Trump launched his campaign in front of an "audience" of actors paid $50/each to wear campaign shirts and cheer wildly, and he's brought his paid cheering section with him into the presidency, bringing along staffers to applaud at key moments during his press conferences and other appearances.
The practice has its origin in ancient Rome, where the Emperor Nero deployed his own crowds, called "Augustiani," to cheer at his indifferent poetry and lyre playing. It was revived in 17th and 18th century opera circles, where "claques" were used to "huzzah or hiss their favorite performers."
The claque died out in the 19th century, but everything old is new again, and Trump has revived claques as an integral part of his governing strategy. It's a sharp move: if you can't see who's applauding, you might assume that when Trump draws cheers for damning CNN as "fake news" that the press corps is cheering him on.
One can recognize some key elements of the Neronian claque in its nascent revival. Imperial demands for adulation that abhor a silence that may leave the ruler exposed. The triumph of celebrity rule over stifling norms and propriety.
Indeed, the latter element is why the contemporary claque may win the approval of those who helped elect our current president. The Neronian claque did not simply demand that Romans put aside their critical judgement and submit to a day at the theatre one could not escape, but it did so for specific political aims.
[Richard Byrne/Crooked Timber]
(Image: Simone Giertz/Applause Machine)
Over at Collectors Weekly, Lisa Hix has just written an incredibly in-depth history of the hula, from its roots as a sacred dance to its kitschy personification as a dashboard doll. For her piece, Hix spoke with Constance Hale, a hula dancer herself, whose new book, The Natives Are Restless, focuses on authentic, 21st-century expressions […]
Lorica is a fully-funded Kickstarter campaign that started with the promise of making leggings inspired by medieval armor, with rigorous and accurate depictions — now that the campaign has reached its stretch goals, it has grown to incorporate a range of armor-inspired clothes.
After WWII, the US launched the Marshall Plan to help Europe rebuild, spending about $120B in inflation-adjusted dollars on the project, which lifted the war-stricken European nations out of disaster and launched them into post-war prosperity; the US has spent even more than that on rebuilding projects in Afghanistan since the official cessation of hostilities […]
What could be more fun than a slingshot that shoots tiny airplanes? A slingshot that shoots tiny glowing airplanes of course! These toy planes are outfitted with ultra-bright LEDs, so you can fly all night without losing them in the trees.Whether you are a regular-sized child, or an overgrown adult one, these light-up flyers offer […]
You know the drill. You go to the dentist and they ask you how often you floss. You lie through your teeth and say, “every day!” (Bonus points if you have some cilantro or chives stuck in your gums from lunch). You don’t want to keep up the charade any longer, but rubbing that tiny strand […]
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has done outstanding work packing a fully capable desktop computer into a package the size of a deck cards—especially one that only costs $35. But if you already have a working laptop, why should you care? Oh, how much you have to learn. Besides operating well as a compact digital media hub, […]