TPP propaganda: John Thune's Neoliberal Realism
Let's playfully take the artwork that pro-TPP
traitor Senator John Thune (R-SD) tweeted as representative of an entire stylistic school, and let's call that school "Neoliberal Realism," and let's compare it to old-school "Socialist Realism." Take a look at Figure 1 and Figure 2 and see if you can spot the similarities and differences, formally and thematically.
Figure 1: Neoliberal Realism
— Senator John Thune (@SenJohnThune) May 21, 2015
Figure 2: Socialist Realism
We can summarize the similarities and differences in the following two tables:
Table I: Formal similarities between Neoliberal Realism and Socialist Realism
|Flat planes of primary colors|
|Backgrounds of beige industrial structures|
Table II: Formal differences between Socialist Realism and Neoliberal Realism
|Socialist Realism||Neoliberal Realism|
|Geometry:||Dynamic, left to right||Static1, bottom to top2|
|Glorifies:||Workers (and the social relations between them)||Shipping containers (and how they are stacked)|
|Slogan:||Beneath image, small||Within image, dominant|
1 Although there is open, blue sky in the background of Thune's artwork, the geometry of the image does not create a sense of movement toward it. That, combined with the dominance of the foreground shipping container, virtually breathes TINA (There Is No Alternative).
2 In fact, so anxious is Thune's artist to establish the geometry of a pyramidal power structure, he seriously distorts the shipping container's verticals.
Now let's compare the two images thematically.
If we look carefully at Thune's image, I don't think we can have much hope that TPP is intended to help working people. The artwork sends two messages.
First, in Thune's world of "Neoliberal Realism", people don't matter; there are no people in the image at all. Containers full of commodities, however, figure largely. Contrast the Chinese world of "Socialist Realism", where the social relations between workers are central.
Second, Thune places a propaganda slogan inside the picture frame, directly on the central, and dominant, shipping container. Contrast the Chinese propaganda, where the slogan is outside the frame, and subordinate.
I don't think it's too much of a stretch to see Thune's Orwellianly-sized slogan text "Trade Promotion Authority for a Strong America" as a proxy for the treaty text of TPP itself ("the rules"), which, although secret, will have a powerful effect on the material reality within Thune's world --and ours -- just as much as as the pictured container cranes, container ships, and the hidden commodities themselves. In fact, Thune's tweet says as much. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality," as "a senior advisor to Bush" famously said, although not of trade. And we might also remember (see Table 1) that part of this created reality is TINA -- a form of "realism" as well.
Readers, do you find Neoliberal Realism as disturbing as I do? Or am I reading too much into the image?