By now everyone has seen Kanye’s twitter hurricane that he unleashed over the last 48 hours, and none of it should be surprising. Kanye likes to own twitter for a day or two every couple of years, and knows exactly how to do so. The fact that he is simpatico with Trump is old hat. What’s more interesting is that Kanye sees a more visceral connection between the two men, referring to Trump as a brother, and saying that they share “dragon blood.” This is very astute, and speaks volumes not just about the two of them, but a larger comment on who will rule politics and culture in America.
Psychoanalyzing Trump has become a cottage industry. There are days I find him truly fascinating, and other days I find him to be a huge bore who wouldn’t warrant attention if he didn’t control what is still the most powerful position in the world.
But even on a bad day, Trump represents a classic will to power—his ascendance purely a function of strength of personality—a rejection of manners and convention. And his governing style attempts to make his position singular. Trump whips his critics into a frenzy because he doesn’t play by their rules, honor their precedents, or cede any of his authority. Sure, he doesn’t conduct himself in good faith, lies incessantly, and has textbook narcissist traits. But in a world devoid of morality, where the natural state is conflict, unblinking brute force is what is needed. And if he can convince a bunch of evangelicals that he is the second coming in the process, all the better. This is the world of Nietzsche, Hobbes and Heidegger.
As for Kanye, people forget how competitive the entertainment industry is. To be the best requires a will to power not so different from politics. To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, the solo musician is the literal “Man in the Arena.” With this in mind, we should expect Kanye to embrace a philosophy of individualism and free speech and reject orthodoxy. He is not an artist that got to where he is by being told what to do.
That Kanye is married to a women, and into a family, that shares this worldview is no coincidence either. The Kardashian clan is the new symbol of American capitalism. They have dominated popular culture for the last five years by rejecting manners, decorum and precedent. Both have exponentially more in common with Trump’s worldview than the pearl clutching establishment, or the PC moralizers from the left. From this perspective, decency and manners are just a cultural construct—another tool used by people in power to keep other people out.
This plays into politics and power in many ways. The Kardashians have turned trans-media stardom into an art form. They have used a traditional cable show, and in turn leveraged the full gestalt of media — from sex tapes and fashion magazines, to rap videos, and beauty lines — all powered through massive clusters of content and influence on Instagram. Kanye has worked off the same playbook, and Trump has taken it to new heights (he even has his own trans-media espionage thriller).
To state the obvious, whether it’s the Kardashians on Instagram, or Trump on Twitter, the current moment embraces the strong, bold, convention-shunning personality. The most dominant forces in music, television, entertainment and politics all embody this will-to-power mentality. Might makes right. Fame makes facts. This will define the current epoch in American history.
Only certain personalities have the stomach for this. But the people who do will thrive in this new American century, leaving the corpses of institutions in their wake.
Take the current two political parties as an example. The two political parties are dead …they just don’t know it. For the last 150 years that system exerted total control, with pruning of information through the mainstream media making the two-party system work. The trade-off limited debate on the fringes; in exchange for stability, a diverse body politic was forced to choose between two catch-all organizations. In this world, technocrats decided whose time had come to assume leadership, and norms and mores were used to justify their decisions and maintain order and solidarity.
In the world of social media, people matter more than institutions. And the strongest people will be able to crush institutions that attempt to suppress their will. Calling out uncomfortable truths, controlling information and facts, and demagoguing will become the norm. The truth of the matter is, will-to-power politics has always existed. It has been unequal, dirty and brutal. But the genius of the American system was to rebrand it as a noble enterprise rooted in civility. With social media, the charade is over. And only those with dragon blood will flourish.
Mike Albanese is a media operator and investor.
- Kanye West, Donald Trump and the power of Dragon Blood - April 27, 2018