In 2008, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a best-seller entitled Outliers: The Story of Success One of the great take-aways from the book was the notion that if you practiced anything for 10,000 hours, you could become a world-class success at it. Practice the piano for 10,000 hours and you could be a concert pianist. Play tennis for 10,000 hours and you could become a tennis pro.
The average American now spends an astonishing 5 hours a day watching television. Every day. That means, if you are 30 years old, you have spent more than 45,000 hours watching TV. More, of course, if you are older. That makes all of us at the very least 4 Times World Class Experts in TV. We are the global olympic champions of television-watching. There is no society that is better at watching TV than we are.
All this television watching, over so many years, has had an impact on society. It has to. It is our number one activity and we have been doing it for years - every day, rain or shine. It infects everything we do or believe. And just because the video appears on Youtube instead of the tube, don't think you get to escape.
Television thus becomes the lens through which we see the world. It is our model of how the world works - for better or for worse.
Exactly 30 years ago, Neil Postman published a seminal work entitled: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. In it, Postman said that as we watched more and more television, and television became our window on the world, it would be from a 'television perspective' that we would begin to define everything else.
Television, Postman noted, was all about entertainment. If things are not entertaining on television, no one watches them. To hold an audience, the material must, above all else, be entertaining. Entertainment comes first. If it is 'boring', people will change the channel. As politics and public discourse are also received through television, Postman predicted, politics would also have to become Entertainment.
And so it has.
Donald Trump understands Entertainment. Whether it is in his casinos or on his extremely successful television show. He knows how to play to the crowd. And now, he has brought this talent to an audience that has spent 40,000 plus hours getting ready for him. It is a marriage made in hell, but long in the making.
Compared to Trump, every other candidate is 'boring'. Jeb! is boring - despite the exclamation mark. Cruz is boring. Jindal is boring. Hillary is terrible television - the more she tries, the worse she looks. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is great television - very entertaining. And it doesn't matter what he says - so long as it is entertaining.
You would think that network news would take him apart. But they don't. They can't. They don't want to. Trump is a ratings machine, and success in television, particularly in news, is based on ratings. The more Trump they run, the more outrageous (and entertaining) he is, the bigger the audience - the bigger the audience, the higher the ratings and the higher the ratings the more money they make. He is the goose that keeps laying the golden eggs.
And, of course, the more air time they give him, the more he gets to perform, and the more people 'love' him. The more real he seems.
We have reached a point of no return. 40,000 hours of TV watching have primed a nation for Donald Trump. We no longer elect Presidents, we elect 'Entertainers in Chief.' This began with Clinton playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall in 1992; George Bush arriving on an aircraft carrier in his flight suit; Obama eating a raw salmon with Bear Grylls. But they are all rank amateurs compared to Trump.
He is going to be elected. What happens after that is another story. But we are so addicted now to Reality TV, that we can't wait to see the next installment -from inside the White House. Trump will make great entertainment. The networks will be delighted.
In the future, historians making an analysis of "America in Decline", (one of Trump's favorite entertaining schticks) may well look at television the way we look at lead pipes in the Roman water supply: the thing that slowly rotted their brains without their ever realizing what was happening.
But as we say at the White House: That's Entertainment!