Mugshot Politics

Demonstrators gather outside of Manhattan Criminal Court on March 21, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The top headline on the Drudge Report this morning was an all-timer: “Trump mugshot defining image of the century?”

It felt at once shocking and completely foreseeable in hindsight, like the broader devolution of the American right. If you had told me in 2016 that that headline would run on Drudge in 2023, I would have gasped, thought a moment, then said, “Well, of course.”

Taking it in, I had three thoughts. First: There will be no “image of the century” because we won’t make it to the end of the century. Artificial intelligence will kill us all first.

Second: The mugshot from Trump’s arraignment in Manhattan really might become “the cultural icon of our time,” as one marketing executive interviewed for the story put it. Both sides have political incentives to celebrate and even fetishize the photo. Trump is fundraising off of his imminent arrest already and is reportedly eager to monetize tomorrow’s spectacle at the courthouse. “With a grim fixation on having a mug shot taken, Trump has asked whether his team could print it on T-shirts that could serve as a rallying motif for his supporters—an idea that his advisers have been particularly enthusiastic about,” the Guardian reported on Monday.

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