The Cynicism of Populism II

I've watched the 2016 campaign & election of Donald Trump closely for the last year.

There's one aspect of it that I find interesting - and extremely troubling.

After almost two decades of studying movies, media, and its influence on society, Trump has proven to there's an aspect of populism which is cynical.

"Give them what they want."

"As you like it."

"People love sex and violence."

These things.

And these beliefs, at their heart, are cynical.

They assume most people don't have the capacity for critical thinking.

That what's worked in the past...


And that, even if most people can see what is trying to be done to them, the effect still takes hold irresistibly.

Like canned laughter in a sitcom.

We all know it's fake - but it works.

Or Trump using his staff members to cheer for him during a live press conference.

We all know it's fake - but it works.

And here's the thing...

Trump was right.

Perhaps people as a whole ARE that vicious, hedonist, vengeful, & ignorant.

There is a vast segment of the population that will always bow down to presumed authority, believe emotional appeals (no matter how irrational), buy into any insane big dream, or escape into a sea of meaningless symbolism while ignoring hard truths.

It's a segment of the population so vast, in fact, it's enough to start a movement.

Or a revolution.

The idea that populism is cynical is profound.

It reveals the mechanism by which a demagogue can emotionally distance themselves from the rhetoric they spew out of their mouths.

Because now they can say to themselves, and to their inner circle, and to the doubting & concerned establishment, "This is not what we really believe. We're simply giving the people what they want."

But with time, this spectacle irresistibly consumes them too.

They soon become convinced of their divine destiny, paranoid by the opposition, lusting for blood, breaking the morals they preach.

This is the effect of vivid repetition on the brain.

Even dictators sweat & suffer at the hands of their aesthetic.

I wonder... Is there such a thing as an optimistic populism? One that gathers billions of people around ideals of enlightenment, science, common sense, justice, and the uplifting of the human spirit? There were times when societies pretended to stand for these virtues - but of course, much vice and irrationality ran amok beneath their cloaks. Perhaps that's the best we can ever ask for: To pretend in the goodness of all people.

been there

Critics Hating Your Movie is a Good Thing

Critics Hating Your Movie is a Good Thing