Fiction, Reality, and Insanity

Modern politics seems like lunatic fiction.

Once upon a time, a man named Napoleon Bonaparte conquered most of Europe and large chunks of the Middle East as far down as Egypt.  He was such a successful conqueror that he had to be dethroned, not once, but twice.

Napoleon died in 1821, but until that very moment, he knew exactly who he was - Napoleon.  Everyone else knew it too.

Today, there are people who believe that they are Napoleon.  These people are generally found in comedy sketches but occasionally in the real world also.  Most of the time, they wind up in the insane asylum unless they can be talked out of this belief.

They are, in fact, not Napoleon at all, which by definition should be painfully obvious to anyone in command of their senses.  It's generally believed that people who suffer from such monumental delusions should be locked up for their own good.

In like fashion, the American voting public are running a serious risk of believing that things are real which are not.  Whenever you do that, you make the even more dangerous error of disbelieving what is actually true, and reacting incorrectly due to the weight of your delusions.

Life Imitating Fiction Imitating Life

Consider the fare coming out of Hollywood these days.  Hardly an action movie goes by in which thousands of innocent civilians are brutally killed.  Gone are the days when Superman fought bank robbers wielding tommyguns or managed to destroy a nuclear missile headed our way without innocent bystanders suffering so much as a broken fingernail!

No, in modern action movies, even the battles won by the good guys result in mass casualties.  How many citizens of Metropolis were crushed, incinerated, or defenestrated during Superman's battle with Zog?  The Avengers accidentally killed so many innocents that even in the world of the movie itself, the international community was aghast.

Yet in the real world, people lined up to spend $15 to watch the slaughter of the masses.  How is this different from people paying to enter the Roman Colosseum to watch Christians eaten by lions?

Well, in one very significant way: it's all fake.  Nobody really died in the filming of any of these movies save the occasional unlucky stuntman.  All the mayhem is faked either by computers or by special effects and we all know it.

The trouble is, to a modern citizen, what's the difference between a movie showing mass casualties and a news report depicting the same?  Hollywood, of course, imitates reality plus a bit of imagination, and in turn, evildoers the world around get ideas from watching movies.

The 1998 terrorism movie The Siege contained a very striking and deeply disturbing scene in which terrorists bomb a New York theatre.  Nearly two decades later, I can still recall a beautiful girl descending the grand staircase of the theater shortly after the blast, wrapped in a gorgeous evening gown and missing an arm whose stump was spurting blood.

I know perfectly well that it was all done with special effects - maybe the actress really was medically missing an arm, maybe it was edited out with a computer, maybe it was some other camera trickery of some kind.  The blood, of course, was ketchup or whatever.  At the end of the shooting day, the girl washed off the fake blood, changed into jeans, and went home to dinner with her family to rest up for her next gig.

Yet the scene was so realistically done, I couldn't help but immediately think of it during the news coverage of the Bataclan terrorist assaults in Paris.  There was a theater filled with beautiful people out for a good time, suddenly being blown up or blown away.  As in the movie, the streets were full of badly injured people stumbling around in a state of shock and panic.

Again, we all know, on some level, that one is fake and the other is real.  If one lives in Paris it would seem all the more real.

But most people don't live in Paris - or Israel, or London, or New York, or work in the Pentagon, or attend the Boston Marathon.  For the overwhelming majority of people, terrorism has exactly as much objective reality as the latest Hollywood blockbuster and no more.  Terrorism is something to be watched from the safety of your TV set, not something that is "real" to you unless you're extraordinarily unlucky.

In what way is this different from our elections?  Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood star but he was also a highly effective President.  Donald Trump may turn out to be a good President too, but right now he is first and foremost a reality star, and, as many have noted, the media are covering him as if he were an actor in the title role of Donald Trump for President: The Movie.

This makes the entire campaign seem to have nothing to do with the future of our country.  Although achieving the Presidency is the end goal of the process, most of the commentariat act as if the realities of the Presidency have nothing to do with the show.

Reality Bites Back

At the end of the day, the Presidency is real no matter hard we pretend otherwise.  Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will have their finger on the very real button that launches very real nuclear missiles to blast very real people into their component atoms.  Less terminally, either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump will hold the pen which signs or vetoes tax hikes, tax cuts, troop deployments, draft orders... need we go on?

Actually, it would have made more sense for voters to treat an election as entertainment in our Founders' day, because back then the Federal government was a tiny fraction of its size today.  For nearly everybody in the nation, whatever the Great White Father in Washington did would make no visible difference in their lives.

Today that's not so.  There is nothing so trivial that it cannot be regulated by Federal bureaucrats, nor any habits sufficiently widespread or longstanding that they cannot be instantly outlawed by a rogue judge.  Elections really do matter.  Once upon a time, the media felt it was their duty not only to remind us of that but to give us information in line with the seriousness of the issues at hand.

