The reporting of the early months of Donald Trump’s campaign to become the Republican Party’s presidential candidate was not just dominated by his rage against Mexicans; it was also marked by curiosity about his hair. Even as Trump fulminated against Mexico for sending ‘rapists’ and ‘drug dealers’ into the US, vowing to charge them for the need to build ‘a huge, huge wall’ to keep them out, journalists were wondering, ‘toupee or elaborate comb over?’1
Media discussions concerned its style, ‘a sunken apricot soufflé’, its preparation, whether Trump uses spray or gel, and even its ‘tactile feel and texture’.2 Scurrilous reports suggested that the toupee was made of ‘the hair of the critically-endangered Brown Spider Monkey of Columbia’ and the pubic plume of the water buffalo.3 Earlier in the year, after the disclosure that corrupt FIFA official Chuck Blazer maintained a $6,000-a month apartment in Trump Tower purely to house his collection of ‘unruly cats’, it was assumed that this must have actually been a secret toupee farm.4
Yet for all the fascination and satire, Trump’s hair has not diminished him as polls showed him racing to an early lead over his rivals for the Republican nomination, a lead that he has largely maintained. Indeed, perhaps the hair is one of the secrets of his success. Trump has become so popular with his constituency that a recent Vanity Fair article suggests that Trump could actually win not just the nomination, but also the Presidency. His anti-Mexican and misogynistic outbursts chime with a certain white male resentment fearful of ‘political correctness’,5 and the ‘liberal media conspiracy’, a fear and resentment associated with the ‘wing-nuts’.6 Defined by Merriam-Webster as ‘a mentally deranged person’, this term is increasingly being used in American political discourse. It was popularized by author and columnist John Avlon in his book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America, where it is applied to unhinged activists, professional partisans and talk radio crazies who appear to have taken the role once held by licensed fools of speaking truth to power. Trump has become their spokesman and (almost) acceptable face. People have bought his unlikely anti-establishment line as throughout ‘the campaign to date, Trump has been able to brand himself as a truth-teller and “just one of us,” which presents a major advantage in a cycle where average voters are craving authenticity.’7 It is easy to see how the apparent phoniness or comic difficulty with his hair signifies this ‘authenticity’; it is not potency, but castration that provides the point of collective identification. Trump offers an almost perfect image of the impasse of phallic jouissance. For all his wealth, his golden Trump Towers, and the Eastern European models, he still has the look of frustrated rage of someone who has just been short-changed or sold an ill-fitting toupee. In this sense he’s similar to Sir Alan Sugar, his British counter-part on The Apprentice, whom TV critic Nancy Banks-Smith once wrote always had the look of someone who’d just been punched on the nose.
When questioned Trump always emphasizes that his hair is his; that it belongs to him: ‘My hair may not be perfect, but it's mine’ (Twitter); ‘You can check it. It's actually my hair. It may not be beautiful, but it's my hair’ (RyanSeacrest presents); ‘My hair is 100 percent mine. No animals have been harmed in the creation of my hairstyle’ (Trump How to Get Rich); ‘by the way, I have better hair than he [Marco Rubio] does. Believe me. And it is my hair.’ (MSN.Com)8 This repeated insistence seems a little excessive and if not an example of ‘protesting too much’ then betrays an anxiety that someone, the ‘losers and haters’ or Mexicans perhaps, are trying to steal it. Alternatively, maybe it betrays a deeper concern that it has a life of its own. There is a quality of ‘aliveness’ about the hair that is also suggested by the number of references to spider monkeys and unruly cats.
But as he peers beneath his lunatic fringe, there is a deeply sinister, reverse side to this identification. In a recent speech in which he ‘vows to veto any new gun regulations’, Trump lays the blame for gun violence on America’s ‘mental health problem’. In the US, he states, ‘we have a huge mental health problem [because] so many institutions are closing and putting people out in the street.’ 9 How soon will come the promise of pre-emptive incarceration in order to protect the wing-nuts’ fantasy of jouissance that sustains its violent manifestation in mass shootings?
