It is a cliché by now that Donald Trump has run a reality program campaign– a series of gaffes, surprises, outrages, weirdnesses, surges, discoveries, and simply every other active ingredient that comprise the popular TV category of faux credibility. On truth TV, the topics are hardly ever artists or performers or high achievers in any field. They are characters. Their roles are their lives, which produces a Möbius strip. Exactly what do the Kardashians really do besides being on their program, which has, obviously, generated all sorts of industrial chances that practically make it appear as if they are doing something? What is their skill, other than the talent for self-promotion?
All this was anticipated 54 years earlier by historian Daniel Boorstin in The Image, where he specified a celeb as someone whois understood for being well-known. In a previous post, I went over how this applied to Trump, who seems a hollow guy except for his fame.But I am not exactly sure that Boorstin’s tautology, smart as it is, is really
accurate. I would submit that celeb isn’t a status, nor is it a media anointment. I believe celebrity is in fact a narrative form played out in the medium of life then broadcast by the traditional and now social networks. One earns star– to the extent that you can call it made– by keeping one’s narrative going. You lose your celebrity not when you lose popularity or attention, your well-known-ness, but when you lose your narrative, which is what got you the attention in the first place.Donald Trump is the first star prospect in both Boorstin’s sense and mine– Boorstin’s since Trump is less a home builder
of buildings than a slapper-of-his-name-on-other-people’s buildings. He is actually known for being popular. And in mine because Trump has invested the lion’s share of his life supplying stories to the press to feed its pressing appetite for gossip and his desire for attention. There are many methods which Trump is a distinct presidential aspirant, but chief amongst them may be this: He is the first prospect who ran for president to feed his star. The entire campaign is a plot point– a way to a bigger end, which is not the presidency, however keeping his celebrity afloat. Importance is a concern for all of us, but particularly for a 70-year-old guy who is accustomed to the spotlight.It isn’t the contest he is frightened of losing– or an election. It is his celebrity.Everyone knows that Trump hates losing, so his put down of Hall won’t raise too numerous eyebrows. But when you check out the interviews, you realize that Trump’s desperate worry of losing isn’t of the athletic variety, with which we are also so familiar. It isn’t really the contest he is frightened of losing– or an election. It is his celebrity. That is why he dislikes Hall. Hall went from a somebody to a no one. He lost his story. He didn’t supply anything for the press to blog about or readers and audiences to care about. There was no drama. What Trump comprehended is that celebrity has actually to be stired; it isn’t really self-sustaining. It is like spinning plates on completion of sticks in a Las Vegas novelty act. As quickly as one plate begins to wobble, you have to twirl it again.As for the Hollywood connection, it was not simply a way to keep his face before the general public. Cameos are low-cost and evanescent. Like those losers on” The Apprentice, “all them folks who couldn’t keep their celebrity going (you do not have to be Freud to figure
out why Trump would confect a program out of that ), cameos accredit the loss of star; they do not advance it. Rather, what Trump saw is a way to integrate himself into Hollywood narratives– a method to use his popularity to develop his celebrity.As the Times piece about Trump’s Hollywood connections informs it, he started talking about running for president as early as 1988. Why? Trump didn’t have any overriding sense of national mission. He does not have one even now. Plainly, his continuous, three-decades-long flirtation with the presidency was simply a plot twist– a way of juicing the narrative when it was flagging. In that sense, it was no different than his affair with Marla Maples, his fight with Rosie O’Donnell, his nonstop lawsuits and everything else. The presidency was a promotion stunt. It still is. Viewed that way, nearly everything Trump does, the majority of which appears deadly to his candidacy, really makes good sense– simply not political sense. He is running to continue being a celeb. Bad politics, great TV.The dull routines of politics fade prior to the unpredictable narratives of celebrity.The problem is that Americans are now so habituated to celeb, so delighted by it, that in the Trump campaign it has actually managed to overtake politics for a lot of them. Or put another method, the dull regimens of politics pale prior to the unforeseeable stories of celeb.
More, celeb neutralizes those regimens. Take Trump’s now-famous declaration in the last dispute that he might decline the election results should he lose. You might note how he phrased that to mediator Chris Wallace:”I’ll look at it at the time … I’ll keep you in thriller.”Thriller is a narrative staple. What critics viewed as subversion of democracy, Trump and a lot of his advocates viewed as another plot twist. More celebrity. And it did precisely what he intended, which was to create a Trumpian cliffhanger.Politics, as I have actually composed often times, has long been incorporated with entertainment. The devices of the latter serve the ends of the previous, and this has actually especially served conservatives: The X-Files fed conservative paranoia, 24 fed conservative xenophobia, every superhero movie feeds conservative American exceptionalism. However Trump has actually subordinated politics to his own narrative.
He is the entertainment. We frequently hear that this election is about the future of America. Donald Trump has always seen it in a different way. For him, it is about the future of his celebrity and his fear of becoming another Arsenio Hall.