Now, it's all just entertainment.  Yet there's a risk to ignoring politics as one audience at the Colosseum discovered the hard way:

One day when there was a shortage of condemned criminals, the Emperor Caligula commanded that a whole section of the crowd be seized and thrown to the wild beasts instead.

Talk about the Emperor having a phone and having a pen!  You may not care about politics, as the old saying goes, but politics cares about you.

Of course our modern Emperor is far too sophisticated to throw voters to actual lions; he merely throws their wives and daughters into the hands of sexual predators in drag.

Maybe the only way America and the rest of the West can return to the reality of understanding what is real and what is not is if the real reaches through our television screen and grabs us by the throat.  Perhaps it will be in the form of a nuclear missile from North Korea that kills 90% of Americans with an EMP blast that knocks us back to the technology level of 1800, or a nuclear bomb that takes out Los Angeles.  It might be any number of other things of both human and natural origin, all which, like 9-11, seem like the stuff of the movies until they suddenly become real.

Until then, we can sing along with the massed chorus of media: "Boom, boom, ain't it great to be crazy!"

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Petrarch, you write: "Once upon a time, the media felt it was their duty not only to remind us of that but to give us information in line with the seriousness of the issues at hand."

The seemingly implicit point here is that the media is not doing it's job to inform people, and provide them meaningful information with which to make important political decisions.

Yet, by dint of this and other articles, you (Scragged) yourself, are completely complicit, if not an active participant in the failure of the media you so eloquently describe above.

To any rational, reasonable person, it's obvious that Trump is completely unqualified to be President of the United states. Even lfon, one of Scragged's strongest commenters, and whom I have had vehement disagreements with, and I, are in agreement on this. I'd even go so far as to say, by comparison, Sarah Palin is EMINENTLY qualified for the office.

Yet, I can but guess that out of some sense of tribalism, you (and others in the conservative media) refuse to explicitly enumerate and condemn Trump's complete lack qualification, temperament, and even intelligence to hold the office. Further, given how critical you'd be of a similarly unqualified Democrat nominee, I say this unwillingness to criticize Trump, rises to hypocrisy in the extreme.

I listen to Trump speak, and he speaks at best, a 9th-grade level, and is utterly incapable of expressing or describing any complex idea or position beyond vagaries and one-syllable adjectives. Save his position (at this moment) on trade, his foreign and domestic policy "suggestions" are completely ridiculous, and vary depending on the day and the audience.

In my lifetime, never has one party nominated an individual so completely unfit to be the POTUS, and yet, the strongest criticism you can muster is that "right now, he is first and foremost a reality star"...Even going so far to suggest that Trump "might be a good President"???

On the other hand however, no infantile canard, inanity, absurdity, or hyperbole is too extreme to use when describing our current President.

"Of course our modern Emperor is far too sophisticated to throw voters to actual lions; he merely throws their wives and daughters into the hands of sexual predators in drag."


How do you expect to be taken seriously, let alone have any chance of swaying the opinion of someone opposed to your political POV, when utterances such as the above, frequently appear on these pages?

Look at William Kristol. Now there's a man whose political opinions I abhor. But guess what? After this election, based on the conviction, intellectual honesty and integrity displayed in his opposition to Trump, he has garnered my everlasting respect, and has earned at least a seven-second "eye-roll delay" when he speaks in the future. :)

Sometimes what I read on this site, is like a beacon of light in a darkened and desolate "conservative" landscape; with you yourself frequently the author of such pages.

And other times, well, this site proudly takes its place right at home in the "conservative dystopia".


June 1, 2016 9:53 AM

I agree with a lot of what Tony said. I was going to say it earlier, but figured I'd just hold off since I've already beaten the point to death

But because he already opened the door.... How can Scragged make the following statements:

"Today, there are people who believe that they are Napoleon....They are, in fact, not Napoleon at all...In like fashion, the American voting public are running a serious risk of believing that things are real which are not. Whenever you do that, you make the even more dangerous error of disbelieving what is actually true, and reacting incorrectly due to the weight of your delusions"

...while at the same time supporting a person who has the largest Napoleon complex America has seen in modern times?

Indeed, the (Republican) voting public believes that things are real which are not: Obama is not a Muslim. 9/11 was not an inside job. Obama was not born in Kenya. Trump is not conservative, nor Christian, nor even a Republican.

June 1, 2016 10:05 AM

Agreed lfon.

However, there is no such thing as "beating the point to death", when it comes to citing Trump's utter lack of qualifications to be President...Adolescent ad hominem attacks and name-calling ("the "Grinch"? :::facepalm:::) by others, notwithstanding.

The issue is too important to both the future of the United States and the world, and cannot be overemphasized.

