Idiocracy, celebritoxicity, president

Actors have become successful politicians in the Unites States before – for example Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – but Donald Trump has taken US democracy to a new level, where reality TV has become a continuous real life drama being acted out in the White House.

And now either Oprah Winfrey or some of the media seem to have launched a presidential campaign based on another commercial television success taking advantage of a public obsession with ‘celebrities’.

‘The media’ has been complicit in Trump’s rise to the presidency, and collectively seem unable to see where they are taking democracy. It could be a death spiral.

Idiocracy is a 2006 movie, described in Wikipedia:

The film tells the story of two people who take part in a top-secret military human hibernation experiment, only to awaken 500 years later in a dystopian society where advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism have run rampant, and which is devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights.

Aspects of advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism that were depicted are already recognisable in today’s society.

During the 2016 presidential primaries, writer Etan Cohen and others expressed opinions that the film’s predictions were converging on accuracy, which, during the general election, director Mike Judge also said.

Judge also compared Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to the movie’s dim-witted wrestler-turned-president, Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho.

When asked about predicting the future, he remarked, “I’m no prophet, I was off by 490 years.”

Trump has been called an idiot, promotes policies favouring corporations, and has just described himself as a genius. However this is confused by a 2013 tweet:

Trump also claims to be a super successful star of reality TV.

Vice: How Reality TV Made Donald Trump President

Ever since Donald Trump first appeared in the 1970s, he has seemed tacky, an archetypal Ugly American in an ill-fitting suit. He was wealthy, sure, but in that Las Vegas used-car-salesman way. Queens, not Manhattan. For years, he was a footnote skulking around the edges of American culture, showing up in episodes of Sex and the City and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

He was such a cartoonish presence that when writers made jokes about someone absurd becoming president, they thought of him.

The Simpsons famously joked about a Trump presidency in 2000.

“As you know we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump”.

In Back to the Future II , Biff turns Hill Valley into a hellish version of Las Vegas, a dystopia the movie’s screenwriter recently admitted was based on what life would be like under Trump. That movie came out in 1989.

Now, Donald Trump has been elected president.

There are many reasons why Trump was elected, but none of it could have happened without the rise of reality television. The link between Trump the candidate and Trump the Apprentice star has been remarked uponbefore, but it it seems more urgent than ever now that it turns out that his unorthodox campaign actually worked. Reality television not only legitimized Trump, his campaign exploited reality TV formulas and used them to his advantage.

Time: Donald Trump Is the First True Reality TV President

It’s official. We have our first reality TV president.

The news that President-elect Donald Trump is going to remain an executive producer of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice while also running the national government from the Oval Office in the White House (first reported by Variety) should not have surprised anyone.

And yet, somehow, it still does. It’s a jarring reminder that we have entered a brand, new era of presidential politics, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

A month into the Trump era, we know enough now to see what the first year of his presidency will look like. It will be chaotic and defiant—but opportunistic and focused on a small number of exceedingly large fights that make great political theater and play well to big, populist crowds.

It will look and feel a lot like a political reality TV show played out on a grand stage, with producers scripting the biggest fights behind the scenes while leaving plenty of room for unrehearsed, populist public drama. Trump is the first truly made-for-television president. Every day will literally be a new episode shot in real-time, in front of a public and a world that simply can’t get enough of the spectacle.

Now nearly a year on the Trump residency looks to be all of that and more.

Much of the media are complicit in helping him get there and in the ongoing running of his ‘reality’ show from the White House (when he is not holidaying at one of his resorts).

But wait, there could be more celebrity politics.

This week the media has picked up on a speech made by Oprah Winfrey and has virtually launched a presidential campaign for her. See Oprah Winfrey’s “a new day is on the horizon!” speech and a lot of stuff in US media over that last few days.

In a bizarre twist, Ivanka Trump (who is also claimed to have eyes on a presidential bid in 2020) tweeted:

Perhaps Ivanka sees the political future as the celebrity president’s daughter pitted against the “Queen of All Media”.

