How the Id Dresses for a Coup
On one hand, there was the horror of the Capitol melee. On the other was the horror of the fashions.
This photograph by Lev Radin—and featured as the New York Times’ above-the-fold— held me spellbound for days. Tragically a woman was crushed to death beneath the mob, making the tableau doubly disturbing.
Psychedelia maven Terence McKenna once remarked during the early days of the Internet that what technology had unleashed (and he was very pro-Internet) was a kind of universal access into the collective Id of our species. The lid on Pandora’s box was fully rented, he said—and all of its contents put on display.
The power of Net porn
I’ve long contended that many significant sociocultural shifts would never have gelled without the Net, and much of their success stemmed directly from our wide-open, easily accessible electronic Id.
It was the crashing rush of Net porn into households all across America in the late 90s that informed ambivalent young guys in Alabama (or Kansas, which once held the record for the highest consumption of Net porn per state) that they might indeed be queer. And what did they have to lose by hooking up to see if their itch might be scratched in an affirming way?
The fallout from this was American culture’s surprising shift, in little over a decade, towards its acceptance (and the Supreme Court’s eventual sanctioning) of gay marriage. This would have been impossible without the Net.
I still can’t believe it’s happened, with memories still fresh in my brainpan of being ridiculed and harassed in my teens. But then I never had access to Sean Cody back then, so, again—there’s that.
The same could be said of the accelerated legalization of marijuana. Thank you writhing and chafing (and compulsively typing) Internet Id.
And the same could be said for Donald Trump.
Trump may have commanded our attention during the televised debates leading up to the 2016 election. But it’s what happened on Twitter and amidst white nationalist Facebook pages (and a slew of covert online hangouts like 4Chan) that galvanized his triumph.
Trump rode the Information Highway right into the White House. (Ugh, sorry).
This same ‘highway’ delivered us to the Capitol coup, too.
A sartorial innsurection
Shock and awe aside, while studying the zillions of photos that burped up from my computer and phone I remained entranced with the attire of the marauding mob. I couldn’t stop fixating on the various ‘looks’ that the melee donned. And what the clothing signified (other than maxed out Walmart credit cards).
The most salient feature was again related to the Internet. Scores of men (well, mostly men) were wearing clothing that I’d seen advertised on the various far-right syndicated news sites that I visit regularly (I like to cover the waterfront).
Of course, most markedly, and not that fun to dissect is all of the Trump fashion trash.
The ski beanies, scarves, t-shirts, capes (!), and whatnot (all made in China). And most ubiquitous: the cherry red MAGA baseball caps.
Nothing sets the word ‘imbecile’ off in neon like those fucking baseball caps (especially when they are worn reversed, which any queer dude knows is a look donned by a guy ready to go down on another guy. But never mind.)
This Trump kitsch is like the fan gear you’d buy outside of a casino at say a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.
And the Trump apparel became the vice that smushed together the more outlandish and freakish attire of the Capitol coup. Items like:
Distressed t-shirts, camo fatigues, hoodies, skull caps, breastplates, backpacks, and rape masks (all made in China). Once donned these items imparted an “I just exited victoriously from a fiery war zone” vibe. “And these zip ties are actually makeshift shoelaces.”
The overall effect of the raiment is military menacing. All echoes and variations of the “Don’t Tread on Me” ethos.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the latest haute couture from Bill Blass or Suzanne Somers, emersion into fashion and its iconography pulls you deeper into the spell that informs it. Namely, “I’m this not that.”
If you trawl around a website that features this Rambo-inspired stuff (like Blaroken dot com offers) you start to spiral into a private reverie, a novel condition that only fashion can conjure.
The world you enter once you experience the site’s collections of ‘tactical style’ and ‘outerwear’ (items that make you look like you’re on your way to a school shooting instead of a camping trip) is undeniably WTF-hypnotic; in the way any fairytale is beguiling.
All fashion is some form of fantasy. And its transportive effect involves, oddly, a loss of identity. I’m no longer me, but I’m this chic person in this velvet Louis Vitton dinner jacket.
Or I’m The Rock storming the Capitol to protect the sanctity of the Constitution and gain Trump’s approval. “We love you. You are very special.”
Where trends go to die
The majority of ensembles on display during the melee resembled what I’m overly familiar with from living on Vashon Island, in Washington state (instead of Manhattan Island, in, you know, New York).
