Outrage Fatigue Is the Strategy
The Democrats say the Republicans no longer have a platform. But if there’s one thing the Trump administration and the Trump family consistently excel at it’s outrage fatigue. Outrage is their strategy and their 2020 platform. Our society has a famously short attention span but the news cycle has shortened and accelerated even more.
Remember that famous episode of I Love Lucy? With the chocolates speeding up on the assembly line?
2020 is like that. But instead of bite-sized chocolates, it’s crises. We just can’t keep up.
Every talk show, every pundit panel and all of print media could’ve spent Tuesday night through Friday morning deconstructing the debate — the flagrant untruths, the old-school bullying, the boorish disregard for parliamentary procedure and basic turn-taking, and the unconscionable mocking of Biden’s deceased son only to move on his son recovering from addiction.
This was no town hall between two great orators.
As one commenter stammered afterward, “that was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.”
But the crises come at us too fast to process each one. Hurtling through 2020 allows precious little time to stop and contemplate each episode in the chaotic spectacle of disaster entertainment — half-schadenfreude, part echo chamber— all-American harbinger of our own implosion.
Empires always fail.
Like throwing a firecracker out a car window you forgot to roll down first, I don’t know if we’re the firecracker, the car or the Darwin Award nominee. But one thing’s for sure — we’re all losing.
In the movie Hereafter, Cécile de France’s character almost dies in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Suddenly we are underwater with her. Cars and trees and people and tables whoosh around her as the current hurtles every tangled thing farther inland. As she is pulled with the raging waters she rests against a downed telephone pole only to have a wayward floating car slam into her and knock her unconscious.
That’s what 2020 feels like. We’ve been swirling underwater while kitchen sinks and cars and awnings and debris hurtle around us. We are hypervigilant. We are constantly dodging random chaos because at any moment we could get knocked out by a bistro table or a cow or a lamppost. Any ridiculous absurdity is possible. And the long-distance sprint keeps us perpetually distracted and exhausted.
It’s like running through the airport when you find out your departure changed to another terminal. An hour earlier. To another airline altogether. Nothing makes sense but there’s no time to complain before we’re confronted with the next crisis.
Because the Trumps can cram more clowns into one single clown car than anyone. Believe me. You’ve never seen so many clowns in a clown car.
In the same week that Eric accidentally came out, or something, Donald’s tax returns were finally released, revealing both that the “billionaire” has had no clothes on and that he had paid less in taxes in ten years than many Americans do every month.
Then the end-of-the-week slip-in we’ve come to count on. But this time it was the bombshell we simultaneously knew was inevitable but somehow also weren’t expecting to ever become public knowledge.
The President and the First Lady both tested positive for Covid. The internet immediately surged with speculation.
He’s faking it only to come back out days from now, easily cured of the no-big-deal flu the libtards have been exaggerating just to tank the economy.
Or, he’s downplaying it, jeopardizing the safety of everyone around him, just so he doesn’t have to fall on his sword.
Within days we are no longer talking about the President of the United States committing decades of tax fraud, unbolting mailboxes, voter suppression, police brutality, Breonna Taylor’s killers going unpunished or the forest fires raging up and down the West Coast.
“Yesterday, after an 18-month investigation, the NYT revealed the President of the United States committed hundreds of millions of dollars of tax fraud- possibly one of the biggest scandals in the history of the Presidency — and 24 hours later we’re no longer talking about it.” — Scott Gilmore
The strategy is overwhelm. If we’re outraged about everything we can’t be effective about anything. He’s crop-dusting us with trauma every televised opportunity he can. And when he’s not on camera he’s shitstigating on Twitter.
After six months of downplaying the coronavirus, ridiculing anyone who took the contagion seriously and deliberately sowing disinformation and discord, he brought a deadly disease into an enclosed space and yelled for almost two hours.
If he is actually infected, he knew he could infect his opponent and everyone else on the production crew. But the impunity is the point. “I’m-above-the-rules” reinforces his insatiable need for superiority.
Exploiting the power differential of an abusive parent or partner and the relentless entitlement of a spoiled child, he is wearing us down.
Acquiescence by exhaustion is not a noble campaign strategy. It kicks integrity out of the moving vehicle, it lacks political savvy or import. But we are mere mortals, afraid of losing our jobs, many have already lost their jobs, 44 million Americans do not have health insurance, 38 million more have inadequate insurance¹ — in a country where the single greatest cause of personal bankruptcy is an unforeseen medical crisis.
The strategy is to use each crisis to distract us from the last. Let’s hope this flaming carousel of horrors isn’t working.