America loves sitcoms, short for “situation comedy,” a scripted series with recurring characters who find themselves in awkward and unexpected circumstances. And, you gotta hand it to him; The Donald Trump Show has the highest ratings in history. In the entertainment industry, ratings means “eyeballs,” which is to say, the number of people paying attention to a sitcom at any given time. The Donald Trump Show is capturing eyeballs across the globe nearly 24/7, much like a wreck on the highway attracts rubberneckers.
Here’s the script’s backstory: A narcissistic sociopath inherits a fortune from his cruel father, and after rising to business celebrityhood is elected President of the United States. Here’s the really crazy part: we all have bit parts in The Donald Trump Show. There’s the part of “Donald Lover,” the men and women attracted to narcissistic sociopaths in response to a history of developmental difficulties such as attachment disorder and emotional/sexual abuse. There’s the part of “Donald Hater,” the men and women repulsed and afraid of narcissistic sociopaths. There’s the “I’m A News Reporter” part, the “I Don’t Care or Pay Attention” part, the “I’m Just Trying to Make a Living” part, and so on, down the line. You may be playing “I’ll Just Vote.” We’ll see how that fits into the storyline soon enough.
The entire mechanism of government has had to adjust to its role in The Donald Trump Show. Leading characters have been suddenly dropped and new characters introduced. The instruments of government agencies have been reconfigured according to Trump Show story lines, affecting regulations, land-use, military policy, health care, and virtually every function of federal activity.
Singer/songwriter Gil Scott Heron famously predicted in 1971, “The revolution will not be televised…The revolution will not be televised…The revolution will not be televised…The revolution will be real.” Heron, like media critic Marshall McLuhan, understood that the line between televised entertainment and actual reality was getting blurry. “The medium is the message,” intoned McLuhan, pointing to the ways in which television – the medium – was altering content – the message. His observations apply even more strongly to the Internet.
The Donald Trump Show is a cross-platform, mass-media sitcom generating tens of billions of dollars in advertising and salable user information. Perhaps you’re playing the part of “I Watch Rachel Maddow On My iPhone”? Spawning its own spin-off family of sitcoms like Q-Anon, Twitter feeds, FOX affiliates and right- and left-wing political non-profits, eyeball ratings support fee structures and payment algorithms marching in tandem with Silicon Valley and Wall Street. It’s only fitting that predatory global capitalism gets a starring role alongside The Donald Trump Show’s leading character, Donald Trump himself.
What feels to many of us like a terrible sitcom we can’t escape is both televised and real. Without media, The Donald Trump Show never could have happened; Donald the star was created by his father’s money, a ghost-written book, and NBC’s The Apprentice television show.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump actually is a narcissistic sociopath, but doesn’t know it. He, like all of us, is playing a part, but because of the power invested in his part, all us bit players get swept up in The Donald Trump Show and have to make adjustments to the way we play our parts. They don’t pay me enough for this. I’m exhausted.