Walter Benjamin on the 2016 US Presidential Elections

Everything I need to know about the 2016 US presidential election process, I learned from Walter Benjamin:

“The present crisis of the bourgeois democracies comprises a crisis of the conditions which determine the public presentation of the rulers. Democracies exhibit a member of government directly and personally before the nation’s representatives. Parliament is his public. Since the innovations of camera and recording equipment make it possible for the orator to become audible and visible to an unlimited number of persons, the presentation of the man [or woman] of politics before camera and recording equipment becomes paramount. Parliaments, as much as theaters, are deserted [cf. C-SPAN]. Radio and film not only affect the function of the professional actor but likewise the function of those who also exhibit themselves before this mechanical equipment, those who govern. Though their tasks may be different, the change affects equally the actor and the ruler. The trend is toward establishing controllable and transferrable skills under certain social conditions. This results in a new selection, a selection before the equipment from which the star and the dictator emerge victorious.”

In case anyone asks what you can do with a degree in theater or performance, you can answer that you are acquiring the controllable and transferrable skills needed to rule the world. 🙂

~”The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Illuminations, ed. and intro. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (1968), p. 247, n.12.

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