Monday, June 20, 2016

Cargo Cult Campaign


John Frum, He Come

Donald Trump, reports Maggie Haberman, has fired Corey Lewandowski in what could be seen as either the most recent campaign shake-up, or merely the latest iteration of an endless power struggle that has seen figures like Lewandowski, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort cycle in and out of the candidate’s earshot. When the operation in question is a garbage fire like the Trump-for-president operation, terms like “campaign manager,” which imply a cohesive entity that is managed in some hierarchical fashion, may not even apply.

Trump’s campaign, reports the Associated Press, has 30 paid staff on the ground across the United States of America. That is a smaller number than the Hillary Clinton campaign has in many states. Clinton’s massive ground advantage is supplemented by an even more massive television-advertising advantage. The current ratio of Clinton to Trump television-ad spending in battleground states is one to zero. (Data via NBC News, chart via the Washington Post.)

This sounds oddly familiar to me.  I wonder...wonder...where we've seen behaviors like this?
Cargo cults often develop during a combination of crises. Under conditions of social stress, such a movement may form under the leadership of a charismatic figure. This leader may have a "vision" (or "myth-dream") of the future, often linked to an ancestral efficacy ("mana") thought to be recoverable by a return to traditional morality.[1][3] This leader may characterize the present state as a dismantling of the old social order, meaning that social hierarchy and ego boundaries have been broken down.[4]...
Cargo cults are marked by a number of common characteristics, including a "myth-dream" that is a synthesis of indigenous and foreign elements; the expectation of help from the ancestors; charismatic leaders; and lastly, belief in the appearance of an abundance of goods.[7]
The indigenous societies of Melanesia were typically characterized by a "big man" political system in which individuals gained prestige through gift exchanges. The more wealth a man could distribute, the more people in his debt, and the greater his renown. Those who were unable to reciprocate were identified as "rubbish men". Faced, through colonialism, with foreigners with a seemingly unending supply of goods for exchange, indigenous Melanesians experienced "value dominance". That is, they were dominated by others in terms of their own (not the foreign) value system; exchange with foreigners left them feeling like rubbish men.[8]
Since the modern manufacturing process is unknown to them, members, leaders, and prophets of the cults maintain that the manufactured goods of the non-native culture have been created by spiritual means, such as through their deities and ancestors. These goods are intended for the local indigenous people, but the foreigners have unfairly gained control of these objects through malice or mistake.[9] Thus, a characteristic feature of cargo cults is the belief that spiritual agents will, at some future time, give much valuable cargo and desirable manufactured products to the cult members.[9]
Symbols associated with Christianity and modern Western society tend to be incorporated into their rituals; for example the use of cross-shaped grave markers. Notable examples of cargo cult activity include the setting up of mock airstrips, airports, offices, and dining rooms, as well as the fetishization and attempted construction of Western goods, such as radios made of coconuts and straw. Believers may stage "drills" and "marches" with sticks for rifles and use military-style insignia and national insignia painted on their bodies to make them look like soldiers, thereby treating the activities of Western military personnel as rituals to be performed for the purpose of attracting the cargo.[10] (From the Wiki on Cargo Cults)

7 comments:

  1. That's funny. I went for the same bizarre scene and applied a different set of metaphors (the Potemkin village). Do you think there's been a kind of cargo cultism in the Sanders campaign, where people hoped so much engaging in a set of well-performed rituals would bring on the political revolution, free college, and the end of corruption?

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  2. Yes, I absolutely think that much of the Sanders campaign was Cargo Cult like--especially the attitude towards the big rallies, signs, and their ideas about "enthusiasm," "intensity," and "momentum." I also think that the average Sanders voter (or surrogate) attitude towards AA voters was fetishistic--there was a tendency to artificially inflate the importance of Sanders AA supporters, or Latino supporters,to try to make a very small part stand in for a very big lack in their demographic support. Also: look at the memes like "Birdie?" It started out light hearted but it quickly became absurdly inflated.

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