Donald Trump’s rant at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona yesterday is creating a ton of disbelief, even outrage in media circles. It demonstrates, the consensus goes, that Trump is not fit to be President.

What, again? In just the Charlottesville incident, Trump had already demonstrated that, twice. First when he veered off the carefully scripted remarks on his teleprompter to add the palliating interjection “on many sides… on many sides”. Then again when he rebelled at being made to read an unequivocal statement of condemnation and, first chance he got, veered off the development track at his New York press conference to defend the racists and denounce the protestors. Why does it take a repeat performance in Arizona to convince anyone of the blindingly obvious?

This is now fully in rinse/repeat mode. Trump does something batshit. Cue outrage. The White House tries to contain the damage. Trump breaks free of his handlers. Cue more outrage. And so on, ad Infinitum — the issues change, the pattern never does.

So no, there is nothing about Phoenix to outrage about. At least, there is nothing new to outrage about — the Trump of yesterday is the same Trump who kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists, the first salvo in a series of racist, misogynistic, bigoted remarks that no right-thinking person could possibly condone.

What I find hard to believe is the crowd that surrounded him in Phoenix. As Trump deliberately distorts the case against him, as he portrays himself as the wronged party by fudging his own public words, watch how they nod in agreement, watch how they cheer.heer, applaud, n

Surely they had seen the “many sides” clip too? Surely they knew — as anyone who is not clinically brain dead would know — that he was lying through omission? So how do they smile, and cheer, and endorse a pathological liar?

Is it that they have invested so heavily of themselves in the dream Trump sold them that they cannot now turn apostate, without risking the loss of their self-esteem? And how does this map to events in India, where the powers that be have a large, active cheering squad ready to shield them from their follies, to attack anyone who dares criticize them?

Trump is a walking talking Rorschach Test. We look at him — and what we really see is ourselves.




Media Matters #4: The rise of the pseudo-event

THE PHRASE “pseudo-event” officially entered the lexicon in 1962 and is defined as “an event, such as a press conference, that is designed primarily to attract attention”.

It was coined by historian Daniel J Boorstin, and is the leitmotif of The Image, his 1961 jeremiad on mass media and the rise of the faux celebrity.

Boorstin linked the two developments – the emergence of the instant celebrity and the proliferation of pseudo-events – to argue that news, which from the 15th century onwards has meant “a report of recent events” and “previously unknown information”, was being subsumed by manufactured events.

The proximate trigger for Boorstin’s book-length thoughts was the 1960 Presidential election, backlit by the drama of the first-ever televised presidential debate, September 26, 1960, between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon. (The events surrounding that debate, and the election campaign itself, was the theme of Theodore E White’s Pulitzer-winning book The Making of The President 1960; the debate is here in full).

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