In my first year as a Communications/Political Science student at York University, our Mass Communications professor told us the story of Archie Bunker, one of the characters in the TV sitcom “All in the Family”. Billed as adult social satire, All in the Family featured a central character, Archie, played well by Carroll O’Connor. Archie’s character was created, our professor explained, as that highly politically incorrect voice that was saying all the wrong things in a “lovably unintentional” diatribe interlaced with profound racism, bigotry, homophobia and misogyny, amongst other things. “Famous for his gruff, bigoted persona—blacks, Hispanics, ‘Commies’, gays, hippies, Jews, Catholics, ‘women’s libbers’, and Polish-Americans, frequent targets of his barbs, he was portrayed as hardworking, a loving father and husband, as well as a basically decent man whose views are merely a product of the era and working-class environment in which he has been raised.
“All in the Family is either going to be instant smash or instant disaster. Unfortunately for Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear…the latter is more likely to occur. The majority of television viewers will find this show tasteless, crude, and very unfunny,” said a review in the Hollywood Reporter at the time. But it actually became a smash hit that lasted a few seasons and even had a spin-off created with Archie Bunker as the main character. The problem in creating such a character, creator Norman Lear was shocked to find out as the series (and the ratings) unexpectedly shot up, was that everything that Archie was saying was gaining enormous approval and popularity with audiences all over the country. As wrong (and illogical, really) as the creators felt his ideas were, Archie was basically voicing all the things the American population really felt and believed in, but couldn’t say out loud— they were dismayed to discover.
Fast forward a few decades and Donald Trump can easily be compared to Archie Bunker, but on much (MUCH) larger scale, and the effect of his words (and even more scary, his actions) are exponentially more dangerous than any TV character could have possibly been in the ‘70s, not only to the country but to the rest of the world– given the leadership role the United States plays in the global political and socio-economic arenas.
Donald Trump is a reality TV star and real estate tycoon who’s accountable to no one. He’s unapologetic, cocky, arrogant, racist, misogynistic and dangerously brash. He always gets his way and will trample and smash anyone who tries to stop him. Trump’s entertainment value is comparable to no one’s: he is incredibly fun to watch. Just like the train-wreck that was Howard Stern a few years ago, when the novelty of his reckless and bewildering words and behaviour were at its peak (something he largely capitalized on and was hardly ever seen in media types back then), so has Donald Trump made audiences be glued to the television by speaking his mind with a total and complete disregard of the consequences. Audiences love that, yes, but in their reality TV stars.
But there is (and there should be) a big difference and a profound distinction between entertainment and real life politics. Social media, with its ability to report events in real time as they unfold, is heavily blurring the two; something the general public may not necessarily be able to differentiate. “This is not political entertainment: it’s real life politics,” says Vox’s Editor-In-Chief Ezra Klein. When the story of Trump calling on the woman who called Ted Cruz a “pussy” at one of his rallies broke, says Klein, “…the media, we jumped all over it. It’s traffic, it’s clicks, it’s pace, it’s fun, it’s funny, it’s interesting. What was so unnerving about this wasn’t that Trump used a vulgar word; it was the demagog’s instinct for finding the angriest voice in the mob and amplifying it.” And this is what he does: he amplifies the loudest and angriest voices and he raises them and converts them into the lowest common denominator, giving them validation in the process– as ridiculous, illogical and downright absurd as they may be. And he does this all for his own personal gain, at the risk of what terrible consequences this may bring in the future. Worst yet, he may also be becoming a strong influence on a young generation who largely get their daily political and social issues intake from social media, and are now voicing their thoughts and ideas (as Tomi Lahren did in her “Beyonce” Blaze piece a few days ago), with little regard for consequence, and in this way deepening the already fragile division in society along the lines of race, sexuality and gender.
A lot of media outlets are beginning to realize that this will possibly be the outcome come November: Donald J. Trump WILL become the next American President. “If Trump’s going to lose the general election, he’s going to lose because a majority of normal, sane people just can’t bring themselves to vote for him, and will vote for Clinton to keep him out of the Oval Office,” according to Fusion Magazine. “There’s an even bigger problem with the theory that normal and sane people will stop Trump from being elected: Republicans. Certainly most Democrats will vote for Clinton. But to stop an insurgent Trump, she’s going to want Republicans, too. And the fact is that Republicans are much more likely to hold their nose and vote for Trump than they are to vote for Clinton.”
Yet others are urgently starting a call-to-action to the American people to reconsider their voting strategy, knowing full well that Trump’s campaign is gaining momentum and the terrifying idea of what a Trump administration would mean for the entire country is slowly but surely becoming a very scary reality. “By supporting Trump do you think things will go back to the way they were? Back when gay people had to hide in fear, back when people of any other color than white had to worry about getting lynched, back when it was okay to openly hate? Do you think empowered women will suddenly quit their jobs and go back to the kitchen?” asks The Citizen’s Journalist Jeremy Nix on a Huffington Post article. “Because electing Trump won’t make any of that come true. We’re past that as a nation, or at least I thought we were. If you’re not a racist, bigoted, misogynistic jerk then voting for Trump simply because you don’t like Democrats is wrong.”
It’s not what a vote for Donald Trump says about Donald Trump: the world knows what he’s about and what can be expected of him. It’s what it says about the American people, and how handing him the presidency comes with the affirmation that his values, ideas and appalling behaviour are their own. Their vote is saying, “Here, we’re with you and we support what you say and what you do 100%.” The problem is, if past behaviour is any indication of what’s to come, his abhorrent views and his erratic behaviour will be impossible to control, and the consequences of his actions will be on those who elected him in the first place. Humanity’s memory is very short and we as people don’t seem to learn from the mistakes of the past. Sadly, this may be yet another example of this. I’m going to go further and state that this is exactly where we’re going. I cringe to think of what the future holds under a Trump administration, but see the inevitability of it, while watching it all unfold from our too-close-for-comfort Canadian eyes.
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