Spot the fake

After admitting that around one third of its Coptic art collection was fake, the Brooklyn Museum of Art hasannounced plans to display them in an unusual exhibition next year, in which Coptic works still considered to be genuine will be deliberately placed alongside those which have now been deemed counterfeit. The Independent reports that the exhibition will serve to alert other museums of possible fakes in their collections, but it also questions the motives behind our desire for authenticity in art. Others have argued that the differences between the fakes and the genuine Coptic artefacts reveals to us what later generations have hoped to see in a period of history, or how they've wished to characterise a civilsation. The Art Newspaper reports "the fakes...place a greater emphasis on Christian iconography than the authentic works. This reflects market demand for such imagery in Europe and North America".

The wisdom of crowds

On a similar theme, a new exhibition, 'Click! A Crowd-Curated Museum', attempts to answer that perennial question: is it art? Using the idea of aggregate intelligence - that a group will, collectively, reach a more "accurate" estimation than they would as individuals - the Brooklyn Museum asked 3,344 members of the public to select photographs on the theme of Brooklyn, by mixture of professional and so-called amateur photographers. The top 20 per cent were then displayed at the museum. Reactions have been mixed: Ken Johnson at the New York Times writes "the exhibition itself is not very interesting to look at, but the issues it raises are fascinating."

Hungarian horror stories

Two new films will explore the life of notorious Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory, but it is unclear whether either will separate myth from fact. The seventeenth century aristocrat has long been the subject of historical rumours and an inspiration for Hammer's 1971 film Countess Dracula, after reports that Bathory used to torture and murder her female servants before bathing in their blood. More recently, however, historians have tried to reclaim her reputation, arguing that the gruesome stories were invented after her death. After surveying the existing books on Bathory, Tony Thorne at the Telegraph concludes "it's just not possible to say for certain whether she really was a depraved monster...or an innocent victim of male jealousy and greed."

In brief

Irina Baronova, the celebrated ballet dancer of the 1930s and 1940s, died earlier this week. The Herald Tribune praised her for her "indelible classical style and virtuosic technique." Meanwhile, Screen Actor's Guild members seem due to go ahead with their plans to strike despite last-minute negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The Times reported that the average SAG member earns only around £26,000 a year before agents take a cut of their earnings, in contrast to the stereotype that the actor's strike is being pushed for by Hollywood millionaires. In the UK, Tartan films, theinfluential distribitor of independent films such as Battle Royale and 9 Songs, was moved into administration last Thursday, and it seems unlikely it will be able to resume trading. Screen Daily reports that "distributors are clamouring to buy the back-catalogue," which also includes 2002's Irreversible and the acclaimed Korean film Oldboy.

Getty
Show Hide image

How Donald Trump is slouching towards the Republican nomination

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb.

In America, you can judge a crowd by its merchandise. Outside the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, frail old men and brawny moms are selling “your Trump 45 football jerseys”, “your hats”, “your campaign buttons”. But the hottest item is a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Hillary sucks . . . but not like Monica!” and, on the back: “Trump that bitch!” Inside, beyond the checkpoint manned by the Transportation Security Administration and the secret service (“Good!” the man next to me says, when he sees the agents), is a family whose three kids, two of them girls, are wearing the Monica shirt.

Other people are content with the shirts they arrived in (“Waterboarding – baptising terrorists with freedom” and “If you don’t BLEED red, white and blue, take your bitch ass home!”). There are 80 chairs penned off for the elderly but everyone else is standing: guys in motorcycle and military gear, their arms folded; aspiring deal-makers, suited, on cellphones; giggling high-school fatsos, dressed fresh from the couch, grabbing M&M’s and Doritos from the movie-theatre-style concession stands. So many baseball hats; deep, bellicose chants of “Build the wall!” and “USA!”. (And, to the same rhythm, “Don-ald J!”)

A grizzled man in camouflage pants and combat boots, whose T-shirt – “Connecticut Militia III%” – confirms him as a member of the “patriot” movement, is talking to a zealous young girl in a short skirt, who came in dancing to “Uptown Girl”.

