202 The raccoon fur and buffalo horn headdress, however, is perhaps the most incongruous element in this tableau. Its incongruity has caused a curious delusion, in that a large number of media articles have used the term “horned helmet” to describe it. In some cases this may be merely a telling slip of the tongue, but in many cases the headgear has really been misinterpreted as a Viking-style helmet (of the sort that, as we are all tired of hearing and saying, no Viking ever actually wore).5 The object in question is in fact an imitation of a traditional war bonnet of the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains; in the more commonly seen form of the feathered headdress, the war bonnet is frequently used to signify the constructed, monolithic “Indian” of the white American imagination. The use of the war bonnet here thus produces two complementary effects. On the one hand, a white man wearing a war bonnet evokes the history of the genocidal domination of indigenous peoples by European colonizers. On the other hand, it erases and silences that history through this speci?ic confusion of images, and it implicates the spectator in the erasure of that history. The colonizer is victorious when we see only a Viking. After all, the very term that has been coined to describe this man shows our contempt for the victims of colonialism: we ridicule him by calling him a “shaman” because, whatever social reality might be represented in the blanket term “shamanism,” it is merely ridiculous to us. Coming to this realization, we can see the extent to which histories of real violence, even those that continue to perpetuate violence in the present, can clothe themselves in silliness. We have to take silliness seriously – it is no laughing matter. It is necessary to consider the compelling power of kitsch, of our alienated attraction to the past. As Saul Friedländer put it in his work on kitsch in Nazism, “the paradox of kitsch and modernity is that kitsch is often an antimodern face of modernity.”6 The QAnon phenomenon that sprang up around Trumpism, and that we see expressed in the tableau of Jacob Chansley’s body (in several photos he is seen bearing a placard reading “Q sent me”), certainly exploits what Friedländer identi?ied as “the kitsch of death, of destruction, of apocalypse”, in its vision of a ?inal “Storm” in which Trump would institute martial law and execute all his political opponents.7 “Kitsch”, Friedländer suggests, “is a debased form of myth, but nevertheless draws from the mythic substance.”8 The “valknut,” therefore, appears in the Capitol building not as mere bad history, but as an element of this “debased form of myth.” 5 An article in Rolling Stone, for example, describes Chansley as “sporting a horned helmet like some kind of racist Party City Viking who took a wrong turn and ended up at Burning Man” (https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/qanon-shaman-maga-capitol-riot-rune-pagan-imagery-tattoo-1111344/). 6 Friedländer: Re?lections of Nazism, 30n. 7 Friedländer: Re?lections of Nazism, 26. 8 Friedländer: Re?lections of Nazism, 49.
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