America’s Achilles Heel
In my lifetime, there have been two utterly massive news stories. News stories that riveted the public, obsessed the media, and that had endings that very few people expected. These stories took on lives of their own. They became bigger than anyone imagined. They were covered nonstop. These were stories that Americans watched longer and with more intensity than wars and natural disasters combined. Race came into the stories. Gender came into the stories. Everyone was watching. And then there was a twist almost no one expected.
The two stories had something else in common: A celebrity.
By the time OJ simpson was arrested after the infamous ride in the White Ford Bronco, it was totally impossible to imagine he’d be found not guilty.
By the time Trump reached election day, he had broken every rule of politics. He committed more campaign-ending gaffes in a week than most losing presidential campaigns during an entire run.
Both men had a fame that completely cut across all American demographics.
What if we’re overanalyzing the election results? What if the main storyline of this whole circus is that celebrity is America’s longest running addiction. It’s the a drug we can’t kick — and one with a set of effects we can’t control?
In a perfect metaphor for our obsession, Donald Trump’s Hollywood Star is now getting round the clock protection.
When we’re under the influence of celebrity, we can do almost anything. We can free a person you couldn’t imagine free. We can elect a person you’d never imagine getting elected. We can all look at the same things at the same time and see entirely different things. Performance becomes more important than reality. One by one, we can begin to lose faith in our institutions: the courts, the law, the media, juries of our peers, facts, the truth. Nothing is safe when celebrity is involved. Everything is expendable. The show must go on.
We’ll continue to watch, debate, and fight about what happened even after the show has concluded. Because it’s never been about the plot. It’s about the stars.
And Donald Trump knows that better than anyone. That’s why he always wanted to get OJ on The Apprentice. He knew it would have sent both their celebrities to the edge of the universe. But in the end, he couldn’t pull it off. So he settled for being president.