Skip to main content

Nothing is real: when reality TV programming masquerades as politics

Ultimately, the reality shows, the entertainment news, the surveillance society, the militarized police, and the political spectacles have one common objective: to keep us divided, distracted, imprisoned, and incapable of taking an active role in the business of self-government.

by John W. Whitehead

Donald Trump no longer needs to launch Trump TV.

He’s already the star of his own political reality show.

Americans have a voracious appetite for TV entertainment, and the Trump reality show—guest starring outraged Democrats with a newly awakened conscience for immigrants and the poor, power-hungry Republicans eager to take advantage of their return to power, and a hodgepodge of other special interest groups with dubious motives—feeds that appetite for titillating, soap opera drama.

After all, who needs the insults, narcissism and power plays that are hallmarks of reality shows such as Celebrity Apprentice or Keeping Up with the Kardashians when you can have all that and more delivered up by the likes of Donald Trump and his cohorts?

Yet as John Lennon reminds us, “nothing is real,” especially not in the world of politics.

Much like the fabricated universe in Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show, in which a man’s life is the basis for an elaborately staged television show aimed at selling products and procuring ratings, the political scene in the United States has devolved over the years into a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population.

Indeed, Donald Trump may be the smartest move yet by the powers-that-be to keep the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats, because as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form.

This is the magic of the reality TV programming that passes for politics today.

It allows us to be distracted, entertained, occasionally a little bit outraged but overall largely uninvolved, content to remain in the viewer’s seat.

The more that is beamed at us, the more inclined we are to settle back in our comfy recliners and become passive viewers rather than active participants as unsettling, frightening events unfold.

Reality and fiction merge as everything around us becomes entertainment fodder.

We don’t even have to change the channel when the subject matter becomes too monotonous. That’s taken care of for us by the programmers (the corporate media).

For instance, before we could get too worked up over government surveillance, the programmers changed the channels on us and switched us over to breaking news about militarized police. Before our outrage could be transformed into action over police misconduct, they changed the channel once again to reports of ISIS beheadings and terrorist shootings. Before we had a chance to challenge what was staged or real, the programming switched to the 2016 presidential election.

Living is easy with eyes closed,” says Lennon, and that’s exactly what reality TV that masquerades as American politics programs the citizenry to do: navigate the world with their eyes shut.

As long as we’re viewers, we’ll never be doers.

Studies suggest that the more reality TV people watch—and I would posit that it’s all reality TV—the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between what is real and what is carefully crafted farce.

We the people” are watching a lot of TV.

On average, Americans spend five hours a day watching television. By the time we reach age 65, we’re watching more than 50 hours of television a week, and that number increases as we get older. And reality TV programming consistently captures the largest percentage of TV watchers every season by an almost 2-1 ratio.

This doesn’t bode well for a citizenry able to sift through masterfully-produced propaganda in order to think critically about the issues of the day, whether it’s fake news peddled by government agencies or foreign entities.

Those who watch reality shows tend to view what they see as the “norm.” Thus, those who watch shows characterized by lying, aggression and meanness not only come to see such behavior as acceptable and entertaining but also mimic the medium.

This holds true whether the reality programming is about the antics of celebrities in the White House, in the board room, or in the bedroom.

It’s a phenomenon called “humilitainment.”

A term coined by media scholars Brad Waite and Sara Booker, “humilitainment” refers to the tendency for viewers to take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation, suffering and pain.

Humilitainment” largely explains not only why American TV watchers are so fixated on reality TV programming but how American citizens, largely insulated from what is really happening in the world around them by layers of technology, entertainment, and other distractions, are being programmed to accept the brutality, surveillance and dehumanizing treatment of the American police state as things happening to other people.

The ramifications for the future of civic engagement, political discourse and self-government are incredibly depressing and demoralizing.

This not only explains how a candidate like Donald Trump with a reputation for being rude, egotistical and narcissistic could get elected, but it also says a lot about how a politician like Barack Obama—whose tenure in the White House was characterized by drone killings, a weakening of the Constitution at the expense of Americans’ civil liberties, and an expansion of the police state—could be hailed as “one of the greatest presidents of all times.”

This is what happens when an entire nation—bombarded by reality TV programming, government propaganda and entertainment news—becomes systematically desensitized and acclimated to the trappings of a government that operates by fiat and speaks in a language of force.

Ultimately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality shows, the entertainment news, the surveillance society, the militarized police, and the political spectacles have one common objective: to keep us divided, distracted, imprisoned, and incapable of taking an active role in the business of self-government.

If “we the people” feel powerless and apathetic, it is only because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that the duties of citizenship begin and end at the ballot box.

Marching and protests have certainly been used with great success by past movements to foment real change, but if those marches and protests are merely outpourings of discontent because a particular politician won or lost with no solid plan of action or follow-through, then what’s the point?

Martin Luther King Jr. understood that politics could never be the answer to what ailed the country. That’s why he spearheaded a movement of mass-action strategy that employed boycotts, sit-ins and marches. Yet King didn’t march against a particular politician or merely to express discontent. He marched against injustice, government corruption, war, and inequality, and he leveraged discontent with the status quo into an activist movement that transformed the face of America.

