Donald Trump is probably going to be elected.
He is probably going to be elected because he is running on a platform of fear.
He promises to be the 'Law and Order' candidate, because crime is rampant in our cities.
He is going to go to Congress to get a declaration of war against ISIS, the first time this has been done since the Second World War.
He is going to rescue us from the threat of terrorism.
He is going to fix the broken economy.
He is going to make America great again.
His message is clearly resonating with Americans.
How else can you explain his incredible rise from someone with absolutely no political experience or record of public service to garnering the nomination of the Republican Party for the Presidency of the United States.
Fear works because Americans are afraid.
They are convinced that all the fears that Trump has conjured up are in fact true, when in fact, they are mostly false. As FDR said, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But in America, fear runs wild and Donald Trump has latched onto that fear and is riding it into the White House.
The fear is palpable, not because the threats are real -- they are really not. The fear is palpable (and marketable) because the media companies have been selling the same line as Donald Trump for years -- that the nation is a mess, that we should all be afraid -- very afraid.
The reason the media companies have been selling this line is because they are, first and foremost, companies. Their business is not to deliver the 'news' nor to educate the American people. The business of media companies is to make a profit. And they derive their profit from selling advertising. This is true whether they are newspapers, TV news or online. Their goal is not 'truth', their goal is ratings or clicks or eyeballs. The more readers or viewers or users they can attract, the more they can sell their ads for.
So their primary motivation, their only motivation, is attracting and holding an audience.
Many years ago, I produced a very successful TV series for TLC called 'Trauma, Life in the ER'. Real life in hospital trauma centers. People came in with knives in their heads, bullets in their brains, limbs ripped off by farm machinery. You name it, we showed it. It was a real horror show and it immediately shot to the top rated show on TLC and stayed there for ten years until it was killed by the HIPPA laws.
People could not look away for the same reason that people slow down to stare at a traffic accident on the highway. It is a kind of human instinct.
The news industry, and particularly the TV news industry has known this for years and used it to their benefit. Take a look at any local TV news show -- what do you see? A fire. A murder. A robbery. An automobile accident. That's the news. Now, for the average viewer, these incidents, tragic though they may be, have absolutely no bearing on them, nor anyone else, except the poor bastard whose house burned down. Yet we watch, transfixed.
When it comes to national or international news, this same car wreck phenomenon is also in play. ISIS last year beheaded 55 people, and they took the trouble to film it, giving the networks a great gift. This is needless to say, bad, but in the same year Saudi Arabia beheaded 143 people and 33,256 Americans died in automobile accidents. 55 people beheaded is dramatic, but hardly worthy of a Congressional declaration of war. But it does make great TV.
ISIS has 30,000 fighters. Nazi Germany had 18 million 'fighters.' Nazi Germany was also amongst the most technological advanced countries in the world in 1939. ISIS can barely collect the trash. Yet they make a great TV enemy. Scary!
Crime is in fact down. I used to live in Brooklyn in the 1980s. It was really dangerous. They city was selling brownstones on Smith Street for $1 each. Today, they go for about $3 million. But crime also sells on TV.
Ebola was a big news story. Your organs dissolve. You bleed out. It is a terrible death. Do you know how many Americans died of Ebola contracted in this country? The answer would be zero, but that did not stop it from being a great and long lasting news story. Scary!
The average American watches TV for 5 hours a day. We have done this for nearly 40 years. When you spend 5 hours a day, every day, doing something it gets engrained inside of you. What they show becomes part of you. It takes on its own 'truth'. We are effectively brainwashed by what is, more than anything else, a commercial enterprise, whose business is to sell seats and scare us all.
The news companies are not really presenting 'news', per se, they are attracting audiences. John Ford, who used to run TLC explained it to me thusly: "TV is video fly paper. Our job is to catch as many people as possible."
You show killing, robbery, war, terrorism hour after hour, day after day, year after year and what do you get?
And Donald Trump.
But let's not confuse any of this with any kind of objective reality.
We are voting our fear, but it is not based in reality. It is based in entertainment.