1 Adam Gabbatt, ‘Donald Trump's tirade on Mexico's “drugs and rapists” outrages US Latinos The Guardian 16.06.15; Emily Sher, ‘Donald Trump's hair: Defended and explained in his own words’. Today. 11.08.15; National Report, ‘Donald Trump Fined Wigmaker’, 16.10.15; Nigel Farndale, ‘How I cracked the secret of Donald Trump's hair’ Daily Telegraph 09 Oct 2015;
2 Farndale, ibid.
3 National Report, ibid.
4 Cindy Boren, ‘Ex-FIFA official had $6,000-a-month Trump Tower apartment for unruly cats’, The Washington Post. 27. 05.15.
5 For a non-exhaustive list see Doug Bolton, ‘Here's all the sexist things that Donald Trump has ever said’ The Independent. 12.08.15.
6 See for example, Conor Lynch, ‘The wing-nut myth that refuses to die: the one simple reason there’s no “liberal media conspiracy”’. Salon. 02.11.15
7 David Burstein, ‘Here’s Why Donald Trump Really Could Be Elected President’ Vanity Fair 22.10.15.
8 See also Sher, ibid.
9 Alan Yuhas, The Guardian. 26.10.15
The creation of human beings, the replication of life: this Promethean hubris is constantly being played out in ever more surprising forms – well beyond Mary Shelley's reworking of the myth in Frankenstein. Today one can use animals as incubators for human organs or tissue – for example by transferring human stem cells into the embryo of the animal in which the desired organ is to be grown. At least such a scenario will soon be possible. In any case it is easier to develop differentiated tissue or organs in vivo than in vitro.
In fact the embryo of an animal is a living environment capable of producing the necessary signals for differentiation: in animals (in pigs for example) one has a "natural" environment that is a lot closer to the human than an incubator in a lab, with a 3D cellular culture impregnated with growth promoters.
However, a problem arises: this type of development leads to the creation of chimeras, in other words a mixing of genetic material between the cells transferred for incubation and the cells of the incubating host – a mixing of the human and the animal. We thus rediscover in the most cutting-edge forms of technology, the monstrous chimera of Greek mythology. Here we have an ill omen: a monstrous animal could be created through this type of manipulation, producing creatures half-way between different species.
It is easy to understand why intense discussions about ethics, currently underway in the NIH (National Institute of Health) and elsewhere, result from this, as the review Science has recently reported.1 Evidently, imagining that human brain cells, sperm cells or ovocytes can be developed in a pig or goat can leave one feeling perplexed and anxious, while the thought that a pancreas or a kidney developed in an animal seems less disturbing.
Some argue that the good of humans or that of animals has to be taken into account, while others evoke the “sanctity” of the human, or again the risk of bi-products, with animals potentially carrying an altered and humanised germ line, which would make them capable of transmitting these characteristics.
How can such possibilities, which up ’till now have only existed in mythology, be thought? What is the “sanctity” of the human, when it is a question of organs. Would an organ created in vitro be considered to be more acceptable? Today, while previously reserved for the realms of human imagination, all these unheard of questions are real and open…
1 Gretchen Vogel, “NIH Debates Human-Animal Chimeras”, Science, October 2015
There are many reasons for calling “black” this Friday of November where consumer fury unleashes every year. One of them is that the fury to buy has many times led to acts of aggression among buyers, producing different types of injuries, both bodily and material.
Only this year in Chicago, Illinois, not everybody was interested in buying. Some instead suggested a boycott amidst the Holiday shopping spree to condemn violence. They used Twitter hashtags such #NotOneDime and #RedistributeThePain, to condemn Black Friday’s consumerism in the “wake of an ongoing systemic violence against African-Americans” in the United States.
On October 20th 2014, 17 year old Laquan Mc Donald was killed in Chicago by a white police officer, who shot him over 16 times1. Charges were filed against the officer recently this week. Last Friday, on November 27th 2015, protesters demanded a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department by locking arms outside the doors of some major retailers, preventing shoppers from entering, and compelling people to use “Black Friday” as a day of resistance and service to racial justice instead.
A brilliant use of a signifier’s equivocal to make a statement about the crucial events taking place in the US; this year alone, over 303 black people were killed by the police and intense protests occurred all over the country2.
1 CNNNewsUS.com (Thursday November 26th, 2015)
2 www.theguardian.com (Edition of Friday November 27th, 2015)