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Posts Tagged ‘reality tv’

kicking cripples

Everyone on the planet knows Trump is ratings obsessed. Numbers, even inflated imaginary numbers, are his bread and butter – quantifiable proof of success.

Ratings are the results of direct competition. A ranking of winners and losers. One of the supposed driving forces in Trump’s life remains his father’s conception that one was either a Killer / King or you were a weakling/loser.

Ratings, and by extension poll numbers, are unlike any wealth he’s ever collected. Since ratings are based on pure dominance. Audience size is the only metric of success. TV ratings are a corporate popularity contest. More personal than real estate with his name on it. More satisfying than any bank account accumulation.

But why.

Sure, it appears to be pure textbook narcissism. It is all grandiosity. Ratings satisfy Trump’s driving need for admiration. And ratings validate the mountain of lies designed to prop up a fantasy image of self.

BUT.

If Trump is just personality disordered, then, we would not be in such a predicament. The predicament is one of chaotic meaninglessness. Trump has crashed through the “fourth wall” of our 24 hour news cycle.

Trump refuses to adhere to the banality of talking points designed to bore and demotivate the audience. Trump as stolen the metrics of entertainment and applied them to our politics. So we are dislocated and confused.

BUT should we be confounded by the success of Trump at redefining the political dialogue? No. Because his message is based in how we consume our entertainment now. Where we are shocked is that such a “serious” sphere as national politics could be so easily adapted into a ratings generating machine.

As long as Trump’s message is simply stated, summarily repetitious, and designed to amp up emotional response / drama, he will continue to dictate and dominate our political discourse – unchallenged.

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donald-trump-short-fingered-vulgarian-fingers-bruce-handy-ss09Trump could not have happened, or risen to power, without the ideology of reality show competitions becoming the aspirational fairy tale of our culture. Reality show competitions combine the banality of traditional game shows with the simplicity of soap opera melodrama.

Earlier this month, NPR interviewed Tom Forman, a reality show producer who worked with Trump producing reality tv shows. Forman explained how Trump uses the reality show high drama/conflict driven narrative:

“You don’t want to get bogged down in an argument over facts when you make a reality television show. You don’t want to convey a ton of information, because people get bored or lost or change the channel… […] Trump tweets about withdrawing federal funding, and suddenly you’re impassioned and you have a point of view — and he’s hooked you. …he’s made it understandable, he’s made it personal, he’s added a conflict-driven narrative.”

I said during the second Presidential debate that all Trump had to do to win the election was look over at Secretary Clinton and say, “You are a lying bitch.” And America would explode with glee.

Some of that explosion would be outrage and despair over the crass and disgusting nature of such a profanity. And that reaction would be righteous, rational, and justified. It would be the only reasonable response.

Even those political fans who only followed this year’s political playoffs would be shocked, but it  would border on relief that, finally, someone was speaking plain, everyday English at one of these debates. Even if they were turned off by what was said.

Trump supporters, and everyone else for that matter, would delight at being able to finally have a nuanced and strong opinion on politics. Putting aside any “authentic” thought or reaction, the majority of America would embrace the conflict and drama of such an outrage. The majority would celebrate the “event” as something interesting to talk about.

And while Trump never, quite, said those exact words, he came damn close. And with almost everything he pronounce, he does it in such direct and simplistic terms that everyone, no matter how intelligent or “woke” they are, immediately has a impassioned opinion about it.

And this is the reality show genius of the Trump dialogic. He argues with reality, so we might argue with each other.

Is it simply distraction? Is it only distortion? Is it totally nefarious? I am not sure.

As my friend Stoopid Johnny said about the outrage at a cabinet appointee’s nomination –  “Another day, another government program I’ve never heard about.” It could be that Trump might be teaching us the most profound civic lesson ever?

But, probably not.

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