“Yeah, we were there for Operation American Spring,” he says. “Louis Farrakhan’s rally of hate . . .”

“And you’re a veteran?” she asks. “Thank you so much!”

Three hours will pass. A retired US marine will take the rostrum to growl, “God bless America – hoo-rah!”; “Uptown Girl” will play many more times (much like his speeches, Donald J’s playlist consists of a few items, repeated endlessly), before Trump finally looms in and asks the crowd: “Is this the greatest place on Earth?”

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb. Only a minority within a minority of Americans, it was assumed, could possibly be stupid enough to think a Trump presidency was a good idea. He won New Hampshire and South Carolina with over 30 per cent of the Republican vote, then took almost 46 per cent in Nevada. When he cleaned up on Super Tuesday in March, he was just shy of 50 per cent in Massachusetts; a week later, he took 47 per cent of the votes in Mississippi.

His rivals, who are useless individually, were meant to co-operate with each other and the national party to deny him the nomination. But Trump won four out of the five key states being contested on “Super-Duper Tuesday” on 15 March. Then, as talk turned to persuading and co-opting his delegates behind the scenes, Trump won New York with 60 per cent.

Now, the campaign is trying to present Trump as more “presidential”. According to his new manager, Paul Manafort, this requires him to appear in “more formal settings” – without, of course, diluting “the unique magic of Trump”. But whether or not he can resist denouncing the GOP and the “corrupt” primary system, and alluding to violence if he is baulked at at the convention, the new Trump will be much the same as the old.

Back in Hartford: “The Republicans wanna play cute with us, right? If I don’t make it, you’re gonna have millions of people that don’t vote for a Republican. They’re not gonna vote at all,” says Trump. “Hopefully that’s all, OK? Hopefully that’s all, but they’re very, very angry.”

This anger, which can supposedly be turned on anyone who gets in the way, has mainly been vented, so far, on the protesters who disrupt Trump’s rallies. “We’re not gonna be the dummies that lose all of our jobs now. We’re gonna be the smart ones. Oh, do you have one over there? There’s one of the dummies . . .”

There is a frenzied fluttering of Trump placards, off to his right. “Get ’em out! . . . Don’t hurt ’em – see how nice I am? . . . They really impede freedom of speech and it’s a disgrace. But the good news is, folks, it won’t be long. We’re just not taking it and it won’t be long.”

It is their removal by police, at Trump’s ostentatious behest, that causes the disruption, rather than the scarcely audible protesters. He seems to realise this, suddenly: “We should just let ’em . . . I’ll talk right over them, there’s no problem!” But it’s impossible to leave the protesters where they are, because it would not be safe. His crowd is too vicious.

Exit Trump, after exactly half an hour, inclusive of the many interruptions. His people seem uplifted but, out on the street, they are ambushed by a large counter-demonstration, with a booming drum and warlike banners and standards (“Black Lives Matter”; an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holding aloft Trump’s severed head). Here is the rest of the world, the real American world: young people, beautiful people, more female than male, every shade of skin colour. “F*** Donald Trump!” they chant.

After a horrified split-second, the Trump crowd, massively more numerous, rallies with “USA!” and – perplexingly, since one of the main themes of the speech it has just heard was the lack of jobs in Connecticut – “Get a job!” The two sides then mingle, unobstructed by police. Slanging matches break out that seem in every instance to humiliate the Trump supporter. “Go to college!” one demands. “Man, I am in college, I’m doin’ lovely!”

There is no violence, only this: some black boys are dancing, with liquid moves, to the sound of the drum. Four young Trump guys counter by stripping to their waists and jouncing around madly, their skin greenish-yellow under the street lights, screaming about the building of the wall. There was no alcohol inside; they’re drunk on whatever it is – the elixir of fascism, the unique magic of Trump. It’s a hyper but not at all happy drunk.

As with every other moment of the Trump campaign so far, it would have been merely some grade of the cringeworthy – the embarrassing, the revolting, the pitiful – were Trump not slouching closer and closer, with each of these moments, to his nomination. 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism