Is Trump the END of Politics?
Press Start for “Is Trump the END of Politics?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.
Written by: Jared Bauer and Matt Reichle
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Animations by: Dean Bottino
Additional Artwork by: Jacob Salamon
Narrator: Nathan Lowe
Is Trump the END of Politics?
Body building—the art of meticulously sculpting every muscle of your body in order to achieve an ideal image—proportionate, symmetrical, statuesque perfection.
Politics is more like body building than one might think, except instead of molding your body, politicians painstakingly sculpt their personalities in order to optimize their appeal to voters. It’s why Carly Fiorina started smiling… and should probably stop.
According to French Marxist philosopher Guy Deboard, this is emblematic of a larger problem. Written in 1967, Deboard’s The Society of Spectacle warns of a culture driven entirely by image, in which people are more concerned with how they are perceived than they actually are.
It is a society fundamentally altered by the power of advertisement—that perverts reality so that the only thing that matters is the projection of an aura, mystique, or specific representation; where we’re all constantly preoccupied with managing and curating our image. The content of these images is inconsequential—all that matters is the shininess of the form.
This image is always communicated through media—an idea of media very different from Deboard’s day. We live in a time where we are saturated with so many images—endless blogs, websites, TV channels, Tumblrs, and YouTubers. As a result, there’s a cutthroat race to gain the most amount of attention—and political news has to compete in this same realm.
How can the rather dry issue of balancing the budget possibly compete with 10 awkward texts from your ex girlfriend? The answer: make politics more entertaining.
Indeed, politics is becoming more and more like a spectator sport—the candidates Olympians at the art of bullshitting. The aesthetic of the debates are only a sound cue away from Monday night football or a UFC fight.
We find ourselves in a media landscape where spectacle is a proven vehicle to success—it’s the reason why the line between clickbait, journalism, and ads is getting blurrier everyday.
And since political news is almost entirely consumed through media outlets, the line between politics and entertainment is disappearing. We expect that same gratification from our politicians that we do from our Buzzfeed articles.
This is what French philosopher Francois Debrix dubbed “Tabloid Realism:” A form of politics structured around easy headlines and common sense dialogue. He says: “Americans do not want to read or hear that they are underpaid, overworked, bullied at work, in the home, when serving their country in foreign lands. They want glamorous stories, scandals, exceptional events, news they can build dreams on or develop a sense of anger from. In short, they want to be entertained.”
If we are primed to love spectacle, then why not go with the most spectacular candidate?
The thing that sells best in this spectacle driven society is distraction. It doesn’t matter whether or not there are 40 plot holes in Star Wars The Force Awakens—what matters is that you clicked on the link promising to expose these plot holes—and that you like to think that there are. Likewise, It doesn’t matter if hundreds of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated 9/11 or not—it’s a much more exciting narrative.
Entertainment was supposed to be a distraction from the serious truth of our political lives. But now, politics has become a parody of itself and reflects a greater truth.
As Deboard famously said: “in a topsy-turvy world, the true is a moment of the false.
Despite the fact that Trump may constantly lie about facts—there is an element of greater truth in his lies. The truth that in our image driven society, we don’t want the truth—we choose to consume a projected image of what we desire to be true. We would rather vote for someone who embodies a reality that we want to believe than a person that actually reflects the reality of politics.
A formal definition of politics has its roots in the Greek word “politikos, ‘of, or pertaining to, the polis.” Where the polis is the city-state or a community. And as such politics concerns a community of citizens and their everyday interaction.
For Aristotle, civic participation isn’t just a duty; it is the very thing that defines human beings as being apart from animals. As political animals or zōon politikon, humans are endowed with the logos, the ability to use reason and speech.
More and more we seem to be animals that crave distraction, and politics is just another way to get that. If thousands of years ago human beings were civic, political, and social animals concerned with justice—what have we become, are we still human or are we: zōon clickbaitcon, zōon distracticon, zōon whatsthatovertherecon?