As Trump melds TV-watching with Tweeting, in his warped flow of media-addled consciousness, he is the perfect example how our TV-addicted culture has now morphed into the tech-addicted culture of alt-“facts.”
Mental health experts have claimed the President is ‘paranoid and delusional’ and say it’s their ‘ethical responsibility’ to warn the American public. If he’s crazy, what drove him nuts? I think several things may have: money, nasty racist parents, his warped genetic template… but in my opinion TV finished his sanity off and his tech addiction was the coup de grâce.
In Trump’s case the madness induced by too much TV-watching was exacerbated by too much exposure on TV as a TV star. Delusion was thus fed by ego. Alt-reality vanquished actual reality.
TV and today’s tech addictions are warping our view of reality. I’m not alone in this view. Andrew Bacevich is a prescient observer of contemporary culture. For instance, before the 2016 election he noted that “in contemporary America, celebrity confers authority” and asked, “How else to explain the host of a ‘reality’ TV show instantly qualifying as a serious contender for high office?” Writing these lines in the context of the fraught election primaries, Bacevich noted that Donald Trump’s genius in crashing the election cycle was an event linked to general social decline.
Bacevich asked his readers to consider the skill with which Trump played the media, especially celebrity journalists who themselves specialize in smirking cynicism. Rather than pretending to take them seriously, Trump “unmasked their preening narcissism, which mirrors his own.” (“Don’t Cry for Me, America“)
TV and tech has also driven many other Americans mad. Literally.
A New York Times story “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” from October 22, 2011, revealed something remarkable. It turns out that some of the giants within the tech corporate world foist one kind of tech-mediated reality onto other people’s children while demanding something better for their own children.
The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard. But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.
Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix….
“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”
Mr. Eagle knows a bit about technology. He holds a computer science degree from Dartmouth and works in executive communications at Google…. But he says his daughter, a fifth grader, “doesn’t know how to use Google,” and his son is just learning. (Starting in eighth grade, the school endorses the limited use of gadgets.)
The article reports that three-quarters of the students at this no-tech-for-young-kids school have parents with a top high-tech connection. According to Eagle, technology has a time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.” The article notes that while other schools in the region brag about their “wired classrooms,” the Waldorf school embraces a simple, retro look—“blackboards with colorful chalk, bookshelves with encyclopedias, wooden desks filled with workbooks and No. 2 pencils.”
It seems a bit ironic, to say the least, that some of the tech elite making billions off the rest of our children’s early childhood tech addictions choose not to do to their own children what is so wildly profitable for their companies to do to other people’s children.
Back to tech-addicted Trump.
Trump is what happens when media and politics become forms of entertainment. Trump is the product of TV and the Internet. He is the reward for our culture’s addictions to TV and now to tech devices. We were warned. As our world begins to look more and more like Orwell’s 1984, Neil’s Postman’s essential guide — Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985)-– to the modern media is more relevant than ever.
Trump’s rise to power would not have surprised Postman. As the cover copy of the book notes, Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse “has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century.” Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones—it has taken on even greater significance.
For Trump — a reality TV star who parlayed his bullying persona into a winning political brand — television is the guiding force of his day. The same can be said for his voters– the white evangelicals who helped build media empires by sending TV conman preachers money. Explaining his decision to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base, Trump even cited, publicly and privately, the gruesome images of dead and dying Syrian children poisoned with nerve agent. Trump (like many TV-addicted Americans) turns on the television almost as soon as he wakes, then checks in periodically throughout the day in the small dining room off the Oval Office, and continues late into the evening when he’s back in his private residence. “Once he goes upstairs, there’s no managing him,” said one adviser.
Today technology addiction is a national problem as Postman predicted it would be. Trump is not alone. He may be crazy but his core voters are crazy too. TV drove them mad. Tech just completed the job of destroying their minds.
According to a 2012 study, 66 percent of people would feel panicked without their phones. Research from Swansea and Milan Universities also found that heavy Internet users suffered from withdrawal similar to those experienced by drug users when they went offline, TIME reported.
Research shows the technology we process each day is actually rewiring our brains, between the multitasking and the addiction we feel when we’re without it. “We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren’t necessarily evolved to do,” Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, told the New York Times in 2010. “We know already there are consequences.”
A TV-tech-maddened public has elected one of their own: a TV star and addict with a broken brain and the attention span of a demented jellyfish.
As Niel Postman put it: ” When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”
Please WATCH my 6 minute video commentary on how Trump was driven mad by too much tech and TV…
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Frank, this is so true! My parents. along with about 95% of the people in my Louisiana town that voted for trump, are addicted to internet media and reality shows. They seem to have lost interest in anything intellectual or spiritual. My father started watching FOX news 24 hrs a day and did so for a few months after the election. It changed him for the worse. When I asked them “Why FOX?”, they(my parents) told me it is because they tell the truth. I replied “Just because something or someone tells you they have the truth doesn’t mean it IS the truth.”
The problem is so many of them are followers and don’t think to question. They really do see reality-show stars and celebrities as being authorities. They also tend to follow whatever is popular with the facebook crowd. Since most of the so-called “Godly” men & women in town are trump supporters, they reasoned that voting for him was the right thing to do. I’ve managed not to fall for that because I have never been afraid to ask questions or take what is said from a preacher or other authority figure as necessarily being the truth.
