Monday, July 15, 2019

An American Caesar...

“The post-1945 counter-revolutionary generation, while retaining through family piety and comradely loyalty a certain monarchist coloration, was nevertheless ready to accept other channels to the sacred than the person of the king. … Thus emerges a new type of counterrevolutionary ‘hero,’ the embodiment neither of the ideal restored monarch of the nineteenth century, nor of the twentieth-century ‘strong man.’ … 
If a portrait were to be drawn of him, it would show a figure born or educated in a counter-revolutionary milieu, or otherwise understood to have counter-revolutionary convictions. Public opinion classifies him as a counter-revolutionary, and, accordingly, he has partisans and opponents, a definite political profile. This impression becomes the more firm as his style of life and style of thought, things deeper than intellectual judgments, automatically divide people into his friends and his foes, sympathizers or adversaries. Yet, a considerable ambiguity prevails around him since the style and content of his thought are often in disharmony: until power is firmly in his hand, he does not disclose where the real weight is. In the period prepatory to power, this ambiguity grants the counter-revolutionary ‘hero’ a great freedom of action: only in the decisive moment does he show his hand: he accepts the leadership counter-revolutionaries offer him, but his policies will follow the revolutionary pattern, and will, in the last analysis, favor the revolutionary cause. Thus his success follows from his timing, and indeed he dominates the time factor precisely in that neither his natural partisans nor his natural adversaries are able in advance to calculate and evaluate his moves; while they are confused, the ‘hero’ gains time, the most important element for his complicated maneuvers.

The phenomenon is so universal – although rare – that it would be an error to find it on the counter-revolutionary side only. What the communists call ‘Bonapartism’ is its revolutionary version. …

The period since 1789 has known, however, more such phenomena on the counter-revolutionary side. It would not be entirely inappropriate to the phenomenon ‘Caesarism,’ over against the revolutionary phenomenon of ‘Bonapartism.’ Julius Caesar, member of the class of optimates, brilliant aristocrat, sensuous, luxury-loving, even effeminate in his youth, became the leader of the populaires by a political choice, the result of acute views about the situation of Rome. Caesar’s views were … consciously and masterfully chosen, to be sure, as the best means to promote his own career, but also as the Realpolitik of the moment.

The contemporary counter-revolutionary ‘hero’ resembles Caesar in that he too belongs to the ‘optimates,’ and he too decides, after a careful analysis of the situation, that he needs a popular base. This situation has two facets: one, as it appears to the counter-revolutionary hero himself, the other as it appears to the counter-revolutionaries accepting him as their spokesman and leader. Briefly put, the counter-revolutionary hero, although his personal tastes and style are shaped by counter-revolutionary convictions and values, reaches the conclusion that in the post-1945 world power is in the hands of the communications media, acknowledged representatives of the populaires. His policies, over against his deeper preferences, will aim at acceptance by these media so that his natural opponents might be neutralized in the course of carrying out his plans.

- Thomas Molnar, The Counter-Revolution (1969), pp. 154-157.

This passage in particular seems prophetic of Trump.

The interesting lapse in foresight comes near the end of the passages cited, where Molnar says the 'hero' will need to appease the revolutionary media in order to succeed.

Yet, Trump follows the pattern Molnar limns by admitting, by his actions, how important the media are for accessing and influencing public opinion, even if the gatekeepers of those media are themselves hostile. As estranged as he may be towards "the mainstream media," he could not have succeeded, paradoxically, without their hostility. It is in this sense that Trump "relies on" Twitter and combative interview tactics so much: he literally needed the media to give him constant exposure even if it was negative. That being said, Trump's master stroke was recognizing that the media were so deeply "bolshevized" (as Molnar would put it) that he had to make its figureheads into enemies just to get their unwitting broadcast support.

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