Have you watched the Spanish hit series Casa de Papel? Although it’s about a robbery, the main theme in the show is a collective and bold revolution against the enemy of humanity: capitalism.
In one of the last episodes of season one, El Professor, the mastermind behind the greatest heist of all time, sat sipping a glass of wine with Berlin, one of the robbers. Agitated, anxious and trembling, El Professor looked terrified. Berlin then got up, grabbed his glass of wine, and sang:
Una mattina mi son svegliato
O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao!
The marxist revolutionary chant was a theme song throughout the series, inciting this rebellious feeling inside every listener. El Professor soon began singing with Berlin, the look of fear turned into determination and excitement. That’s the role of sound in politics.
And just like everything in this world, with a negative influencer comes a negative influence.
It’s no secret that I see the President of the United States as the epitome of a negative influencer. Whatever positive economic advantage people might bring up, in my opinion, it does not make up for the fundamental moral wrongs he brings out in the world. For one, since his election, there has been a universal rise in the far right, or the populists as reporter Simon Shuster wrote in Time Magazine.
How did Donald Trump gain so much influence when he’s a businessman who was once part of a reality show? It wasn’t his eccentric character and lack of formidable vocabulary. It wasn’t his white, rich man charm. It wasn’t even his blatant racism and sexism, although that did play a role in making already-racist people feel comfortable being so. No, it was the subconscious manipulation of people during his rallies — the use of music.
According to an article in the Washington Post, people don’t really talk during these rallies; they’re too busy listening to the music. Trump’s playlist since 2016 included the likes of Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, and Journey. All rock, folky, 60s-reminiscent vibes. You might enjoy them as well, naturally. It’s good music.
But these are methodically picked to bring back the nostalgia of what it meant to be an American in the 60s. “Make America Great Again” is Trump’s slogan and his choice of music is meant to take people back to the time when America was great, in his opinion.
The 1960s was the decade of civil rights movements, when things began to fundamentally change. Blasting the greatest songs of that time while talking about building a wall and grabbing pussies connects the great feelings these songs bring with those words; they become one and the same. This is a theory called the Hebbian Rule, by neuropsychologist Donald Hebb.
“Neurons that fire together, wire together,” Hebb wrote in 1949.
Now, remember this is my opinion, although I am stating some hardly refutable ideas. It’s a natural reaction in people to associate feelings with a song they’re listening to, like a newlywed’s first dance and love, or the song you first had sex to and feelings of longing.
Trump vows to build a wall to detain ‘illegal immigrants’ while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” plays in the background; it’s an inspiring song and what people are being inspired to in this context is racism.
In 2016, The Rolling Stones issued a statement demanding that the Trump administration not use their music. In fact, according to the BBC, Neil Young, Adele, Aerosmith, among others, were all against the use of their music at Trump’s rallies.
If Trump were a song he’d be the melody people sway to, and his beliefs would be the lyrics they sing along to as if it were their own.
Graphics by @sundaeghost