It would be wrong to assume that the rise of Donald Trump is the result solely of technological and media changes, however. Rather, we need to acknowledge an often-ignored facet of our political life: our willing participation in our deception.
Such willing participation lies at the heart of what I will call the “fantasy” industry, for example. After all, you may be lousy at sports but great at fantasy football. You may be incapable of striking a golf ball anywhere near the direction you intend it to go but can be a god at Tiger Woods Golf. And, of course, Hollywood teaches us that the nerdy boy always gets the girl.
Strikingly, more and more of us are spending more and more time in these virtual worlds. American football ALONE sustains a fantasy market that generates more than $70 billion a year. Likewise, it has been said that porn created the internet – that it was the appeal of privacy (whatever that means today) that drove people online, and that drove the technologies like streaming video that have become the center of internet life today. And, of course, people regularly become absorbed in playing multiuser games with other people all scattered around the world, all while yet other people follow the intimate details of their favorite stars’ lives to their heart’s content. When reality bites, fantasy satisfies.
As the American comedian and political satirist Stephen Colbert so brilliantly put it many years ago, we live in the age of truthiness. Things are true because I – you – believe them to be true. Evidence, truth, facts – these are mere tools of the narrative I want to spin about my life and ideas. It is the politics of wishful thinking: of hoping that believing that something will be true will somehow make it be true.
Consider, for example, conspiracy theories like birtherism, or bin Laden deathism or any other conspiracy you can name. In the new world order, they actually make an odd kind of sense. If nothing is real, well nothing is real. And, of course, if nothing is real, neither is any “evidence” that one might produce to back up one’s point of view. So, President Obama’s birth certificate? Faked. Osama bin Laden’s death? Faked – after all, they didn’t show us the body. Then again, the body could have been faked, too … so. The same skeptical logic holds true on issues like global climate change: for unbelievers, climate change is clearly just a con pulled by 95% of the world’s climate scientists in order to get government grants.
So whether it is because we are being actively deceived in an overly complex mediaverse, or are willing participants in systems of deception that we enjoy more than the so-called real world (or some combination of both), we have created a world in which it is increasingly impossible to know what is real and what is fake; in which it is hard to distinguish that which is to be respected and trusted from that which is to be challenged and rejected. Media, and technology, and personal choices have combined to build a world in which it is as easy to make up our preferred truths as it is to demonstrate actual ones. Put another way, if Daniel Patrick Moynihan was right, and “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” the problem with the world we’ve built today is that it’s become increasingly difficult to figure out what counts as a fact in the first place.
Donald Trump’s success is, thus, in part grounded on our collective unwillingness to accept facts that disagree with our political preferences as facts at all.
Hey, I'm a big fan of your blog and I had a question. I've been a Boondocks fan for a long time but I've only watched the show until recently. I just got "A Right to be Hostile" book and I've noticed that the characters and tone are pretty different from the TV show. I was just wondering how do you feel about the comic strip in relation to the show?
Hi, thanks. Most of the people I know only know the animated series, few have read the comic strip although I recommend everybody really should read it (one of the reason why I try and post as much of it as I can).
I absolutely love the show but as I have said before I love the comic strips even more, mainly because the incarnation of Huey Freeman in the animated show differ from the one in the comic strips, something that become more and more relevant as the seasons progress. The Huey Freeman of comic strip is closer to the Huey Freeman of season one, outspoken, acerbic incisive a terrific social and political satirist, a true revolutionary. My favorite Huey Freeman quotes come from the comics and not the show.
Aaron McGruder made Huey Freeman so political and ruthless in his critics that the comic strip ended up being censured / banned by some publications. In the animated show Huey is just as bright as his comic strip counterpart but a lot less critical his dialogues being relegated to a single voice over at the end of the episode or some commentary regarding the antics of Riley or Robert Freeman. And by season 3 he is “Retired”. The show is maybe funnier than the comic strip but the comic strip really made you stop and think, and be like “Oh shit!!!! I can’t believe he got away with saying this!!!”
Also the comic strip contain Michael Caesar, (Huey Freeman’s best friend) which I love as much as I do Riley and I think that adding him to the show would have made for a terrific dynamic as he is almost equal part Huey equal part Riley. The comic strips also have a lot less Uncle Ruckus which I welcome.
“Rules: In a text post, list ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard — they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you. Tag [ten] friends, including me, so I’ll see your list. Make sure you let your friends know you’ve tagged them.”
It’s impossible to tell just how influential HP has been to my generation. I haven’t really been ~in HP fandom~ since I was about 16, but those books were a huge part of my childhood and early teens. I reread the series continuously as each new one was published, and HP was my first online fandom so it eventually set me onto my current career path. As an adult I’ve also come to realise that JKR is a fantastic role model in terms of how she behaves as a public figure, and her political/social awareness.
The Lymond Chronicles
If you’ve been following me on Tumblr for long, you’ll probably have seen me reblog stuff about these books. They’re a six-volume series of dense and multi-layered historical novels about a 16th century Scottish nobleman, written in an incredibly well-informed, witty and sensitive style by a woman who I wish received more recognition from people outside her cult fanbase. Lymond is very much a wish-fulfillment character in that he’s prodigiously talented, exciting, charming and emotionally tormented, but this is complemented by the books’ smart, intricate plotting and a cast of diverse and well-developed supporting characters. Honestly, I could go on about these books all day. THEY ARE SO GOOD.
Onions in the Stew
Not sure how I latched onto this book as a kid, but I must have reread it a million times. It’s the memoir of a woman bringing up her two teenage daughters in the 1940s and ‘50s on a small, rainy island near Seattle. I guess I must have identified with it somehow as a child, partly due to the "make do and mend” attitude of being raised by slightly eccentric but very sensible parents without a great deal of money. (I think at the point when I first read Onions in the Stew, it was back when we were still doing things like washing all our laundry in the bath, so possibly I sympathized with those 1940s kids gathering driftwood to heat the house etc.) Whatever my personal reasons were for loving Onions in the Stew as a child, it’s a very engaging and relatable book, meandering around from humorous memoir to instruction manual to oral history of rural life in Washington in the '40s and '50s.
Being a political satirist is hard because you have to try and find a way to make human rights abuses and jailing people who speak out against sex abuse funny and also you are painfully aware that these are issues your country encourages. It’s like a challenge. The government sees how terrible it can get and I try and see if I can still laugh instead of spiraling down into alcoholism to drown my sorrows…
George Cruikshank. Twelve sketches illustrative of Sir Walter Scott’s Demonology and witchcraft London : for the artist by J. Robins and co., 1830.
George Cruikshank (1792-1878) was a British caricaturist and illustrator. He began his career as a political satirist, then went on to illustrate books, most notably Charles Dickens' Sketches by “Boz" and Oliver Twist.
He may be a beloved political commentator, a renowned satirist and a hugely influential voice for positive social change in both the U.S and Internationally..
But he’ll always be Professor Ian Duncan to me.