The Donald Trump phenomenon is the logical end point of the “politics as entertainment” model championed by the right-wing media.
And from that perspective, the embrace of a similar model among liberals is alarming — the hegemony of the Daily Show, the endless clickbait about how some right-wing politician said a right-wing thing, etc., etc. Like the right-wing variant, liberal “politics as entertainment” is mostly a theater of cruelty, where we derive joy from mocking those stupid people and feeling superior to them….
It’s not that they’re not worthy of mockery or that people don’t have a right to let off steam. It’s the dominance of this mode of political “commentary” that seems troublesome. Will we get our Trump? Have we already?
8 thoughts on “The political theater of cruelty”
For the left the issue is less having a Trump than the easy derision against people who are beating them politically. Extreme right wingers are driving American policy and the opposition party is neoliberalism lite, but hey, we get to make snarky jokes about it!
The “Ape of Zarathustra” comes to mind here…
I think that’s why I stopped watching the Daily Show. Once an entity achieves equal or superior power status, mockery seems to lose it’s legitimacy.
While some parallelism is probably warranted, it’s at least worth acknowledging that a country led by Jon Stewart would be radically preferable, and materially better for the disadvantaged, to one led by Donald Trump. Only a totally uncritical cynicism could think otherwise.
I don’t mean to say that the right and left are equally fargone on this issue, nor that Stewart is as bad as Trump. Obviously neither is true.
You taught me everything I know about the poverty of “a pox upon both your houses” argumentation, so I was mainly addressing some imaginary interlocutor.
Trump at least represents neoliberal ideology so openly and baldly that he’s an embarrassment to conservatives even, being that he’s saying what most of them are really thinking. I realized once that insanity was relative when I saw Hannity interviewing the Westboro Baptist Church. I now feel the same looking at Jeb next to Trump and Cruz.
The “politics which is not entertainment” is difficult to conjure to mind. It must comprise the mundane management of policy and practice, but only those policies and arrangements which are not actually interesting to the public; those parts of politics which are either irrelevant to me, or are too complex for me to understand.
One difference between news-as-comedy and outrage-as-pleasure, is that the former has an opportunity to take boring or incomprehensible subjects and turn them into genuine public issues, hitching policy to the engine of entertainment. The latter offers no such obvious societal benefit.
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