My wife and I are ardent House Hunters watchers.
If you are not familiar with the very popular HGTV show, a couple is presented with three houses that they might buy. They discuss the merits and the problems with each of them, and then, in the last few minutes of the show, they opt to buy one of the houses.
It’s the kind of simple arc of story that holds a viewer’s attention. My wife and I would sit and debate, ‘they’ll take number two. No, they’ll take number three’, until the conclusion of the episode.
You can imagine, then, our outrage, when we discovered that the show was, for all practical purposes, ‘fake’. It turned out that the couples in House Hunters have already purchased the house of their choice before the episode is shot. The two houses that they are shown are but shills to make the show more interesting.
No, I am wrong. We were not outraged. We frankly didn’t care. We kept watching and so did millions of other Americans (not to mention House Hunters International). Television is filled with “fake things”; little lies that make the show more interesting. That’s entertainment.
Having produced reality TV shows for many years, these fakes and lies are pretty easy to spot. In a recent rerun of Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls is dropped from an airplane (with a parachute) over an empty part of Montana. As he falls to earth, Go Pros on his wrists shooting video, he tells the audience that he is not sure where he will be able to land – it looks like dense forest. Oh, wait. There’s a lake far off in the distance. Can he make it?
After much tortured maneuvering, he thankfully makes it to the hitherto unknown lake. And, just as he is about to hit the water, we switch to another camera crew that has remarkably been placed not just at the lake, but in the middle of it to record the amazing and miraculous splash-down. Fake? Of course. Good TV? You bet!
Now we come to Donald Trump.
People have often said that JFK was the first “television President.” That would be wrong. JFK was the first president who looked good on TV, but Donald Trump is truly our first Television President. He understands the medium. He knows what works. As both star of and executive producer of the extremely successful reality show, The Apprentice, he is “of the medium.” It is in his blood and it effects the way that the thinks and acts. He treated the election as a Reality Show and now he treats the presidency as a reality show.
And in any good reality show, pretty much everything is “faked” or “lies,” all in the name of creating compelling entertainment and holding the audience.
Were there really three million illegal voters who cast their votes for Hillary Clinton in the election? Does it matter? It makes for a more exiting show. Were there really busloads of illegal voters shipped into New Hampshire to vote for Clinton? Does it matter, really, if it is true or not? It makes for a better show. Did Obama really tap his phone lines? Who cares? It’s exciting! It gets peoples’ attention. It boosts the ratings.
In the world of reality TV, the truth is, in most cases, an impediment to good entertainment. Now that we have an Entertainer In Chief, he has brought the ethos of television to government. So long as it is entertaining; so long as it garners media attention and ratings, what difference does it make if it is true or not? Everyone will get better and cheaper health care and Obamacare was a disaster. That’s not governance, that’s entertainment.
Now, the thing about TV is that it is ephemeral. Once the show is over, all is forgotten. The same now seems to be true about our government. Whatever happened to Ted Cruz’s father who helped with JFK’s assassination? Oh that? That was LAST SEASON! The crowd on the Mall was the “largest one in history.”
The fact is Donald Trump is an inveterate liar. The other fact is that no one cares. No one cares because just as Donald Trump is the product of a television based culture, so are we. We are inured to the endless lies, so long as it is a good show. That’s Entertainment. Which is too bad… for us, and for the nation, because good government should not be about entertaining us.. which it now is.
You can run a reality show based on lies for years because frankly no one cares. Can you run an entire government based on lies? We are all about to find out.