I saw Trump’s narcissism early-on for what it was. I had tried to warn family & friends way before the election but they shut me out & acted like I did not know anything. They are enamored with celebrity charm & charisma and they mistake it for authority and being qualified. They are brainwashed & it really is sad.
You’re a few years younger than I am, so I understand all this. We do not have a tv service in our house. Usually each night, we watch a documentary or an old film online. I subscribe to the e-editions of NYT and The Guardian and WP and I check these every day. The rest of the time, we talk. We read–actual physical books (I’m reading one of yours now, in fact). We talk about what we’re reading. We go for walks. We do THINGS–we don’t own a smart phone. This doesn’t make us better than anyone else, but it puts us in the position of observation. Like when we watched a family in a restaurant where the father never said a single word to his wife and his daughter because he was staring at a phone. We see children everywhere that are so ill-behaved as to be barely civilized, offspring of parents who can think only of how to get away from them as much as possible because real people, real children are so much harder to cope with then a video you can turn off whenever you like. Pregnancy–not parenthood–is the big deal today. Women like to be pregnant–to wear formfitting tops to exhibit their pregnancies, but when the children are born, all you hear about is how tiresome and boring the whole thing is. (These women get to be the *Stars* of the universe while they’re pregnant, but when the baby is out, the baby becomes the *star* and their status declines.) As to Trump–shallowness begets shallowness.
I haven’t spend real time outside the US for some time now, and I’d love to hear your assessment of European society. Are they as tech-obsessed as the US? Do they still sit on doorsteps at night and visit with one another? Do they still gather in the pub and sing together?
And yet the man has those who support him unquestioningly, for whom, if he’s a venal schmuck, anyone to their left just hast to be orders of magnitude worse, ’cause… reasons…
Those reasons don’t have to make sense, they just have to line up with what “pastor” or any of their favorite pundits tell them is the truth… all the while touting that they “think for themselves.”
Dear Mr. Schaeffer… I have no idea whether you read the responses on your Patheos thing… if you do, I’m certain you’ve had some forehead-slapping times…
Nevertheless, I stated a year or so ago that you and I seem to have had some interesting parallels… granted, my Pop was a liberal Jewish attorney in Hollywood and yours was a “founding father” of the Dominionist movement… but let’s fast-forward to the early to mid 80’s… I was a broadcaster and production manager for a “Jesus Rock” station in El Paso, TX, and then for the first interracial gospel station in Birmingham, AL history… I read your late fathers writings, and heard your speeches, and those of your father’s American Evangelical Protestant “Moral Majority” associates…
About the same time as you had your “waitadamnminnit” epiphany, I was exiting from a marriage to the woman who had borne my now almost 40-something daughters, her reasons not different from mine, but from different perspectives… I can only speak for myself, but I was an, at the time undiagnosed, man on the autistic spectrum, albeit the PDD-NOS, highest functioning end, and also an undiagnosed major depressive… And, at that time, I also was having my “waitadamnminnit” moment, and actually dared to ask the lady if there was any way she thought she could ever consider the barest possibility that she might have the whole package of “stuff” wrong… Tne vehemence of the “NO!!!!” I received said volumes. Here we are, almost 3 decades hence, and she is much the same… we are cordial, but not very demonstrative, apart from sharing 2 daughters and 5 grandkids…
But it seems that you and I seemed to have come to many of the same conclusions at the same time, and I’d just like to offer you my friendship as a rather kindred soul with a bit of the same, in the large, history. I’m a veteran of the Vietnam-era Cold War, a former SGT/E-5, and, at the last 3 years of my 8, crew chief of a Nike Hercules fire-control crew in Germany… but, like you, whereas your noble son is a Marine, I’m the proud father-in-law of a noble Army warrior, during Gulf-War, Jr., and still, in the Reserve now, a proud SGT on an honor guard, laying our fellow vets to rest with honor. And my stepson is a vet of pretty violent service in Afghanistan, and now as a civilian, still gets the aggressions out, in costume with a group of Amtgard folks, beating each other up with foam weapons…
Nevertheless, it seems that there are some slight parallels, and I just wanted to post to you, whether or not it’s read.
Just to say that you’ve an old fart out here in New Mexico (just turned 60 on the anniversary of the Chicago Massacre, so you’ve not too many on me) has followed your journey, and shares the vibe.
Thank you, good sir, and, yes, I’ve purchased 2 of your books in ebook format from Amazon, and I’m a supporter in that, as well.
First time I watched Trump I thought he was mentally unstable. That was a few years back now, when he was over here in Scotland trying to bully his golf course through. I was one who protested and petitioned against him… never EVER thought the USA would vote for him, but I have friend who did just that. I’ve tried talking to them, keeping it calm and letting them talk… it’s seriously depressing. They really do believe in him and worse… they really are hoping for a better future based on his clearly (to some of us) insanity.
What really freaks me out the most is the fact I’ve seen someone like Trump before. I’m Rhodesia, born in what is now called Zimbabwe. Forced to move on twice (yep I’m an immigrant and almost a refugee at one stage) and watching Trump… his body language and Rhetoric… he’s so much like Robert Mugabe.
And as someone who lived in Africa and always found the USA meddling-for-good military intervention scary… having someone like Trump-Mugabe in a position of maximum power scares me a LOT.