The Trump era is numbing our brains — and we’re loving it
According to John Oliver, Mexico’s new leftist president is ‘the Mexican Trump’. The media have called Brazil’s new president-elect ‘the Brazilian Trump’ ad-nauseum. Italy’s new deputy PM is ‘the Italian Trump’. Iraq’s new president, leading a coalition that includes progressive reformist parties and the Communist Party, is somehow ‘Iraq’s version of Donald Trump’. The socialist UK Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn? You damn well know he’s also Trump.
In only two years since becoming President of the USA, Donald Trump has become the lens through which we interpret and understand the world. Forget nuance — it always come back to Trump. We’ve quickly forgotten that before Trump, racism did exist, immigration baiting was already a thing, and there were already plenty of big personalities in politics.
Of course, there’s an obvious reason that the media makes sure to report on every one of Trump’s muscle movements and link absolutely everything possible to him. They’re doing it because it gets our attention: they’re showing and telling us exactly what we want them to.
The news cycle for more than two years now has been dominated by Trump. Progressive/centrist outlets report on the latest gaffe from Trump or his administration, their latest policy proposals, what he had for dinner last night, or just whatever vulgarities he happens to let fly. Right-leaning outlets try to positively spin that stuff, while also obsessively fixating on the progressive media’s Trump fixation. It’s all become something of an ouroboros.
We adore this — right, left, or in between, we simply can’t get enough of it. People who love him watch on with unconditional admiration, while those who hate him are loving every second of doing just that. Trump watching has quickly become the hippest hobby, one with far more adherents than old favourites like rock climbing, hiking, or roller derby could ever hope to have.
Its immense popularity is especially visible on the internet. A picture of your mom’s casserole; a YouTube makeup tutorial; a documentary about a 70s Latin American dictatorship. These things might seem completely unrelated on the surface, but they’re always brought together by the inevitable Trump-related discussion that erupts in the comment section.
Everyone wants more Trump, always, all the time. Trump himself is not enough Trump for us, so we have to create more of him to satiate our desire. The media knows it, too, so that’s what they’re damn well going to give us.
Because of this, foreign coverage has been marginalised more than ever before, as other countries just aren’t Trumpy enough. When we do hear about somewhere else in the world, Trump himself must either be mouthing off about another nation, or it has to somehow be related back to him. Thus, we need someone to be our point of reference: there must always be an ‘[Insert Country Here]’s Trump’, only then will we pay attention, only then can we understand. It doesn’t matter if that’s a gross oversimplification or just plain wrong, as it more often than not is. If the Trump is absent, our cravings require an off-brand stand-in of our own making.
We’re looking at another two years of Trump watching, at the very least. Where does it go once he’s out of office, whenever that may be? Will the phenomenon die with the Trump presidency itself? Will it continue on, evolving to instead follow his every move once he’s back to being his regular old barely-coherent reality-star self?
Or has Trump already left a permanent scar on the political landscape, pronounced enough that he‘ll remain the primary reference point for hundreds of millions of people for many years to come? Will polar opposite politicians always be incomprehensibly compared to Trump, will family holidays in 2035 still be soured when an innocent conversation about the weather somehow becomes a heated discussion on the Trump-Russia scandal? Are our Trump-tinted glasses already permanently bolted-on?
It seems unlikely that the biggest thing since Hulkamania would dissipate just as fast as it grew, but we can certainly dream.
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Categories: Politics and Society