Here we go again! Trump holds a rally to launch his re-election campaign this week, and CNN and other news networks are “Johnny on the spot” reveling in the entire show the way they did when that behavior was likely the single biggest factor in this sleaze-ball felon winning the election in the first place.
It’s all about the ratings, baby, even if the few thousand who are watching such drivel (and oh my goodness, is Fox going to get the edge again this time?) out of America’s 330 million and the planet’s seven or eight billion, are arguably the least qualified to dictate what our major news media should be showing on the air.
They’re glued to the tube in hopes that Trump will say something really shocking, like crowds at car races sitting in eager hopes of seeing a really bad crash.
Trump is the shock politician the way that the “shock jocks” previously used to improve ratings the fouler their mouths became, escalated from the innocent days of the Wolfman, in the spirit of the chair heaving on Jerry Springer shows, the whole fake world of professional wrestling and that sad case of the late Morton Downey Jr., who went out of his way to make such an ugly clown of himself for the white-riot TV shows he hosted that it surely led to his early demise.
The only difference between Morton Downey Jr. and Trump is, that some would argue, in Morton’s case it was an act.
But, oh America, how you have sunk since those days of what now seem the highest of moral grounds in our popular entertainment, when “I Love Lucy,” “I Married Joan,” “The Life of Riley” and even the slightly-later dramas like “The Rockford Files” (with all its scenes of the terrible smog from the early 1970s lingering over the Los Angeles basin), “Dragnet” and “Harry O.” The best movies were the “film noir” classics of the late 1940s and 1950s, with “Sunset Boulevard” (“I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille”) and “All About Eve” (“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride”) in a dead heat for the best, and Tennessee Williams’ best classics were put on the silver screen, “Streetcar Named Desire” (“I have always relied on the kindness of strangers”) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” rivaling the epics on a grand Cinemascope scale, the likes of “Giant,” “Cleopatra,” and “How the West Was Won.”
Jack Paar and Johnny Carson were no Morton Downey or Donald Trump. They had class and style. Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. were the bad boys, “The Rat Pack,” but they were hardly that bad, really.
These constituted the middle American cultural fare of the generation that produced many of the people now supporting Trump, people not so different if different at all from the rest of us. So here’s the point. They don’t realize how their own standards for culture, for manners, if you will, have sunk into the toilet since the days of their parents.
I am of the belief that almost everything in our culture that passes for popular entertainment is, in fact, social engineering. I hold that the moguls who’ve gained control over our mass communication modes let very little onto their networks, screens and radio waves that do not conform with a prevailing approach aimed at keeping the masses in their place and feeding them, as in the Roman Empire days, “bread and circuses.” Today’s TV sitcoms are the worst.
The saddest part of the process witnessed since the 1970s has been the systematic dumbing down of our dialogue and discourse, the use of swear words and angry epithets in place of impassioned but meaningful arguments.
This has been deliberate. Most of what passes for so-called “postmodernism” is nothing but crap, in art, literature or whatever form. Now, we’re on the verge of legalizing marijuana. This is a huge leap in the dumbing down of civilization.
The opioid epidemic is the gateway to this new, lower level of Dante’s Inferno. It’s like watching the decline of the old Haight Ashbury set in.
No wonder it’s still Trump.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.