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Patrick Boucheron

Collge de France, January 10, 2017

() We all know by now that clowns can be cruel, weve all seen those.
Who? You know them well. Im not talking only about the modern myth of the
killer clown: one of the political fictions invented by mangas, comic books,
movies, and in general mass visual culture, which inhabit your nightmares, feed
the rumors, and sometimes end up as true crime stories.

No, Im not just talking about the malevolent clown as a fiction character,
Im talking here about this one (Trump slide), this one (Boris Johnson slide) or
this older avatar (Berlusconi slide) because, after all, I am a historian of the
Italian laboratory. I have made my job of believing that Italy often invents ahead
of time what will later catch on everywhere else.

In these three cases, it is not unimportant to note that we are facing what is
no-doubt a very controlled use of what I would call the politics of the ugly and
the politics of the fake. The two the ugly and the fake being tightly interwoven
() in order to disturb our classifications of comedy and tragedy, the natural and
the artificial, truth and fiction, to the point that they merge in a kind of blurred
indifference that hurts all our previous perceptions of representation whether
theatrical, political or figurative.

The point is to make the face and the mask indistinguishable. Because how
can you possibly scrutinize reality, if it already presents itself under the guise of
fiction?

We shouldnt be surprised therefore if theres also here a hairy connotation


here. Because if real hair looks remarkably like a toupee, then how can you tear
off the toupee? That is the real question. Because if reality bears such striking
resemblance to fiction, the pastiche of the postiche, how can you ever tear it off?
The best way to never be caricatured is to become ones own caricature. That is
why in politics, ridicule doesnt kill you. What can kill you is to be ridiculed. But if
you work hard on becoming the object of ridicule, to a level where no one can
beat you, then you become untouchable. Most important here is to understand
the anticipative power of fiction.

What we are witnessing here is the transition from reality TV to


government. And we are witnessing this totally new chapter in the history of
political powers, when they have been first exercised at the fiction level. And
exercised on the most vulgar, grotesque, despicable stage of all: reality TV.

() Addiction to reality TV is not one of adhesion but one of contempt. That


type of power creates a fiction that we love to hate. A fiction that is all the more
effective because it cannot be balanced by the counterpowers of criticism,
indignation or derision, because it has deactivated them preemptively.

Thats whats literally disarming in that type of political obedience. It does


create obedience, of the most pernicious type, because it does not force on
people beliefs, but behaviors, gestures, attitudes. Because it does not demand
orthodoxy from TV viewers (or citizens shrunk down to TV viewers): after all,
you may think whatever you want but orthopraxy: you will behave like you
saw others behave on TV. And you will love it, because you will hate it. Which
ultimately, doesnt even matter, because you will love yourself hating it

(Translation: P. Br.)