Because the Kardashians have not, to my knowledge, ever cozied up to a Russian dictator, lied prodigiously as a matter of routine, tweeted sophomoric insults at three in the morning, or behaved as offensively as the current occupier of the White House. They also don’t hold the nuclear codes, have the power to destroy the world, or think loyalty means quashing investigations of potential treason. In fact, they seem like generally nice people, so I apologize for the correlation. At issue is the matter of media ubiquity.
Answer this question honestly: when was the last time you spent any significant time on social media, read through a newspaper or periodical, watched longer than ten minutes of news, or had a conversation of any length with anyone (outside your parents, the toddler next door, or that gal who runs the PTA bake sale) without the name “Donald Trump” coming up?
None. None times. Because unless you live somewhere that disallows media, the electricity has been out at your place for the last two years, or you’re off the grid in a survivalist’s cabin in remote rural Idaho, the sights and sounds of Donald Trump — both the human and the social construct — have literally sucked the air out of America.
Part of this isn’t his fault. Though personally I like to blame him for every bad thing that’s happening in the world today, I realize that’s childish and petulant, which, of course, are two of Donald’s favorite traits, but in truth, the reason part of this air-sucking phenomena isn’t his fault is that a powerful deal-with-the-devil is at play here. One struck between media and audience, one that symbiotically serves and demands Donald-fodder as a matter of course:
Media quickly discovered that the unpredictable, churlish, frequently unhinged Donald brought in viewers, readers, ratings, clicks, social media virality, etc. He was sensationalism come to life: salacious, incendiary, and provocative (i.e., ratings gold). And the audience — whether for or against, pro or con (didn’t matter) — couldn’t (and can’t) stop viewing, reading, clicking, sharing anything and everything about him, thereby, whether knowingly or unknowingly, playing their role in the burgeoning supply/demand chain.
In fact, I’m doing it right here, with this headline, this article. Odds are good it’ll get more clicks than my thoughtful piece on writing, but I’m trying to make a point: Donald-fodder has completely permeated the media spectrum. It’s everywhere. Like the crack epidemic. Toxic and pervasive.
It’s not just that he’s the titled “president” — we expect voluminous coverage of any president. This is different. This is about his almost freak-show status as an extravaganza, a flashpoint; a bloviating carnival barker who literally demands attention, and a media that panders both to his need and the audience’s fascination.
But, you may ask, if the audience demands, wants, responds to this ubiquitous coverage — as they make clear by every click, every share, every channel selection, every Trump-infused conversation — what’s the problem with the media providing it?
The problem is that it’s a bad diet.
The problem is that constant coverage and the stress it evokes are making people sick.
The problem is: no one wants to talk about anything else.
Whether it’s pro-Trump folks pontificating that his wealth-based acumen will turn the economy around, his pro-business agenda will make life easier for entrepreneurs, his health care alternative will reduce costs, or his “make America great again” motif is doable, OR the anti-Trump folks raging about Russia, demanding transparency in his business conflicts, pushing against his decimation of the ACA, or despairing that America has lost its standing in the world (with only 22% global confidence in his foreign policy, that’s hard to argue), the topic is ALL DONALD ALL THE TIME.
We’ve dumbed down. Undiversified. Become a one-trick pony.
Writers discovered that articles focused on anything besides Donald — pieces on art, music, cultural issues, science, good things happening in the world (there are some, I promise) — garnered less readership than those with “Trump” in the headline. In fact, I’d guess the most viral articles of the last two years have been focused on Trump.
Cable news is literally built on the industry of Trump, running stories, debates, analysis, investigative insight on the Orange in the Oval.
Social media is inundated, rife with shared articles, memes, polls, opinion pieces, etc., that reference the man in one way or another.
Even local news is weighted with the daily sensationalism of Trump gaffes, tweets, missteps, and malfeasance.
It’s not good for us. We have to be about MORE than that. America = Trump is not an acceptable equation.
So I’ve done homework for myself, selected my personal sources for news (largely print) that I will continue to rely on in my quest to stay current with our political scene without playing into the pander. And just as we boycott businesses that support people and causes we find offensive, I’m boycotting the clickbait “Kardashianization” of Trump. Meaning:
I will not buy magazines that feature his picture on the cover.
I will not share articles about him unless they’re hope-inducing polls or other positive coverage of the #Resistance.
I will support and share the work of investigative journalists I trust who are uncovering facts and verifiable truths of his Omen-like rise to the WH, but I’m not interested in offering my clicks to redundant coverage or uber-biased political sensationalism.
I will not avail myself of cable or network news that heavily features stories related to his blunders, his rallies, his latest imbroglios, or his social and political events. I can get the essential details in print without the stress of watching or hearing him and/or his apologists.
I will focus my own work — articles, social media posts, shared pieces — on a wider range of topics that offer some balance... readership be damned.
And I will ask all of you to do some measure of the same. Talk about your art. Share a good recipe. Discuss the work of creative innovators. Shoot smart animal videos. Review a play. Inspire political activism. Post a short story. Raise the bar.
As we wait for Robert Mueller, et al. to do the work of the people in sussing out truth and fact related to the Trump/Russia affair, as we investigate how to build a better Democratic message, inspire voters to get to the polls, continue to push for equal rights, turn Congress into something that more fairly represents the liberal majority of our great country, let’s each play a role in widening, diversifying, and raising our social conversation. It’s necessary, it’ll make it easier to breathe, and it’ll promote an America far more interesting than the Trumpcentric version currently dominating the news.