When politics become entertainment, where does that leave our morality?
Imagine yourself adrift in a sea of pasty, screaming faces.
A sweaty WWE guy is shouting inflammatory rhetoric as the crowd cheers wildly at his every word. One guy body slams another guy. As the aggressor is dragged off by security, the crowd jeers, "LET HIM GO! LET HIM GO!" Where are you?
If you said, "a WWE show, obviously," sorry, you're wrong. The correct answer is a Donald Trump rally.
To be clear, Donald Trump is the WWE guy, one of his supporters really did body slam a BBC cameraman, and the crazed crowd really did love it.
Trump supporter shoves BBC cameraman - BBC News www.youtube.com
WWE storylines revolve around faces (heroes) and heels (villains), all of whom are involved in an interweaving character drama that blurs the line between fiction and reality. Wrestlers take on larger-than-life personas who deal with romance, friendship, rivalry, personal growth, honor, and even death onstage, usually through combat. WWE storylines, and the spectacles of violence involved, offer catharsis to viewers. In the real world, most problems can't be solved so simply.
As a result, viewers all over the world delight in watching honed athletes bring these fictional scenarios to life. A great WWE performance allows you to cheer for violent solutions to relatable problems, with the caveat of knowing that the violence isn't "real" and that while the wrestlers might sustain injuries, they're professionals performing consensually. In other words, the blood-thirst displayed by a WWE crowd makes perfect sense because the medium is a form of entertainment and escapism. It isn't real.
In the real world, problems aren't black and white. There aren't heroes and villains. There are just people. To approach politics in the way one would approach the WWE is to fundamentally reject civilized society—it is an embrace of fascism. Which is why it's so terrifying that Trump supporters seem to approach his rallies in this capacity.
Of course, for most people, physically attacking an innocent civilian just doing his job would be an egregious offense. Even if you might disagree with the company that person works for, you recognize that they're another person and you can't solve your problems through violence. But for the attendees of Trump's campaign rally in El Paso, Texas, an unprovoked attack on a camera man was cause for celebration. Perhaps it isn't a surprising turn for a rally characterized by jingoistic chants of "USA, USA!" and screeds against enemies, mostly domestic, to take. Still, one would hope that physical violence might give the crowd pause.
But, apparently, Trump's ongoing crusade against journalists has been a wild success. His supporters don't just disbelieve the "fake news media," they outright hate and dehumanize media workers. What other justification could there possibly be for cheering at an unprovoked assault?
Much like a WWE event, Trump rally attendees seem to be fueled by bloodlust and hatred; they seem to view politics as a form of entertainment with clear winners and losers where they can express their aggression through the bashing of perceived enemies.
Except unlike the WWE, the enemies aren't fictional villains. They're unwilling participants, usually women, minorities, and political opponents painted in broad strokes by the ultimate real-world heel: the President of the United States. And the attendees of these rallies aren't proponents of any particular social cause or public policy, they're there to release aggression against an imagined enemy in the form of their own countrymen.
How does one distinguish this fervor and bloodthirst from Nazism? What distinguishes Trump supporters cheering for an attack on journalists from German citizens cheering for the eradication of the Jews? The current fervor among right wing Americans hasn't quite reached a "Blood and Soil" fever pitch yet, but then again, the Nuremberg Laws weren't written overnight. Fascism moves in baby steps, and America is just starting to waddle.
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