When all is said and done, it won’t matter who you voted for in the presidential election. What will matter is where you stand in the face of the injustices that continue to ravage our nation: the endless wars, the police shootings, the overcriminalization, the corruption, the graft, the roadside strip searches, the private prisons, the surveillance state, etc.

Will you tune out the reality TV show and join with your fellow citizens to push back against the real menace of the police state, or will you merely sit back and lose yourself in the political programming aimed at keeping you imprisoned in the police state?


There are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may be shriveled. In the first—the Orwellian—culture becomes a prison. In the second—the Huxleyan—culture becomes a burlesque. No one needs to be reminded that our world is now marred by many prison-cultures…. it makes little difference if our wardens are inspired by right- or left-wing ideologies. The gates of the prison are equally impenetrable, surveillance equally rigorous, icon-worship pervasive…. Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours…. 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.

  - Neil Postman

Source:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Panicked neoliberal tools attempt to trigger a war of generations against AOC's progressive counterattack

globinfo freexchange
We were slightly surprised to see such an article title in one of the primary info tools of the global neoliberal regime and financial capital. But the subtitle immediately clarified everything.
When we read the title “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Revenge of the Millennials” of the article in Bloomberg, we thought that we might be in front of a small miracle. We thought that the time has come for some people inside the core of the establishment apparatus to admit that the younger generations have lost dramatically from this brutal system. And so, the time has come to overthrow it, take their 'revenge'.
But no, it was too good to be true.
The subtitle immediately revealed the trick: “The Democrats’ major economic initiatives tend to favor the young at the expense of the old.”
Then, inside the article we read: “Almost every major new economic initiative proposed by Democrats — the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, debt-free college — has a common feature: Un…

Κυβέρνηση Σαμαρά: Πιο νεοφιλελεύθερη και από την Τρόικα!

Ο πρόεδρος της επιτροπής για θέματα ανταγωνισμού του Επαγγελματικού Επιμελητηρίου Αθηνών, Γιώργος Φλωράς, αποκάλυψε στην εκπομπή του δημοσιογράφου, Νίκου Χατζηνικολάου, ότι η έκθεση του ΟΟΣΑ, με βάση την οποία συντάχθηκε το τελευταίο πολυνομοσχέδιο, είναι ουσιαστικά δημιούργημα του ΙΟΒΕ!
Ανέφερε χαρακτηριστικά ότι:
Οι προτάσεις αυτές δεν είναι του ΟΟΣΑ, αλλά του ΙΟΒΕ και της Επιτροπής Ανταγωνισμού, δηλαδή κυρίως των Χατζηδάκη και Στουρνάρα και ότι η κυβέρνηση στην ουσία χρησιμοποιεί την Τρόικα για να περνάει τις θέσεις των πολυεθνικών, μεγάλων αλυσίδων σούπερ μάρκετ, κ.λ.π.
Ο κ. Χατζηδάκης, τονίζει συνεχώς σε ότι έλεγε ότι 'εμείς χρησιμοποιήσαμε τον ΟΟΣΑ γιατί είναι αντικειμενικός, έχει την αξιοπιστία, έχει τη διεθνή εμπειρία κ.τ.λ.' και γι'αυτό βγήκε και ένα κονδύλι 936.000 ευρώ για να γίνει αυτή η έκθεση. Η έκθεση ξεκινάει αναφέροντας στη σελ. 2 ότι οι θέσεις μέσα σ'αυτή δεν εκφράζουν απαραίτητα τον οργανισμό.
Η έκθεση αυτή δεν είναι του ΟΟΣΑ, είναι μια οργανωμένη απάτ…

It seems that Bernie Sanders got it all wrong again, this time regarding the situation in Venezuela - very disappointing

globinfo freexchange
In an unfortunate series of tweets regarding the situation in Venezuela, Bernie Sanders exposed his weak spot again on foreign policy matters.
Sanders tweeted:
The Maduro government has waged a violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society, violated the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly and was re-elected last year in an election many observers said was fraudulent. The economy is a disaster and millions are migrating. 1/3 — Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 24, 2019
The United States should support the rule of law, fair elections and self-determination for the Venezuelan people. We must condemn the use of violence against unarmed protesters and the suppression of dissent. 2/3 — Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 24, 2019
But we must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups—as we have in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil & the DR. The US has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin Amer…

Canada has been trying to destabilize Venezuela at least since 2004

globinfo freexchange
Paul Jay, editor in chief at The Real News, gave some very interesting information - some based on personal experience - about Canada's total alignment with the US on its imperialist missions against Venezuela and other countries:
Mexico was part of the Lima Group, but now with the new leadership - with AMLO now taking office in Mexico - Mexico is not going along with this plan to recognize Juan Guaido. And Mexico is not the only country of the region. Many, many countries of CARICOM have come forward and have said they do not support this plan. So, the corporate media is trying to make this sound like the whole region is on board with this scheme.
For months, Canada has been playing a leading role in preparing for - according to the Canadian newspapers - for exactly what happened, the recognition of Juan Guaido.
And Canada has been into this scheme for months. And the rationale is supposedly that the election of 2017 was not a legitimate election because people w…