But LA Times asks: Oprah for president? Have we learned nothing?

We don’t know whether the idea of Oprah Winfrey for president, inspired by Winfrey’s eloquent speech Sunday at the Golden Globe Awards, will prove an ephemeral excitation or a movement with staying power. But we find it depressing.

We mean no disrespect to Winfrey, who strikes us as much better informed and more intellectually curious and presumably less reckless or dishonest than the incumbent president. But it’s bizarre that Americans who are appalled by Trump’s oafish and ignorant conduct of the nation’s highest office would gravitate to another television star untested in politics.

That’s what many of them did Sunday evening. Twitter throbbed with speculation that Winfrey’s speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award was the beginning of a presidential run.

It wasn’t just Twitter. there was a lot of breathless coverage in mainstream media too.

This may just be a passing, Golden-Globes-inspired moment of Twitter hype. But it is also a reminder that when the last out-of-the-blue celebrity candidate entered a presidential race, the media shrugged him off as a joke.

As we know, the joke continues, but not everyone is laughing. The joke is on American democracy.

… as the first year of the Trump presidency demonstrated, there are colossal risks in electing a political neophyte to the most demanding public office in the world. Just because the Republicans were foolish enough to travel down this dangerous road — in the process sacrificing many of their party’s best qualities and most valuable principles in a desperate, craven hunt for votes — doesn’t mean the Democrats should follow suit.

Winfrey might possess a more stable temperament than Trump — who doesn’t? — and her political positions would undoubtedly be more in line with those of liberals, Democrats and The Times editorial page, but she would face the same steep learning curve in dealing with foreign and domestic issues.

What is there to suggest that she is any better prepared than Trump was to work productively with Congress or tackle international trade negotiations, the North Korean nuclear threat or the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

What is there to suggest that US voters care about whether someone is prepared to be president or not? Or at least sufficient voters to elect a celebrity president.

It’s a measure of the trauma inflicted on the country by Trump’s election that some people honestly believe that the way to unseat a celebrity president is to nominate another celebrity.

Back in September, John Podhoretz wrote in the New York Post: “If you need to set a thief to catch a thief, you need a star — a grand, outsized, fearless star whom Trump can neither intimidate nor outshine — to catch a star.”

Podhoretz called Winfrey the mirror image of Trump — “America’s generous aunt” to “America’s crazy uncle.”

Regardless of those descriptions, neither have backgrounds that should give anyone any confidence they could handle one of the toughest and most powerful jobs in the world.

But the United States doesn’t need another TV star running the country — even a talented and accomplished star such as Oprah Winfrey.

What it needs is someone who has prepared for the job, who has made tough decisions, who is familiar with the issues, who has a history of public service. Not all senators or governors make good presidents, to be sure, but they’re a better bet, by and large, than the typical movie star or businessman.

Trying to sell common sense and actual relevant experience to the media or the voters could be a tough task. Not all media and not all voters have become obsessed with ‘celebrity’, but enough have to make a difference.

The road to Idiocracy may be paved with Celebritoxicity.

Celebritoxicity – the degree to which an obsession with celebrities can harm humans.

 

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34 Comments

  1. PartisanZ

     /  January 10, 2018

    IMHO, one question [of many] which must be asked is: Was American leadership, including global safety, warmongering and the like, any better under Presidents with professional political, legal, wealth-and-power family [Kennedy? Clinton] and/or military backgrounds?

    As a military 4 Star General Eisenhower was credited with winning the war in Europe, yet if Daniel Ellsberg is correct, his Cold War ‘nuclear deterrent’ ideology was a shadowy public relations ploy – and this can only mean his famous speech warning about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex” was a PR sop?

    ‘Doomsday Machine: US top-secret nuclear war plans exposed’ – Herald

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11970960

    According to Chris Trotter, the “science of public manipulation” was born on the US’s Committee on Public Information during WW1 –

    “The crucial mission of public relations in liberal capitalist democracies was, therefore, to ensure that “the herd” remained passive ‘spectators’ of the political process, and not active ‘participants’.