By the way, I completely agreed with your posts on the "Boaty McBoatface and the Rise of Trump" article, and regret that I didn't have time to weigh in...I may still do so yet at some point. :)

June 1, 2016 12:25 PM

I don't particularly care whether Mr. Trump is qualified or not. We face existential threats to our nation, namely, open borders and exploding spending.

Hillary is running as a 3rd Obama term, which would be a disaster.

The Republican establishment became thieves - remember the "bridge to nowhere" - and other techniques for robbing us. Democrats are just as crooked.

I hope Mr. Trump turns out to be a wrecking ball. As he hurls the Clinton scandals through the MSM shield around her, I hope he blasts their establishment, too. He's marginally less likely to hurt the things we like and a bit less likely to promote what we dislike, maybe.

A plague on both their houses.

June 1, 2016 4:26 PM

Nate, Trump is part of the "bridge to nowhere" crowd. Previously, he was on the other side of the table; he's just changing seats at the table.

While he does appear to be a wrecking ball, he's not going to swing in the direction you prefer.

June 1, 2016 4:45 PM

"Open borders"? "Exploding Spending"?

I mean seriously, setting aside the hyperbole, THOSE are your concerns?

Nate, It's obvious your perceptions have been formed and shaped within the conservative "echo chamber".

What about the decimated middle class? The continued disappearance of decent-paying jobs for both high school and college grads? The out-of-control healthcare costs? And I'm not even going to raise the issue of climate change, because despite the scientific facts, I am certain you'd argue that it's actually of no concern a'tall.

"MSM Shield"?

Wow, just wow man. So Benghazi, purported Clinton Foundation "ethics violations", and a freakin' email server have been kept in the public consciousness by whom exactly? I don't watch faux newz, yet I have been inundated with negative HRC coverage for the entire 2016 campaign cycle.

So how is that possible if the "MSM" is "shielding" her?

Sorry, but the "Pox on both their houses" meme is false-equivalency in the extreme.

You express concern over the potential "disaster of a 3rd Obama term", yet "don't particularly care whether Mr. Trump is qualified or not".

Like her or not, HRC is one of the most qualified Presidential candidates in modern history, but the prospect of HER Presidency causes you more concern than the prospect of the most least unqualified and unfit candidate holding the office?

I rest my case.

June 1, 2016 6:07 PM

Let's see, we don't elect Trump because Tony thinks he is unfit. We instead elect a proven liar, a proven person who has demonstrably shown that she has no leadership qualities, a person who has taken money illegally from Cattlegate, Whitewater, trashed Bill's bimbos and calls herself a person who stands up for women's rights? I could go on but Tony will never admit to any of Hillary's shortcomings. Besides, the economy is what both democrats and republicans say their greatest concern. Trump has only shown that he can make money using the crooked system. If anyone knows how to stop it he is the one.

June 5, 2016 1:44 AM

This article criticizing Hillary from USA Today is well taken.

Could it be that the shield wall the MSM put up around her 30 years ago is beginning to leak a little?

June 5, 2016 4:12 PM

Bassboat, the problem with you is that you can't see past partisanship.

All of your "shortcomings" of HRC, are the same ole partisan, right-wing, fox-induced nonsense we've been hearing for the last 30 years. I'm surprised you didn't lead the list with Benghazi.

Whereas, Trump's deficiencies are obvious and manifold to the objective observer.

If the Democrats had nominated a candidate so manifestly unqualified as Trump, you'd be so vociferous in your outrage, we'd never hear the end of it...And rightfully so.

But, because he's on YOUR team, there's no amount of opportunistic flip-flopping on core "beliefs"; no lack of meaningful policy specifics; no number of ridiculous policy proposals; no deficit of intellectual capacity; no level of SUBSTANTIATED fraudulent/unethical business practices; no number of alienated voting constituencies; and no level of bigoted/racist pandering you're unwilling to overlook in support of this man.

"Trump has only shown that he can make money using the crooked system."

Yeah, on THAT we can agree...Trump "University" is clear example of a "crooked system", if there ever was one.

I think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an instance of unintended clarity and honesty during a MTP interview, while refusing to criticize Trump's racist statements in regards to Judge Gonzalo Curiel, summed up the reason why republicans are willing to harm their "brand" and sell their "souls" in support of Trump:

"Republicans just want to win the White House"

I look forward with delicious anticipation to the spectacle of recrimination, infighting and finger-pointing that will erupt in the republican party, when it all comes to naught, Tuesday November 8th, 2016. :)

June 6, 2016 11:29 AM

Ok, I see by the comments section that we've proven the authors point. Trump the Reality star vs Hillary the Reality Denialist, brought to us by Establishment News Networks. Both of these candidates are, well, awful in their own way. I think it's going to come down to that our nation is going to get the president we deserve, not the one we need. Hopefully, after things get so bad, we'll wake up from our apathy & get off our behinds, and make this nation great again.

June 19, 2016 1:50 PM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...