What Pink Floyd’s The Wall can tell us about the Trump campaign
I’ve been haunted by video of young white men at a Trump rally wearing T-shirts that say “Trump’s Wall” against the image of a brick wall, intentionally reminiscent of the Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I saw a lot of forehead-slapping reactions to the T-shirt, along the lines of (to paraphrase a tweet), Do they not know that Pink Floyd’s wall symbolizes fascism and suicidal isolation?
I would respectfully submit the proposition that they do know — and they like it. Not in any consciously worked-out way, because nothing about the Trump campaign is ever that self-aware.
But not everyone watches a movie like The Wall and identifies with sensitive, alienated artiste Floyd “Pink” Pinkerton. Some people cast themselves as the jack-booted, black-clad thugs who surround Pink’s neo-Nazi alter-ego (see weirdly prophetic video above). They don’t want to be the drugged-out, helpless hotel-trashing rock-star; they want to be part of the mob that beats up the queens and the darkies and the bleeding hearts: strong, violent, powerful. Here are some lyrics, which would not be at all out of place at the Republican National Convention:
Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There’s one in the spotlight, he don’t look right to me,
Get him up against the wall!
That one looks Jewish!
And that one’s a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There’s one smoking a joint,
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I’d have all of you shot!
Which brought to mind Trump adviser (and GOP officeholder) Al Baldasaro, who said this week that, “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.” For guys like that and all the convention-goers who chanted “Lock her up!”, Trump’s wall, his symbol, is Pink Floyd’s wall, and I don’t think the association is the result of inattention on the part of his supporters. The boys in the T-shirts know what they’re saying, and just because some of us think it’s bad doesn’t mean they do.
It may be shocking to realize that authoritarian, sexist, racist bullying is a feature, not a bug, of the Trump campaign. But it’s not hard to see why it could appeal to people who lack the confidence and introspective skills to defend themselves against it. Trump’s rhetoric draws out “the worms,” to use Pink Floyd’s metaphor for the emotional underpinnings of fascist ideology:
Would you like to see Britannia
Rule again, my friend?
All you have to do is follow the worms.
Would you like to send our colored cousins
Home again, my friend?
All you need to do is follow the worms.
Donald Trump, himself, doesn’t worry me too much. He’s strictly an amateur. It’s the worms unleashed by his “Make America Great Again” campaign that worry me. He’s forging a conscienceless mob — and the mob is bigger than any individual.