Trump’s not Orwellian. He’s the distracter-in-chief, Media keep falling for Trump’s mind control tricks
February 3, 2017 Comments Off on Trump’s not Orwellian. He’s the distracter-in-chief, Media keep falling for Trump’s mind control tricks
Trump’s not Orwellian. He’s the distracter-in-chief.
Matt Bai Yahoo News February 2, 2017
But Orwell’s dark prophecy isn’t actually the one that best explains the moment we’re living through right now. And to the extent that we focus on fears of statist mind control and mass disinformation, we may miss the subtler thing that’s really going on.
Here I turn again to the late Neil Postman, whose classic critique of mid-’80s culture, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” is as relevant today as it was then. In his foreword, Postman compared Orwell’s vision of fascist repression with the trivial, substanceless society envisioned by Aldous Huxley in his 1932 novel “Brave New World.”
In Huxley’s vision, Postman wrote, “no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”
It’s worth hearing a bit more of Postman’s comparison: “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. … Orwell feared that truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared that truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”
As it happens, in 1949, just after the publication of “1984,” Huxley drew much the same contrast in a letter to his countryman Orwell. Much as he liked Orwell’s book, he suggested that tyrannical governments would soon abandon “boot-on-the-face” tactics in favor of “animal magnetism and hypnotism.” Cable TV had yet to be invented….
In some ways, though, Trump is the perfect embodiment of a Huxleyan culture, endlessly distracted by the superficial or the spectacular. He doesn’t want to control what you think — only what you think about, which is him. He cares that you’re watching the performance, and it doesn’t matter whether you watch because you love it or because you find it too grossly compelling to look away.
I’ve written before that Trump is an emotional extremist, not an ideological one. His gift is for channeling the passion in an audience, for provoking adoration or outrage or whatever’s most visceral….
And the danger here is that the constant trivia can too easily distract us from decisions that have deadly serious consequences. Like Huxley’s Alphas and Betas, we can be lulled into thinking that the ephemeral is all there is….
It’s not as if the immigration ban and a seat on the high court aren’t important — they really are. But at the same time, the public is less focused on Trump’s decision, made with no theatrical flourish, to give Steve Bannon, his liaison to the world of white nationalists, a permanent seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee — rather than allotting it to, say, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
There’s not so much discussion about Trump’s prompt withdrawal from the Asian trade pact, which a lot of Democrats applauded but which has grave implications for our economic power in the region. Likewise on Trump’s proposed tariffs on exports, which could lead us quickly into an all-out trade war.
There’s not much focus on what’s happening now in the Middle East, where Israel, emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric, is about to vastly accelerate settlements in the occupied territories. The public isn’t buzzing about the imminent dismantling of the EPA….
Schneider: Media keep falling for Trump’s mind control tricks
Christian Schneider , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Published Jan. 27, 2017
….But in Trump’s version, it is he who is controlling other peoples’ brains — most specifically, he is directing the hive mind of the American media, bamboozling them into covering superfluous nonsense while his actual policies evade proper scrutiny.
His detractors often chalk up Trump’s erratic behavior to lack of impulse control and a shortage of maturity. And sure, it is hard to deny Trump exhibits those traits — there are likely plenty of 1980s comedy writers who are shocked to find their rejected “Kid President” scripts have become a documentary….
But when journalists wail about Trump’s wild misstatements, they are getting the “story” but missing the “news.” Certainly, Trump’s mistaken belief that between 3 million and 5 million people voted illegally is worth covering, as it indicates the president might be living in a world of delusion — but it very well could be a smokescreen to obscure other actions that actually matter far more….