In an interview with The BBC last week, author Michael Wolff told interviewer Nick Robinson that his hot new book, Fire and Fury, will “finally end this Presidency... once and for all’.
I don’t think so.
In fact, I think it is fair to say that the book will probably have no impact on the Trump Presidency, or anything else for that matter. The book may be dominating the headlines today, but a few weeks from now, it will be long forgotten. Remaindered. The millions of copies bought mostly unread. You may not be able to get a copy now. Wait a month or two. You’ll see piles of them at Barnes and Noble for $1.
That is not because the revelations in the book are neither important nor revelatory. They are both.It has nothing to do with the content. It is because we now live in an era in which nothing factual really makes any difference any longer. No one cares.
Perhaps the one (and possibly the only) truthful thing Donald Trump ever said was that even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, people would still vote for him. He understood how America works. That, after all, is why he got elected. Americans no longer care about the real world. It has, to a great extent, ceased to matter.
People like to say that JFK was the first ‘television President’. This is not really true. JFK may be been the first candidate who actually looked good on TV - at least better than sweating, jowly Richard Nixon, but Kennedy was not ‘of’ television, even if he was on it. He didn't really understand the medium. He was the product of a pre-TV world.
Donald Trump is our first true television President. He may have made his money in the real estate business, but he cut his political teeth not in running for Congress or doing public service. He learned the craft of how to get elected in America by hosting and producing one of the most successful Reality TV shows in the country. He learned what rates. And in today’s world, ratings and votes are pretty much the same thing. And what rates? Entertainment.
Trump knows how to entertain. He knows how to attract and keep an audience. This has nothing whatsoever to do with good governance, but everything to do with getting elected and staying in office. It’s all about ratings now. TV and politics are one in the same. Why do you think people are touting Oprah as the next candidate. Who can beat Trump except someone who rates even better on prime time?
Trump may be the first TV President, but he won’t be the last..., and sadly, he won’t be the worst. Worse is to come.
This is because we are now a society dominated by television. The average American spends an astonishing 5 hours a day watching TV, every day. We have done this for the past 40 years. We may like to pretend that we are a highly literate nation. We aren’t. The average American spends 19 minutes a day reading. 5 hours a day watching TV.
Were you astonished to read in the Wolff book that the President of the United States spends his evenings ensconced in his bedroom, eating junk food and watching TV? Why? Isn't that what everyone else does? Of course it is. He IS us. Donald Trump is who we really are. That is why he got elected in the first place.
If we were a nation that spent 5 hours a day reading books, Donald Trump would not be sitting here he is today - in his bedroom eating filet-o-fish and watching TV. Just like you. He does not read (just read the Wolff book), but that is fine, neither do most people in this country. He is us.
What happens to a society that decides to spend the bulk of its time watching TV (I mean besides putting a semi-literate like Trump in the White House?). All those endless hours of watching have an impact on who we are, on what kind of culture we have created for ourselves.
The bottom line for all television is that it has be entertaining. That, Trump certainly is. Television cannot be too intelligent. You don’t see The PBS Newshour going off the charts for ratings. People are not streaming Civilization with Kenneth Clark on Netflix so much that they are crashing the servers, are they? Nope, they are not. Television is dumb and so is Trump. Are you surprised? Don’t be. What survives on TV is what people actually want to see, not what is ‘good for them’. What makes it to the White House is what people want to see, (so to speak), not what is good for them or the nation.
When we vote with our remotes, we vote for dopey stuff. (See any episode of Real Housewives). When we vote for our President, we are, in fact, no different. For better or for worse (and clearly, it is for worse), Donald Trump is who we are now.
We are no longer the nation of Jefferson or Madison or Roosevelt. We are now the nation of Naked and Afraid and The Real Housewives of Atlanta. We are the nation of Donald Trump.
So, yes, Michael Wolff’s book is going to make some salacious headlines for the next few days. Yes, it is true, everyone in the White House thinks Trump is an idiot. Yes, it is true, Ivanka is a thick as a brick. Yes, it it true, Jared Kushner committed treason. The list goes on and one. Like any great reality show, this twist in the plot is enormously entertaining and great fun. When will the evil (or good) Mueller, lurking in the wings, make his appearance for the Greatest Battle of the Century? Stay tuned!
You see? Great TV.
Will Wolff’s book matter in the long run? Not a chance. Will it drive Trump from the White House? No way!
Will Trump continue to make outrageous statements and do stupid things?
Will it make a difference?
Are you kidding?
You don’t understand. We don’t live in the ‘real world’ anymore. We live in a world of never-ending Reality TV. In Reality TV, the exciting, dangerous, unpredictable crazy person never gets voted off the island. They are what make the show work. The boring ones do. Trump is never going away, and no rational or sane or boring or stable (I mean really stable) personality is ever going to be elected to the Presidency again. They don’t rate.
As they say in Hollywood, That’s Entertainment.