Entertainment swallows politics

Image: Mike Bird
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By EUGENIO BUCCI*

All the choices that were previously resolved in the sphere of polis today they decide on an immense reality show interactive

You look and your mouth drops open. But how can that be? You rub your eyes, you can't possibly see what you see. The way people react to the news awakens perplexed incredulity in their minds. Everything in politics – everything, without exception – has become a matter of organized fanfare, the snatching of (small) souls and irrational fury.

In times of Covid, we saw it up close: hydroxychloroquine will work because I have faith; ivermectin will save lives because I believe, the Chinese vaccine carries a hidden chip that will track your neighbor's consumption desires, I know, I saw a video on the internet. It seems crazy. It's insane.

Polarization is made up of conflicting emotions, not divergent opinions. The metaphor of the Greek agora no longer serves to represent public debate. The image of the dispute of points of view between rational beings has lost its validity. Now, the crowds feel like they are in holy wars, in bloodthirsty crusades, they feel like they are in the Colosseum in Rome pointing their thumbs down. O script of time are virtual lynchings. Fundamentalism runs rampant. Intolerance in vein. In the United States, the Republican Party's numerous radicals operate under the unspoken dogma that the 2020 election was stolen, and woe betide anyone who disagrees. For many people, global warming is a manufactured myth. This is the electoral college of our time.

How can we explain these boom and fury effects? The hypotheses are multiple, not necessarily exclusive, but one of them speaks loudest: the universe of politics has been entirely swallowed up by the language of entertainment – ​​and, in entertainment, the reaffirmation of the ego (or self) is worth more than the truth of the facts . Point. Paragraph.

It is true that, since the world is filthy, politics has theatrical ingredients, playful elements and passionate flavors in its formula. It has always been like that. With the prevalence of social platforms, however, things changed levels. All the choices that were previously resolved in the sphere of polis today they decide on an immense reality show interactive, where intimate desire easily (and happily) outweighs public interest. Reason and objectivity are scarce while emotions erupt in muted apotheosis.

What we see before us no longer matches the concepts that were valid even a few decades ago. It's something else, another animal. They have already given this environment, in which political issues behave like circus attractions, the name “post-truth era”. It was with this expression, in fact, that the magazine The Economist, referred to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, in a cover story in September 2016. Of course, we can refer to the new general jam as the “post-truth era”, but the phenomenon is bigger than we imagined in 2016. It is more monstrous and deeper.

Let's see what is happening with the communication of parties, state authorities, NGOs or international organizations. This communication no longer challenges reason, but emotion – and it does so in melodramatic formats. Either the message follows the visual alphabet established by the entertainment industry, that is, or the propaganda assimilates narratives based on the good-versus-evil model, or it will not find an echo in minds and hearts.

What has the stalemate of the Middle East war reduced to? To an endless dispute over who deserves to be cast in the role of victim. The rubble of the Gaza Strip – urban rubble, human rubble – is just the scenographic epicenter of an immense image war to see who can take on the role of victim. Whoever lives up to this place will deserve the unconditional love of the audience (formerly known as public opinion). Get used to it. Reality behaves like an adventure film, with unprotected little princesses, sweaty horses and uneducated but brave boys.

Just as the ideologue of the beginning of the XNUMXth century gave up his position to the marketer of the beginning of the XNUMXst century, the institute of reason lost ground to the instinctual, libidinal, easy and overwhelming identifications provided by the industrial techniques of entertainment. Politics today integrates the vast commerce of public entertainment. The citizen, who was the source of all power, became a voracious consumer of stupefying sensations. It is no longer as a citizen that he mobilizes, but as a fanatical fan, as a faithful religious person or even as an ardent fan.

If you still have questions, re-read the messages that arrive in WhatsApp groups. There are the symptoms: the sentimental petitions, the animated figures that defend a thesis in a single second, the idle sub-celebrities pontificating on complex subjects as if discussing the use of onion in a vegan recipe. It's in your face, isn't it?

No, that won't work. When decisions that affect the common order reject the understanding of what the common good is, it is going to be bad. The concept of Republic crumbles into the dust of time.

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of Uncertainty, an essay: how we think about the idea that disorients us (and orients the digital world) (authentic).

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.


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