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Trump, Barthes and Calvinball

[ by Charles Cameron — not to mention Alasdair MacIntyre ]

First, Calvinball:

all_games_turn_into_calvinball 2 panel 602


If you’ve been following my stuff for a while, you’ll know I’m interested in situations where two teams or individuals are playing two different games. As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre put it:

Not one game is being played, but several, and, if the game metaphor may be stretched further, the problem about real life is that moving one’s knight to QB3 may always be replied to by a lob over the net.


Roland Barthes, the French philosopher, made a related observation:

This public knows very well the distinction between wrestling and boxing; it knows that boxing is a Jansenist sport, based on a demonstration of excellence. One can bet on the outcome of a boxing-match: with wrestling, it would make no sense. A boxing-match is a story which is constructed before the eyes of the spectator; in wrestling, on the contrary, it is each moment which is intelligible, not the passage of time… The logical conclusion of the contest does not interest the wrestling-fan, while on the contrary a boxing-match always implies a science of the future. In other words, wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result.


So what does this have to do with Donald Trump?

Just that one of the more interesting things I’ve read about Trump’s campaign is Judd Legum‘s This French Philosopher Is The Only One Who Can Explain Why Trump Is Skipping The Republican Debate — and his key graph essentially applies Barthes’ distinction to MacIntyre’s observation:

In the current campaign, Trump is behaving like a professional wrestler while Trump’s opponents are conducting the race like a boxing match. As the rest of the field measures up their next jab, Trump decks them over the head with a metal chair.

If, like me, you find that idea illuminating, by all means read the whole thing.




Ah, but..

.. now that Go, like Chess, has fallen to the wiles of the computer, I suppose we can chuck our games of strategy books and cast our pleading glances towards the new overlords.


Throw away books? Never!!

And just for the record, here’s Calvinball, the full version:


3 Responses to “Trump, Barthes and Calvinball”

  1. Steve H. Says:

    The Protracted Game!

    Excellent book! A deep investigation into the indirect approach.

    (I have also seen an academic-military paper that robbed it without citation.)

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Dropping by with a Calvinball-style response from the TV show Suits:

    Harvey Specter: Pick a card in your mind. Any card.
    Mike Ross: What, okay, what now are you gonna tell me what the card is?
    Harvey Specter: I’m going to tell you what it isn’t. It’s not one of the fifty-two cards in the deck. Because you think you’re smarter than me, it’s a baseball card or football card. Or it’s the joker. I told you this before and I’m going to tell you again, I don’t play the odds, I play the man.

    Next episode, for good measure:

    Harvey: You’re playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.

    Not nearly as imporessive, but I collect these things, y’know.

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    The guys who write Suits are really into this cross-game thing…

    Wow. Maybe I should be in Hollywood.

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