Trump. It’s no longer a name, it’s a movement.
It’s futile to pretend this assertion doesn’t currently have some merit, but it’s timely to remind ourselves that movements aren’t inherently worthwhile, and a mass of people all nodding their heads (or chanting patriotic couplets) isn’t intrinsically rational. There’s no equation between numbers and validity.
I want to consider how a movement like this is given room to evolve and find definition; how disparate mind-sets can so quickly find togetherness in spurious sentiment. Movements like this are not new, however there is something alarming in the ferocity of Trump’s followers that disturbs onlookers who find it difficult to marry the passion with the specious, ill-considered rhetoric.
Yes, there exists a pre-existing sense of disenfranchisement from, and distrust of, the political establishment – as there is on the political left – but I’d like to suggest that there is a specific, mutually parasitic relationship between news networks and social media that fundamentally helps to create the tinderbox from which obscenities like the Trump movement emerge.
‘Always-on’ news networks prioritise and disproportionately expose events. They do so with barely-contained relish, largely serving their own existence as operations who’d have very little to say if they didn’t forensically pick apart their headline-of-the-day, with the hope of invoking shock, outrage, and ultimately secure themselves high ratings. Their output is digested without much consideration by sizeable chunks of the populace, because it’s The News. They’re only reporting on what’s happening, right?
In this way, news networks have the ability create or embellish stories – through unwarranted attention and added sensationalism –which are duly swallowed whole. And let’s not even talk about the faux-news networks which casually mix opinion pieces with reportage. In this way, The News can not only perpetuate but serve to birth movements which exist only by appeal to themselves.
Stories, now ‘events’, then transfer to social media for widespread reaction, where Belief-Bias Effect runs rampant, and the traditionally trustworthy nature of mainstream media grants an illusory sense of assurance in the solidity of the story itself.
Taken to the ego-driven medium of Twitter etc., stories which may never have existed in the first place are amplified without subtlety or nuance. It’s a binary environment of one star or ten, the enemy of all humankind or the best thing that’s ever happened. Opinions can’t just be loud, they must garner attention for likes, shares and added followers. Extremism is allowable, lest we be drowned out by our competing bellowers, so discarding inconveniences like The Facts is perfectly fine if you’re on Trump’s side, just as likening him to somebody responsible for the deaths of 11 million people seems justified if you’re not.
Heaven forbid we may live in a world where people think something ‘pretty good’ or ‘not that great’. Such sentiment is linguistic beige, destined to be cast aside in the lion’s den of OPINIONS, where only the most outspoken survive. In this environment, news events become houses of cards on which social media acts like gasoline and from which movements like Trump can spontaneously combust.
Somewhere, discarded and ignored for their moderate opinions and tedious consideration, are the quiet majority, resigned to a future of chin-stroking inside their real-world hideouts while the lunatic ideologues fight it out to the bitter end of both sides.
Well, one can #hope…
“Like most reasonable people, I hate all Muslims, except the ones I’ve met, who seem fine.” – Stewart Lee