I’ve been taking a break from “The News” lately, pretty much since the election. It just got too embarrassing to watch. Trump turned US politics into a reality TV show, and I’m only willing to dumb down so far. I figure that if anything important happens, someone will tell me. I have that trust because people tell me about it even when nothing important happens. It really surprises me how much people talk about national politics around here.
I mean, my dope yuppie friends have no respect for the law and don’t pay income tax, but somehow feel invested in American democracy and talk about it all the time. My homeless friends, on the other hand, suffer human and civil rights violations every day, get treated like second-class citizens and endure daily harassment from law enforcement, but they are outraged that Russian hackers compromised the legitimacy of “our elections.” “The News” does this to people.
“The News” is the one thing that truly unites us as a nation. We learn to ignore our own reality in order to digest, internalize and regurgitate this unified national narrative we call “The News.” We have news 24/7/365 so that you never have to think about your own life. “The News” is always there for you, telling you what’s important, what you should think about and how you should think about it, and because we follow “the News” so faithfully, “the News” defines our national debate and sets our national agenda. By paying such close attention to “The News,” instead of what’s going on around us, we allow the media, corporate interests and lawmakers to ignore our reality as well.
Doesn’t it seem strange that “The News” gives you updates on all of the major stock indices, every half-hour at least, even though most of us don’t own stocks? (And if we do, they are managed by someone else, in a 401(k), mutual fund or retirement account, so the information is not that relevant to that many people.) On the other hand, why don’t we have up-to-date stats that tell us about our general well-being as a community? Why don’t they tell us, at 8 a.m. every morning, how many people slept outside that night? Tell us how many people had nothing to eat yesterday. Show us how people make ends meet. Why would anyone care whether the stock market was going up if these indices keep sliding?
Instead, we let “The News” tell us how many people we have to throw overboard to buoy the economy, as gauged by the stock market. “The News” tells us why we should expect to lose our home if we get sick, and “The News” tells us why we should sacrifice our children to protect the investments of billionaires.
But now “The News” has gone too far. Today, “The News” is telling us to pay attention to Donald Trump. This goes beyond selling the American people on ridiculous ideas that work against their own interests. Paying attention to Trump amounts to stupidity for stupidity’s sake. Paying attention to Trump is like reading The Enquirer. You know that it is a waste of time, and that you are not learning anything, and that it won’t do any good to point out the inconsistencies in their stories, because telling the truth has never mattered to either of them. Why waste your life that way?
From my perspective as a writer, “The News” helps me gauge what I can assume my readers know and what rhetoric they are familiar with, but I don’t want to think about that anymore. I don’t want to know how dumb people have gotten these days, and listening to Trump isn’t going to make them any smarter. I thought a Trump presidency would be a goldmine for political satire, at least, but I don’t find Trump very funny at all. Satirizing Trump is like trying to satirize pro wrestling. How do you make fun of someone who already makes a mockery of the office?
In many ways, Trump is already the perfect satirical president. He’s got the ego, the chauvinism, the poor taste and the obnoxiousness that everyone despises about America and Americans. He treats other people the way the US treats other countries, and he’s fat, ugly and vain, just like most Americans. He’s really the perfect president because he so completely embodies what the United States stands for. When you realize that, you begin to understand that our problems are much deeper than our current president, and you won’t find the answers to them on “The News.”
Besides, we’ve got plenty of corrupt, greedy fascists right here in Humboldt County. Here we talk about the Fascist-in-Chief, in Mar-a-Lago, chiefly because we don’t want to talk about all of the sleazy shit that goes on around here. In that sense, talking about Trump is kind of like talking about the weather. Trump is what you talk about when you don’t want to talk about anything. Mostly, people don’t want to talk about anything because that would require them to think about something, formulate an opinion about it and invest enough of themselves in that opinion to state it out loud. I’m not sure that people have it in them anymore.
Nobody wants to talk about the housing crisis. Nobody wants to talk about the dead bodies and the missing people, the violent crime, the opiate crisis, the Hep C epidemic, the human rights abuses and institutional violence going on right here in Humboldt County, stuff we could actually do something about. Nobody wants to talk about those things because nobody wants to think about those things, because mostly they’re too busy scheming their own next crime against humanity. Instead, they tell me what Trump did, because they saw it on “The News.”