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)
Stephen Wolfram's podcast features a 90-minute lecture that he delivered at the 2019 Wolfram Summer School (MP3), recapitulating the history of mathematics from prehistory to the present day.
In the 1930s photographer Dorothea Lange was hired by the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) to take photos of farm workers affected by the Great Depression. She took this photo of Florence Owens Thompson with her children in 1936 in Nipomo, California and titled it “Migrant Mother.” “I saw and approached the hungry and […]
Seamus Blackley, "father of the Xbox," worked with Egyptologist Serena Love and microbiologist Richard Bowman to extract yeast from 4,500-year-old Egyptian bread-making and beer-making potter held in the collection of Harvard's Peabody Museum; though nearly all of the samples are being cultured for analysis and addition to a microorganism library, Blackley cultured one sample to […]
Want to keep the dentist away? A little tooth care at morning and night isn’t bad, but it won’t keep the stains from smoking or fried foods at bay for long. If you enjoy your food and want to avoid the consequences, an upgrade from that old analog toothbrush can make a huge difference. Among […]
If your office works at all, it uses Microsoft Office. Those icons for Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook are as familiar around some workplaces as the coffee machine. So familiar, in fact, that they get taken for granted – and rarely used to their full potential. Whether you need a crash course in the essential tools […]
It’s a great time to be a maker. 3D printers are on store shelves for anyone to buy, and coder kits like Arduino and Raspberry Pi are letting kids as young as 9 or 10 dive into the Internet of Things. Here are a few examples of our favorite tech toys, all priced low enough […]