Our Trump Infatuation: Are We Amusing Ourselves to Death?

“I’m digging Trump. …his campaign has been entertaining as sh_t.”

Trump supporter Kid Rock in a Rolling Stone interview.

After initially laughing at his candidacy last summer I have become in awe of Donald Trump’s success in this race prompting a couple of Trump non-fan friends to question whether I have gone over to the dark side.  I have to admit its tempting as thus far he has been the perfect demagogue for our age. He plays our fears, resentments and hopes like a virtuoso a Stradivarius.  I sometimes think of him as Hitler-lite.

True, to many he plays off key, creating shrill sounds.  Sure he stretches the truth or generalizes it out of existence, is crass in speech and action but he is supremely confident that he can  make America  great again and that confidence is contagious.  Being entertaining and projecting strength seem to trump all other virtues in the contest.

The best the others can promise is to just make America better.  Kind of lukewarm in comparison.

In that interview Kid Rock also emphasized that nothing good seems to change in government no matter which party is in power and he’s tired of the same ‘ol same ‘ol.  Why not give the business guy a chance to shake things up?

So, besides being a good entertainer Trump prompts excitement about the possibility of seeing new things happen in Washington with him as chief.  His lack of any real plans, his occasional brutish ways and his penchant for unpredictability only adds to that excitement, even the scary parts.  After all horror movies sell, too.

Since the Trump show seems likely to be playing well for months to come, we’ll have plenty of time to think about his curious achievement in turning politics into show business and cash in on what I would argue has become, if not our foremost value, in contention at least:  Being entertained.

We have become addicted to being entertained and technology offers us more and more entertainment each day, hundreds of TV channels, big movie special effects, video games and all of the social media one could ever want.   In America, there is no excuse for being bored anymore.

We want to be entertained in every which way and Trump has made politics entertaining.  Sure, he pushes a lot of our emotional buttons but most importantly, he does it in an entertaining way.

Trump is cashing in on our collective addiction to entertainment.  He rides this wave like no one else, well enough to appear a shoe in for the Republican nomination for the presidency and making me wonder if his entertainment value will carry him to the presidency.

Putting aside for the moment the fears he may inspire along with whatever personal distaste you have for the man, wouldn’t a Trump presidency be the most interesting to watch unfold?  Just like in his campaign we’d never know what he might say or do next.

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P. S. – Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business is a book by Neil Postman published in 1986.  While we tend to think of political oppression coming from an outside source, such as big government – hence the emphasis of the right on the right to bear arms – Postman postured a bigger danger coming from our wanting to be entertained to the point that what we desire will ruin us.

Postman’s warning seems to be prophecy coming to fruition in the form of Donald Trump.  I will return to the book at various times as the race for the White House continues, as I think entertainment value will remain a crucial factor.

Here’s a taste of the book:

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”  

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3 responses to “Our Trump Infatuation: Are We Amusing Ourselves to Death?

    • Trump is who Postman warned us about. Let’s hope there are still enough grown-ups in America who are insusceptible to the base pleasure of vicariousness to refrain from electing this infantile narcissist.

      • Amen to that. Trump is the offspring of our baser selves, the opposite of the better angels that Lincoln spoke of. Like you I hope the final judgement in upcoming months is that the king has no clothes. It will be a test of the American character.

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