American Populism, Glenn Beck and Affective Media Production
International Journal of Cultural Studies
Thousand Oaks, CA
This article examines the centrality of affective media production to contemporary American populism with a case study of the right-wing broadcaster Glenn Beck. The rise of far-right media and Donald Trump in social media spaces demonstrates the convergence of the economic and political logic of affect. In soliciting the affective and collaborative labour of users, affective media necessarily deploys discourses of social transformation, autonomy and critical knowingness. Beck’s show exemplifies this logic with Beck functioning as a leader of the Tea Party movement who perform 'free labour' for Fox News and Beck’s own media empire, while experiencing this as a form of revolutionary education. Where this audience movement speaks to the political ontology of affective media is in the return of a fetishistic 'symbolic efficiency'. In foreshadowing Trump, Beck articulates an antagonistic division of the social with a populist community of jouissance and individuation both threatened and constituted by the rapacious enemy.