Lots of L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and Lands End. Nondescript and wearisome-colored pants, shirts, hoodies (tons of fucking hoodies), and chore jackets (like people actually live on farms nowadays) that tacitly broadcast a fear of appearing too colorful or stand-outish. Or alive.
The overall effect being: I’m a garden variety heterosexual male that might occasionally take a hike but frequently (for sure) go to sporting events.
Middle-aged (and older) men in the Pacific Northwest all wear this shit and after a while, my eye turns any gathering of them into a blur of grey and brown and beige.
And baseball cap.
With the most daring color choice being a dull livid (livid being a British term for bluish-grey). This later color choice indicates that someone is maybe trying to escape from the monotony of the attire.
I hear you knocking
When I study the photo above I’m struck by the forceful funneling of jampacked bodies into the archway that leads into a foyer of bolted doors.
But more it’s the costumes and clothing—masks and flags and weapons—that wrap them all up like sausage skin. These are the book covers you can easily judge.
Most revealing in the crush is the rubber American eagle mask, sadly squashed and possibly partly responsible for the death of the women that died beneath the pile-up. In other words, this might have been the last image she saw before losing consciousness.
More telling (from the world of semiotics)—is the small wooden cross that made its way to the very front of the heap. I can almost hear it tapping gently on the doors.
For some twisted reason, it calls to mind that famous illustration of an inquisitive Jesus knocking on a cottage door in the woods somewhere in Oklahoma. “Let me in,” he whispers, “I have weapons beneath this robe.”
The more I studied the photograph the more I slipped into cognitive dissonance.
Because fashion, despite how it’s often made fun of as a frivolity, reveals much about our collective’s dreams, fantasies—thoughts and prayers. All of which, as related to this funneling mob, were directly tethered to the glamourization of Donald Trump.
Astrologer Liz Greene, writing about fashion and glamour and its alignment with the generational transits of Neptune (an apt planet and alignment) noted:
While the term fashion might be demeaning when used to describe religious or spiritual movements, nevertheless we can observe the powerful dynamic of mass psychological identification at work behind the rapid spread of any cult or religious movement.
Trumpism has been rightly defined as a cult—with its own laws, ethos, philosophy, and of course fashion. What we often don’t catch is the glimmer of glamour that imbues it.
If I had to define Trump in one word it would be ‘victim.’
But victimhood as a correlate to his pathological narcissism. I’ve lived through 13 presidencies and I’ve never heard a leader of the free world whine as much as this man.
Especially potent is the martyrdom associated with victimhood.
This is very much the base note of the Cult of Trump’s theme song. A theme that wafts out on the vapors of Trump’s glamour (an old Middle English word for magic: gramarye) and infects and emboldens his mob.
Namely those Americans who feel stranded by the zeitgeist, a series of morphings that are eroding the floorboards. Nationalism into globalism, whiteness into people of colorism, sexuality into as-of-yet-fully-defined-ism, Jesus-ism into atheism.
And gay marriage!
These ruptures comprise the glamour of victimhood.
Glamour enchants us…holds us in its spell. The glamour of the actor, the pop star, the charismatic politician or the football hero is subtle, invisible, and not reproducible through any artificial means.
Like fashion, glamour, too, depends upon the zeitgeist of the epoch.
An important dimension of its power is that, like Neptune, it contains apparently irreconcilable opposites. Goodness and badness, innocence and corruption, spirituality and carnality fluidly change places within one nature.
Really nice people are not usually glamorous.
The final thread unwound
The conclusion of my sartorial fever dream played out like this (just after drinking my third cup of coffee).
I imagined that on the other side of the Capitol’s bolted door was a wormhole that, once entered, spat the unhinged back into their mother’s basements.
Restationed they’d find themselves sitting in front of their computers, in a daze—forced to recall how their predicament first began: a rage, a shopping urge, a website, and an impulsive Id’s credit card. They recall thinking to themselves:
“Lemme see—I think I’ll order this MAGA commemorative cap and scarf and wear it with these made-to-look blowtorched meggings.”
For a closer, more subtle examination of the opening photo, see its accompanying article here.
PS: Wait! Someone wore a suit. OK, that works. But the pants are way too tight.