The School of Life

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The School of Life's Philosophical War on Trump

Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, the London-based School of Life’s prolific YouTube channel (founded by popular philosopher, Alain de Botton, in 2008) released a video titled "Why Socrates Hated Democracy," outlining how the founder of Western philosophy opposed the idea of putting too much political power in the hands of the unqualified masses. On inauguration day, they released "Why Hegel knew there would be days like these," reminding their viewership of the dialectical nature of history, thereby assuring that this current dark chapter is not the beginning of the apocalypse, but rather a necessary antithesis on the way to a balanced synthesis. A week later came "Thoreau and Civil Disobedience," recounting the all-too-familiar horrors of the Polk administration to highlight the democratic necessity of resistance to morally dubious political policy.

Discuss how this unofficial trilogy of videos (as well as any relevant inclusions that may follow, presumably over the next four years) resists the current state of American demagoguery. How do they contribute to the over-saturated pool of political discourse? Are they effective at breaking through the noise and conveying their messages? How has the [not-so-]subtle refraining from using Trump’s name and face (aside from the occasional comic interlude video, such as "What America is Getting for Christmas," which is not treated with the same degree of seriousness as the others) aided in the potency of their rhetoric? In the climate of anti-intellectualism that many commentators have noted as being central to alt-right ideology, does the invocation of history’s greatest thinkers do anything more than preaching to the choir, without making any significant impact in those in need of conversion? Can their presence on YouTube allow them more potential for change than what is available in old media? Does The School’s firm lack of political neutrality in these videos impact the way we view the rest of their catalogue, most of which being entirely apolitical in nature?

  • Interesting de Botton's agreement with Socrates, Hegel, and Thoreau appear after the election... That's as disingenuous as Trump claiming, before he won, that the election was rigged, only to be silent on the issue afterwards. Also, de Botton's contradiction: democracy is bad because it can elect a Trump, but good because it can oppose a Trump. This is like saying Trump's alleged philandering is bad but Bill's was okay. Last, Trump seems less a Polk (warmongering sectarian) than a Jackson (status quo-fighting populist). The judge barring the immigrant travel ban seems to be Trump's first Nicholas Biddle. Great topic, btw. Objectivity has been AWOL since Nixon, may he rest in piss. – Tigey 7 years ago