Matt Taibbi: It's Too Late To Turn Off Trump

At some undefined moment over the past two weeks a light bulb suddenly came on over the talking heads in our corporate media as it dawned on them that Donald Trump was saying things that were really not so nice and kinda scary.  Why it took them nearly half a year to reach this epiphany has not been satisfactorily explained or even examined,  but as Matt Taibbi takes note in Rolling Stone, a good bet is that it had something to do with ratings, a factironically acknowledged by Trump himself. Citing the moral quandary posed to big TV execs by continuing to profit from coverage of someone who could at any day float the idea of, say, ethnic cleansing to his adoring fanbase, Taibbi sees this as an uncharacteristic problem for CNN and all of the major media who’ve sold out to Trumpmania:

Essentially, TV news producers are wondering: "How do we keep getting the great ratings without helping elect the Fourth Reich?"

Some have even gone so far as to timorously suggest that maybe Trump ought to be ignored and coverage of him cut back. But Taibbi thinks it’s a little late for that—maybe 40 or so years too late:

The time to start worrying about the consequences of our editorial decisions was before we raised a generation of people who get all of their information from television, and who believe that the solution to every problem is simple enough that you can find it before the 21 minutes of the sitcom are over.

Or before we created a world in which the only inner-city black people you ever see are being chased by cops, and the only Muslims onscreen are either chopping off heads or throwing rocks at a barricades.

Taibbi interprets the “Trump phenomenon” as a rather damning indictment of an American culture guided by worship of the superficial: Trump’s relentless media barrage and his complete lack of interest in sticking to a single topic for more than a media cycle half-life is tailor-made for a generation of Americans with terminally diminished attention spans, eager to be fed quick, sound-bite solutions before surfing off to the next channel. Trump simply embodies the TV culture that created him and that most Americans wallow in every night of their lives. His views and pronouncements, in their idiotic simplicity and unworkability, follow suit:

If you got all of your information from TV and movies, you'd have some pretty dumb ideas. You'd be convinced blowing stuff up works, because it always does in our movies. You'd have no empathy for the poor, because there are no poor people in American movies or TV shows – they're rarely even shown on the news, because advertisers consider them a bummer.

Politically, you'd have no ability to grasp nuance or complexity, since there is none in our mainstream political discussion. All problems, even the most complicated, are boiled down to a few minutes of TV content at most. That's how issues like the last financial collapse completely flew by Middle America. The truth, with all the intricacies of all those arcane new mortgage-based financial instruments, was much harder to grasp than a story about lazy minorities buying houses they couldn't afford, which is what Middle America still believes.

This is how a pampered billionaire manages to connect with disaffected lower-middle class whites. They have television and the mentality it creates in common. As Taibbi puts it,  “TV is the ultimate leveling phenomenon. It makes everyone, rich and poor, equally incapable of dealing with reality.” 

So it’s long past the point where taking Trump off the air would do any good. That ship probably sailed when Americans duped themselves into voting for a B-movie actor in 1980 who talked tough while bankrupting the country, and told themselves ever since that this was a good idea. Taibbi darkly warns that Americans’ penchant for wanting shallow, simple solutions to complicated issues isn’t going anywhere, even when Trump eventually goes away:

Even if we take the man off the air, the problem he represents is still going to be there, just like poverty, corruption, mass incarceration, pollution and all of the other things we keep off the airwaves.


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