.

    • davidm58 says :

      Hi Andrew, nice to see you.

      I’m not sure what the evaluation of Colbert is based on. I would imagine that one might have to sell a bit of one’s soul just to host the Late Show on the big corporate media channel. But I haven’t watched him (other than the clips above) since “The Colbert Report” on the Comedy channel, which is the character he was channeling on The Word segment that I was attempting to link to. I do think his contributions of “truthiness” and now “Trumpiness” are important contributions to the culture.

      Debbie’s channel has some good points, but I pretty much agree with Scott’s assessment above.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    This cheery fellow, Mr. Thiel, sounds like the perfect technocrat

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/21/peter-thiel-republican-convention-speech

    And I do think he believes he’s got the tide of history on his side, too.

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