The Corruption of Ethos in Fortress America: Billionaires, Bureaucrats, and Body Slams argues that authoritarian strains of U.S. governance violate the idea of ethos in its ancient, collectivist sense. Christopher Carter posits that this corrupts the cultural “dwelling place” through public relations strategies, policies on race and immigration, and a general disregard for environmental concerns. Donald Trump’s presidency provides a signal instance of the problem, refashioning the dwelling place as a fortress while promoting sweeping forms of exclusion and appealing to power for power’s sake. Carter’s analysis shows that, emboldened by the purported flexibility of truth, Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric underwrites unrestrained policing, militarized borders, populist nationalism, and relentless assaults on investigative journalism. These trends bode ill for human rights and critical education as well as progressive social movements and the forms of life they entail. Worse yet, the corruption of ethos threatens life in general by privileging corporate prerogatives over ecological attunement. In response to those tendencies, Carter highlights modes of activism that merge antiracist and labor rhetoric to offer a more fluid, unpredictably emergent vision of social space, allying with ecofeminism in ways that make that vision durable. Scholars of rhetoric, political science, history, ecology, race studies, and American studies will find this book particularly useful.
Christopher Carter is divisional dean of humanities and faculty member of the English department at the University of Cincinnati.
Chapter One: The Paradox of Dissent: Bullshit and the Twitter Presidency
Chapter Two: “Don’t Be Too Nice”: The Nation-State as Alienation Machine
Chapter Three: Deep State Blues
Chapter Four: Distressed Properties: Lessons from Trump University
Chapter Five: Against the Wall
Conclusion: Dwelling in the Dissolve
About the Author
A fascinating tour of the complexities of 21st-century ethos! Readers are encouraged to dislodge ethos from the terrain of character or moral credibility and regard it as a dwelling, as a place of struggle. In this exciting book, Carter eloquently suggests how social movements and participant activism might intervene to generate action-oriented ethos in the most dystopian of times.
At first glance, The Corruption of Ethos in Fortress America: Billionaires, Bureaucrats, and Body Slams may seem to be yet another takedown of the post-truth, divisive, authoritarianist, white-nationalist rhetorics of Donald Trump and the contemporary right. However, Chris Carter does much more than that in this energetic and very readable book. With impressive erudition, Carter draws on rhetorical, cultural, and political economic scholarship to advocate for an already-emergent, justice-focused rhetoric that emphasizes compassion, sustainability, our collective precarity, and our responsibility to other human and non-human beings. It will be interesting to any who are looking for ways to explore, and have conversations with others, about new, hopeful ways of doing political rhetoric that are responsive to the challenges of this transformative historical moment.