Former Pentagon official confirms: Trump prepares for war with Iran

globinfo freexchange
Right after Trump's sudden announcement that he will withdraw the US forces from Syria, we had some mixed reactions. Some liberals reacted angrily, but most of the reactions from the liberal machine were rather moderate, or at least not as intensive as someone would normally expect.
On the other hand, Trump's supporters and all those who had enough of the pro-war neoliberal establishment, felt a kind of vindication, as it appeared that Trump would eventually keep its promise for an 'anti-interventionist' policy.
But the blog wrote immediately a 'not so fast' article to explain that most of the Americans and all those who are tired of the US endless wars, should not rush to celebrate. We estimated that Trump's move is probably a sign that he is going to re-organize troops and go after the big target called Iran.
Indeed, shortly after the move, Trump, suddenly again, announced that he will also pullout troops from Afghanistan.
And then, about…

Jeremy Corbyn + Brexit = UK's liberation from the EU neoliberal barbarism

With Tories in power Brexit would be meaningless
globinfo freexchange
As has been mentioned in previous article, Brexit could play a much more critical role in the future course of Europe, apart from being treated just as a result of national pride - wounded Britons alarmed by the sirens of patriotism.
While the Brussels-Berlin axis will seek to implement all the conditions of the Greek experiment inside the EU, the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn could become an example against this dark future. While the Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras, suffered a heavy defeat as went unprepared in the battle with the ruthless neoliberal priesthood, Corbyn should go to the battle with the neoliberal regime after a good preparation and a well-constructed plan.
Costas Lapavitsas explains why only outside the EU, the UK will have a chance to turn left - with a Labour government under the Corbyn leadership - in order to implement progressive policies for the benefit of the vast majority:
The European Union has bec…

Pompeo's special tweet potentially indirect threat against those who won't follow the orders on Venezuela

globinfo freexchange
After John Bolton indirectly threatened Venezuela with that 'accidental' revelation of about 5,000 US troops to be sent to Colombia, it was Mike Pompeo's turn.
In a peculiar tweet, the other major Trump warhawk essentially sent a clear message to those countries (mostly under the US influence) that refused to recognize Washington's puppet, Juan Guaidó, as the legitimate president of Venezuela.
Pompeo named one by one the countries that obeyed to Washington's orders: “We applaud Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Rep., Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden & UK for supporting Venezuelan people by recognizing @jguaido today as Interim President.
And then he placed a map, colouring the obeyed countries and the US with the same intense color.
We applaud Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Rep., Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Latvi…

#HandsOffVenezuela: Brave Italians show us the path of resistance against the European branch of the neoliberal beast

globinfo freexchange
According to RT, Italy vetoed EU recognition of Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido. As RT reported:
Rome has effectively derailed an EU statement meant to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader if President Nicolas Maduro fails to set up snap elections, a Five Star Movement source confirmed to RT.
Italy announced the veto at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers that started on January 31 in Romania, the source said. The statement, which was supposed to be delivered by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini recognized Guaido as interim president if snap elections were not held.
The European Parliament is the first European body to recognize Guaido “as the only legitimate interim president of the country until new free, transparent and credible presidential elections can be called in order to restore democracy.
The parliament urged the EU to follow suit but the effort stalled due to internal discord.…

Government shutdown, Venezuela: Donald Trump evolves into the best propagator of neoliberal fascism that tends to become a norm

by system failure
Even before the 2016 US presidential election, this blog supported that Donald Trump is a pure sample of neoliberal barbarism. Many almost laughed at this perception because Trump was being already promoted, more or less, as the 'terminator' of the neoliberal establishment. And many people, especially in the US, tired from the economic disasters, the growing inequality and the endless wars, were anxious to believe that this was indeed his special mission.
Right after the elections, we supported that the US establishment gave a brilliant performance by putting its reserve, Donald Trump, in power, against the only candidate that the same establishment identified as a real threat: Bernie Sanders.
Then, Trump sent the first shock wave to his supporters by literally hiring the Goldman Sachs banksters to run the economy. And right after that, he signed for more deregulation in favor of the Wall Street mafia that ruined the economy in 2008.
In 2017, Trump bombed Syria f…

EU parliament drops final leaf, recognizes Washington's puppet Juan Guaido in Venezuela

globinfo freexchange
The European branch of the global neoliberal fascism did what was expected: obey to the orders of the US imperialist empire and recognize Washington's puppet Juan Guaido as the 'legitimate' president of Venezuela.
As Al Jazeera reported:
The European Parliament has recognised Venezuela's self-declared interim president Juan Guaido as de facto head of state, heightening international pressure on the OPEC member's socialist President Nicolas Maduro. EU politicians voted 429 in favour to 104 against, with 88 abstentions, at a special session in Brussels on Thursday to recognise Guaido as interim leader.
Meanwhile, the EU parliament wouldn't even think to 'dare' to challenge the legitimacy of Emmanuel Macron in France, even with all these people protesting in the streets. At the same time, the establishment media try to direct the public attention from the Yellow Vest movement towards the situation in Venezuela.
It doesn't matter that N…