Final Thursday Trump was booked within the Fulton County Jail in Auckland, Georgia for allegedly operating a felony enterprise in violation of the state’s RICO statute. Instantly, the primary and solely mug shot of a former U.S. president went viral on social media and could possibly be discovered on the entrance pages of newspapers worldwide. Right here at residence, the physique politic was quickly all abuzz.
To present their solidarity with the twice impeached and now 4 instances criminally indicted Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R. Ga) and different Trumpists had been photoshopping the background of mug pictures taken at Fulton County and posting these as pretend mug pictures on X, the platform previously generally known as Twitter.
Although I don’t assume this information story can have legs, a sampling of essays from the Sunday Opinion part of the New Auckland Occasions — Catch the Smug Mug on That Thug!, The Man within the Mug Shot, The Case Towards Being a Good Individual, and The Virtues Of Being Unhealthy – had been all indicative of what could possibly be labeled a Neo-Freudian fixation within the wrestle between democratic idealism and authoritarian nihilism.
Inquiring minds had been asking, what does Trump’s scowling frown imply? What does it inform us about Trump’s frame of mind? And possibly extra importantly, what does it say about our personal particular person states of thoughts in addition to our personal collective states of thoughts – Republican and/or Democrat?
My solutions to those and different questions mentioned under had been prompted by a recorded interview that I did over the weekend for a narrative that Nationwide Public Radio was engaged on concerning the significance of Trump’s mugshot, the completely different political reactions to it, and its relationship to Trump’s public picture and his type of branding.
Politically, Trump’s mugshot is sort of a Rorschach take a look at the place the MAGA base supporters, character cultists, and different authoritarian Republicans as contrasted with the By no means Trumpers, the rule of legislation fanatics, and practically all Democrats had been largely projecting no matter they imagined onto the mug shot for quite a lot of their very own private, political and psychological causes/wants.
Within the case of the Trumpers, they see a defiant, offended, and revengeful sufferer, a savior of the anti-woke and politically incorrect individuals, not but the martyr that Trump will finally develop into—whose picture as a “political prisoner” — already accompanies their T-shirts and low mugs which they now proudly put on and drink espresso from.
As for the anti-Trumpers, they see an evil, despicable, amoral, and shameless madman, an enemy of the individuals, the U.S. Structure, and American democracy. They too are consuming from espresso cups with the identical mug shot of Trump that reads, Vote for Biden. Likewise, the anti-Trumpers have been sporting baseball-like T-shirts, for instance, the one with the toddler Donald sitting in a highchair with full diapers and dripping down on a duplicate of We the Individuals… unfold out on the ground beneath him.
The Mug Shot
In just a few phrases, Trump’s mugshot picture will be reconciled with the general public picture that he has created for himself through the years.
For practically 5 a long time, Trump’s model or public picture has been a piece in progress. Nevertheless, one widespread denominator over all these years is that no person owns or controls Trump. Teflon Don has all the time been his personal boss in addition to a real grifter and gaslighter who radiates all types of success regardless of a monitor document of quite a few fiascoes in enterprise and in life.
On the similar time, Trump is, if nothing else, a bona fide outlaw and a lawless fraudster. As I’ve argued in each of my Trump books the Boss is in actuality essentially the most profitable outlaw in U.S. historical past.
To his enablers and sycophants, Trump is a revolutionary, a insurgent with a neofascist agenda, and somebody who doesn’t play by the principles as a result of the principles are for fools, suckers and different losers. Against this, the legal guidelines or guidelines particularly these associated to taxes are to not be discovered throughout the province of winners and billionaires like Trump.
As an unorthodox politician, Trump will not be fairly the true deal, slightly he’s an genuine conman who by no means tells it prefer it actually is. On the similar time, Trump has advanced into the egotistical and freewheeling actuality TV persona that he common on The Apprentice – as in “You’re fired!” — who bought away week after week for practically a decade by being brazenly hostile and offensive to different individuals who he handled as patsy chumps more often than not.
Trump’s Historical past With “Unhealthy” Publicity
I have no idea that Trump has a historical past of utilizing dangerous publicity per se to his benefit as a lot as he has a historical past of utilizing adversity and adversaries to his benefit.
