Patrick Blanchfield at n+1:
In the past few months we have witnessed the emergence of what we might call a hystericization of American politics. The structure of hysteria, as classical psychoanalysis has it, involves a consuming orientation toward a powerful Other, a state of erratic toggling between paranoia and attraction, fears of persecution, and demands for love. America has had its political hysterias and various histrionic politicians in the past, but as a symptom of our current collective pathologies and miserable cultural institutions, Trump is of another order entirely. It’s perhaps fitting that the 21st-century version of the fin-de-siècle Viennese hysteric—the marginalized woman succumbing to her mythical “wandering womb” by going into spasms on a chaise longue—is a sexually abusive reality TV star happy to spend precious minutes of televised debate time bragging about the size of his dick.
Yet the real hysteria hasn’t been Trump’s—it’s been the American media’s. “What Does Trump Really Want?” has become the great question of our time—the center of an entire cottage industry. Everything Trump says and tweets, no matter how trivial or unthinking (and very little of it is anything but), is instantly transformed into an utterance of major import: fodder for endless, breathless speculation and feverish interpretation. To whom was he sending a message with that tweet? While we’re playing checkers, he’s playing 4-dimensional chess—what’s his next play? What Does Trump’s Refusal to Shake Angela Merkel’s Hand Reveal About His Foreign Policy? Are his desires really the desires of some Other (Putin, Bannon, and in recent days, Kushner)?