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The Trump Show: Terrorism and Total Mediation

November 12, 2018 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Image of cover of Der Spiegel from 2017: cartoon graphic of Trump wearing a black suit holding a bloody knife and the head of the statue of liberty dripping blood above his head. At the bottom of the image is the text "America First."
mage: Courtesy of Der Spiegel online. 6/2017.

Monday Seminar:

Richard A. Grusin

UW System Fellow (2018-2019)

Distinguished Professor, English; Director, Center for 21st Century Studies, UW-Milwaukee


I want to think about how, mid-way through the Trump presidency, media and mediation function as everyday acts of terrorism. Put most polemically, I will argue that in the Trump era the greatest terrorist threat to American social and political order is not radical Islamism, cyber warfare, migrants, or climate change, but the threat of Trump’s tweets. I make this argument in three stages. First I will rehearse the logic of premediation I began developing in 2003, to sketch out the relation between terrorism, fear, and social media in the 21st century. Next I will discuss the strategies of “evil mediation” that Trump employed to obtain the presidency, and which he has continued to deploy in the first two years of his administration. Finally, I will argue that Trump’s radical mediation is best understood as The Trump Show, a kind of “gesamtvermittlung,” or total mediation, which operates to captivate and terrify the American public into tolerating a level of criminal and immoral behavior that would have been totally unacceptable in any previous presidency.


Richard Grusin is Distinguished Professor of English and Director of the Center for 21st Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has published numerous articles and book chapters and authored five books: Transcendentalist Hermeneutics: Institutional Authority and the Higher Criticism of the Bible (Duke, 1991); Remediation: Understanding New Media (MIT, 1999), co-authored with Jay David Bolter; Culture, Technology, and the Creation of America’s National Parks (Cambridge, 2004); Premediation: Affect and Mediality After 9/11 (Palgrave, 2010); and Radical Mediation: Cinema, Estetica, e Tecnologie Digitali, ed. and trans. Angela Maiello (Cosenza, Italy: Pellegrini Editor, 2017). He has edited three volumes of essays: The Nonhuman Turn (Minnesota, 2015); Anthropocene Feminism (Minnesota, 2017); and After Extinction (Minnesota, 2018). His work has been translated into several languages including Italian, Korean, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Grusin has been the recipient of year-long fellowships from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. He has been a visiting professor at several international universities: Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil; University of Amsterdam; Pontifical Catholic University of Saõ Paulo; University of Messina, Sicily; and Tübingen University.


November 12, 2018
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States