    … the political philosopher John Dewey cut through this elitist humbug with the pithy observation that modern politics was ‘the shadow cast upon society by big business’ … the key role of the new ‘public relations’ industry was to keep society in the dark.

    These were the ideas to which Davy* hoped to give expression in the 1925 [NZ general] election.”

    – NO LEFT TURN pg 124 ‘Jamming Uncle Scrim’.

    * Albert Ernest Davy – “one of the most devious – and dangerous – political operatives this country has ever produced.

    • NOEL

       /  January 10, 2018

      Generals plan wars they don’t win wars. Soldiers on the battlefield do.

      • PartisanZ

         /  January 10, 2018

        @NOEL – “Generals plan wars they don’t win wars”

        Exactly my point. The Generals don’t win wars but the public relations industry gives them all the credit for winning …

        We commemorate the soldiers mostly only for dying …………… Right?

        Modern mechanized, industrial warfare is as much or more a war of attrition on the machinery as it is on the ‘cannon fodder’ soldiers …

  2. David

     /  January 10, 2018

    “As we know, the joke continues, but not everyone is laughing. The joke is on American democracy.”

    This is rubbish. The founding fathers specifically designed the US system to cope with Trump. They predicted him, and in fact, largely expected presidents to be like him. That is why the President simply does not have very much power.

    This is not a joke on American democracy, it’s a signal of it’s enormous success. This is working as intended.

    • PartisanZ

       /  January 10, 2018

      I know David, the guy’s virtually powerless …

      “The Constitution explicitly assigned the president the power to sign or veto legislation, command the armed forces, ask for the written opinion of their Cabinet, convene or adjourn Congress, grant reprieves and pardons, and receive ambassadors.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powers_of_the_President_of_the_United_States

      The power “checks and balances” between Legislature, Presidency and Judiciary in the U.S.A aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. They largely illusion. These guys [and a few gals] are all pretty much recruited from the same neighbourhoods to be on the same team, playing the same game on the same ‘playing field’ of their own making … or that they can’t change even if they want to …

      The referee is the Military-Industrial complex, its military arm being the only ‘body’ in the United States powerful enough to effect the ‘overthrow’ clause of the Constitution …

      In other words, the options are “this sick democracy” or military dictatorship … Yipee and Yahoo!!!

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  January 10, 2018

      the President simply does not have very much power

      Another fake claim from David

      • David

         /  January 10, 2018

        Funny, here you are agreeing that Donald J Trump has a big button. Next you will be telling us how he is a stable genius.

        • Joe Bloggs

           /  January 10, 2018

          Don’t hold your breath sunshine.

          All I’ve done is allude to the fact that an incompetent narcissistic dotard has a big red nuclear button that enables him to declare nuclear war without any checks and balances.

          #releasethegenius

          • David

             /  January 10, 2018

            “enables him to declare nuclear war without any checks and balances.”

            This is of course a lie. But you knew that when you wrote it.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  January 10, 2018

              There is, of course, no such thing as the big red nuclear button that can be pressed to begin a nuclear Armageddon. Any such thing would have to go through a number of stages, and Trump can’t just decide to do it-and then do it.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 10, 2018

    For the few interested in intelligent commentary:
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/opinion/article193620629.html

    • PartisanZ

       /  January 10, 2018

      @Alan – “For the few interested in intelligent commentary:”

      An example of insumption – an insulting assumption – new word # 126

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  January 10, 2018

        I’m presuming it wasn’t for you then, PZ?

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  January 10, 2018

      ah the resident troll lurches into action again. Well done Alan, Putin would be proud.

      Where was your intelligent commentary when I posted about China’s increasing role in international politics? All you did was launch your usual ad-homs.

      Seems that those pricks at Lauda Finem had the measure of you after all.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  January 10, 2018

        Insumption is not a good neologism-its meaning is not at all obvious.

        • Gezza

           /  January 10, 2018

          Joe didn’t use it Kitty. Why are you replying to Joe, out of interest?