In Trump’s transactional world and in his narcissistic view of issues, publicity of any type –-good, dangerous, and ugly — has all the time been helpful for creating his narrative of invincibility and omnipotence no matter his copiousness of hyper-insecurities and uber-defensiveness.
For instance, who else however Donald Trump would brag about how he might shoot somebody on 5th Avenue with out struggling any unfavorable penalties?
Then once more, there may be loads of proof in Trump’s political experiences from the 4 felony indictments and the mixed 91 felony fees that assist Trump’s narrative on lawlessness. Up to now, Trump has but to endure any important losses in assist for his 2024 presidential bid for the Republican nomination.
This turned completely clear after the primary Republican presidential debate on FOX TV that aired final Wednesday evening. Even when he had been to be convicted of an array of very heinous crimes, six out of the eight spineless GOP wannabe candidates amazingly raised their arms that they might nonetheless assist Trump’s candidacy for the very best workplace within the land.
This begs the query: How way more bankrupt can a political occasion develop into earlier than it implodes?
The In Solidarity Mugshots
With respect to Trump’s supporters or Trump’s detractors, as I’ve already indicated it’s extra sophisticated than photoshopping mugshots of solidarity. In different phrases, it’s much less about solidarity and extra about belonging to social teams and their collective identification with the reification of themselves.
From a Neo-Freudian perspective, the polarity between Trumpers and non-Trumpers or between Republicans and Democrats is a narrative of the traditional wrestle between the previous collective ids and the latter collective superegos over their competing wishes, grievances, and desires for the long run vis-à-vis authoritarian nihilists versus democratic idealists.
Trump can be just like the fictional antihero Walter Kovacs enjoying the Rorschach character within the graphic novel sequence Watchman first revealed in 1986 by DC Comics.
Trump, the identical as Rorschach, is a vigilante and felony outlaw who acts on his personal initiative and phrases, not not like the supervillain Joker slightly than a benevolent superhero like Spiderman who’s selfless, trustworthy, compassionate and pushed by ethical righteousness and justice for all. One thing that’s after all anathema to Boss Trump.
And on this different Trump universe, there isn’t a scarcity of people that nonetheless romanticize or fantasize about relationships with dangerous guys courting again to the Wild West days of Billy the Kidd or John Wesley Harding following the Civil Conflict or from the up to date world of fictional graphic novels and/or movies about good and evil and about superheroes and supervillains.
Having shared a spread of associations or connotations about Trump’s mugshot by way of socio-psychological in addition to multicultural lenses, I’ve a number of unanswered questions concerning the origins of the mugshot that solely Trump or maybe just a few others might reply.
So if I had the chance to interview the previous president, I might need to ask him no less than 4 questions:
First, how lengthy did it take you to give you the scowling frown?
Second, what extra are you making an attempt to convey by the use of your darkish, foreboding, and unflattering picture than meets the attention?
Third, had been there different attitudes or expressions that you just thought of, and in that case, what had been they and why had been they rejected?
Fourth, I might need to know if Trump got here up together with his expression for this mugshot by himself or with help from a few of his enablers.
If he did have enter from others, then I might need to know who these enablers had been – although smells just like the work of that “dynamic duo” Steve Bannon and Steve Miller –and did the Racketeer-in-Chief must audition the opposite facial expressions earlier than them for his or her thumbs up or down?
In closing, as I’ve already denoted I personally thought that every one the mugshot buzz was extremely overrated, preoccupied with a primary of its type, and has just about light away in lower than one week’s time. I might additional think about when the entire motion pictures, mini-series, and documentaries begin spilling forth in two or three years from now neither Trump’s mugshot nor the horrible circumstances of the Fulton County Jail will get a lot, if any, consideration.
Gregg Barak is an emeritus professor of criminology and felony justice at Jap Auckland College, co-founder of the Journal of White Collar and Company crime, and the writer of Criminology on Trump (2022) whose sequel Indicting the 45th President: Boss Trump, the GOP, and What We Can Do Concerning the Menace to American Democracy shall be revealed in February 2024.