The return of public vulgarity

The return of public vulgarity (img by Jonathan Ernst)
The return of public vulgarity (img by Jonathan Ernst)

A couple months ago, Donald Trump was unflatteringly compared to a man who noisily defecates in the corner of a room in which a respectful drinking party is going on. Are other Republican candidates for the U.S. presidency substantially any better?

We probably all remember the scene from Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty in which relations between eating and excreting are inverted: People sit at their toilets around the table, pleasantly talking, and when they want to eat, they silently ask the housekeeper, “Where is that place, you know?,” and sneak away to a small room in the back.

So are the Republican candidates’ debates—to prolong the metaphor—not like this reunion in Buñuel’s film? And does the same not hold for many leading politicians around the globe? Was Erdoğan not defecating in public when, in a recent paranoiac outburst, he dismissed critics of his policy toward the Kurds as traitors and foreign agents? Was Putin not defecating in public when (in a well-calculated public vulgarity aimed at boosting his popularity at home) he threatened a critic of his Chechen politics with medical castration? Was Sarkozy not defecating in public when, back in 2008, he snapped at a farmer who refused to shake his hand, “Casse-toi, alors pauvre con!” (a very soft translation would be “Get lost then, you bloody idiot!”)?

[Extract. Appeared in Newsweek, on February 16th, 2016. (full text).]

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