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  January 10, 2018

            I…I…I didn’t, sir, honestly, sir, it was a mistake, sir…

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  January 10, 2018

        @Joe – Putin, China, LF???

        Irrelevant trolling Exhibit A.

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 10, 2018

    And “The anti-Trump movement is getting dumber”:

    • Corky

       /  January 10, 2018

      Least we forget. Apologies for posting this three times already. But pictures paint a thousand words. Yep, the decline of anti-Trumpism. The dumb getting dumber.

      https://themeninisms.com/2017/01/15/trump-supporter-gets-ultimate-revenge-on-sjw-who-ran-over-trump-signs/

      • Joe Bloggs

         /  January 10, 2018

        themeninisms? What a charming website – one of those alt-right cesspits that proves we can’t request equality without white men making everything about themselves.

        • Corky

           /  January 10, 2018

          Interesting. Obviously a picture cant paint a thousand words. Not for Joe anyway!

          • PartisanZ

             /  January 10, 2018

            The only interesting thing about the meninisms ‘piece’ … OMG, what does one call it? … about that meninisms’ ‘piece of work’ … is the comments …

            Comments: 0

            • Griff

               /  January 10, 2018

              three times already…….
              Some nails in a piece of wood in nowheresville USA
              Gee some peploe are easily amused.

            • Corky

               /  January 10, 2018

              There’s nothing interesting in the piece, true. except to confirm the average mousey stature of many liberals…and their nasty nature.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  January 10, 2018

            I’m pretty sure Joe would sooner have the thousand words. Preferably from a Lefty woman.

  5. Corky

     /  January 10, 2018

    Trump just keeps on giving. Thank you, Mr President. Enjoy these snowflake breakdowns .
    These are great breakdowns. These people just don’t get they are beat.

    https://themeninisms.com/2017/12/26/top-10-celebrity-meltdowns-of-2017-by-mark-dice/

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 10, 2018

    This is a pretty good review of recent US political history and associated hysterics:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/455245/resistance-nullification-insurrection-secession-economy-may-quell-trump-critics

    • PartisanZ

       /  January 10, 2018

      For some intelligent people to believe that other intelligent people react “hysterically” to situations like Trump’s election or inauguration is patently absurd.

      It’s like saying that everyone who opposed NZ’s Flag Change campaign was crazy or demented or something …

      Rather they have sound reasons in their own minds to react passionately …

      I’d never say that the National Party and National supporters reacted hysterically to losing the election …

      Ah … shit … there goes another bloody argument!!!

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  January 10, 2018

        I don’t recall anything like this from the Nats:

        There were demonstrations at which, to take one example, Madonna envisioned blowing up the Trump White House. An entire genre of assassination chic followed. Politicians, celebrities, actors, academics, and wannabees variously reenacted beheading Donald Trump, stabbing him to death, shooting him, torching him, hanging him, or, in the words of Robert DeNiro, dreaming of punching Trump in the face. Few in the media were bothered by the imagery or threats. Yet sometimes the hysteria became real violence — as when Bernie Sanders supporter James Hodgkinson’s shot prominent Republican politicians practicing for a charity baseball game, gravely wounding Republican House whip Steven Scalise, or when libertarian senator Rand Paul (present at the Scalise shooting) was attacked and injured by a disturbed neighbor and proponent of socialized medicine.

        • PartisanZ

           /  January 10, 2018

          I don’t condone the violence but OMG … “a proponent of SOCIALIZED medicine” … The sky will fall!!!

          The National Review and/or Victor David Hanson couldn’t be ever-so-slightly pro-Trump could they?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoover_Institution

          Alarm bells sound nowadays whenever I hear these three words together … “conservative”, “Think” and “Tank” …

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  January 10, 2018

            Anything in the above quote that isn’t true? No.

            Pro-Trump people not allowed to speak the truth? Probably, in Lefty circles. Why else does it matter who says it?

            Is it absurd to say these supposedly intelligent people reacted hysterically? Self-evidently, not.

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