-- The Great Abbreviators --
Former U.S. president Ronald (The Gipper) Reagan once memorably quipped, 'It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession...I've learned over the years it bears a striking resemblance to the first.' Being an (ahem) entertainment business refugee himself, Reagan understood this reality possibly better than any politician. Yet if he was around now, one imagines the former Quipper-in-Chief, if pressed might well single out journalism as the one profession likely to give politics a run for its money in the unique occupational pantheon he alluded to. For those realists amongst us, politicians have always been expected to lie, dissemble and to obfuscate, or in the words of George Orwell (to whom we'll return), 'to give solidity to pure wind'. In their heart of hearts, they know that, and they know we know that.
The Fourth Estate however, is supposed to be something else altogether. Faking it is not supposed to be their raison d'etre nor their forte. Sadly for us, it's become both. To the extent they might've been able to lay claim to being "something else altogether", that train left the station long ago. We're now in the so-called 'post-truth' age!
Depending on one's view, Donald Trump's election either ushered in or coincided with this "post-truth" era, bringing with it new memes for the zeitgeist such as 'alternative facts' and 'fake news'. For this and many other reasons, there's much to be gained by reflecting on the quid pro quo nexus between the political realm, show business and the news media in all its forms. Doing so provides us all a window into purportedly serious politics as high-wire performance art and meaningful public discourse as cheap thrill-inducing entertainment for a populace increasingly afflicted with a collective manifestation of attention deficit disorder, a condition paradoxically induced at once by both an information surplus (overload?) and an information deficit.
The reality (the concept itself under considerable challenge in this alternative not-so-brave new fake/junk news universe we inhabit) is that our political practitioners are first and foremost performance artists, entertainers, and snake oil merchants, all the while seeking to dumb-down, trivialize, dismiss outright, or relegate to the margins serious political and policy debate if the nature of said debate conflicts with their own agenda or self-serving interests, and/or those of their political patrons. In short, it's the sizzle stupid, not the sausage, that truly matters in the Western media.
This state of affairs has transpired under our very noses, and has been enabled in no small measure by our own acquiescence, complacency, and ignorance. This, to say nothing of the blind faith we all too fervently invest in our democratic and corporate institutions and our political leaders; our unthinking, jingoistic acceptance of the official narrative attending some of our most beloved historical mythologies; our unflagging lust for new and frivolous entertainment and distractions and diversions; and what we might call an empathy deficit, translating as a depleted mindfulness of -- and from there an absence of moral umbrage at -- injustice, unfairness, and inequality!
It's difficult to see how someone like Trump might've risen to the top job if not for the prevalence of these pathologies!
Yet our own acquiescence aside, it is our "blind faith" in one particular institution that has been the main contributor to this malaise, and remains still its chief enabler. In short, the zeitgeist as defined has been expedited and accelerated by an institution that purports to be the most reliable, trusted guardian of the imperatives of a liberal democracy. We're talking here, of course, the mainstream media (MSM) -- particularly the corporate owned liberal media, a descriptor eligible for immediate inclusion into the Official Orwellian lexicon.