Rick Wilson is not a fan of Donald Trump or his most hard-core supporters. Speaking on “All In With Chris Hayes,” Wilson said that the alt-right movement that makes up the ideological core of Trumpism consists mostly of “childless single men who masturbate to anime.”
Wilson might be exaggerating how large a role the alt-right plays in Trump’s rise, but it’s unquestionable that there is a real community on Twitter that combines apparent fascination with anime and My Little Pony with support for white identity politics and Trump.
Of course the vast majority of anime fans are not Trumpian white nationalists. Still, there’s definitely a cultural affinity between the alt-right and anime. How do we explain that?
The particular style of anime that often pops up on the alt-right is the most heavily stylized and idealized versions of Japanese animation, where the characters are utterly denuded of any connection to biological reality. The decadence of this art makes it kitsch.
As it happens, kitsch has often had political implications. In the 1930s, when cultural theorists tried to figure out why totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union wallowed in kitsch, the German novelist Hermann Broch described kitsch as “the element of evil in the value system of art.”
Given the fact Trump himself is no stranger to kitsch, there might be a hidden message in the particular art beloved by the alt-right.