Yoav Baram

Yoav Baram – Welcome to the world’s biggest reality show

Yoav Baram – Welcome to the world’s biggest reality show

“U.S President Donald Trump”. Whenever I hear or read these words my immediate expectation is for them to be followed by yet another ridiculous incident in which he was involved.

I have no doubt that millions of Americans voted Trump for all the good reasons; be it loss of jobs, the feeling that Washington doesn’t care for their needs, and the general disgust with politics that led them to vote for a candidate that is perceived as anti establishment.
But I also have no doubt that millions of Americans voted Trump for one reason alone – the constant need for stimulation’s, the thought of “What the hell, at least it’s gonna be interesting”, or in another word – boredom.

In an era where billions of people are hardwired to their Iphones, getting snuff clips of executions and violence through Whatsapp, and the pictures of bodies of Syrian children washed ashore – it’s getting harder and harder to be shocked. The human mind is an amazing machine of which it’s entire function depends on its capability and its flexibility to adapt to every situation, otherwise we would not have lasted so long as a specie. The endless amount of stimuli that surrounds us at every given second is unrepresented in human history, and our brain – which absorbs it all as if it were a sponge – quickly adapts to the new situation.

Similar to a drug addict who requires bigger and bigger dosages to get high – our brain has grown accustomed to its surrounding stimuli, and its getting harder and harder to ‘excite’, surprise or shock it. Every person who starts his day by reading the news knows that tingling expectation – whether consciously or subconsciously – to find a main headline painted in red, because whats more interesting than a world crisis, death, destruction, the fall of nations and the exchange of verbal punches between heads of states. It was back in ancient Greece that we realized that tragedies make the best entertainment.

In this respect, Trump is the ultimate tragedy (or comedy). An extreme and unstable character that no one – including himself – knows what he’s gonna do in the next minute and a half, and that holds the nuclear codes of the world’s biggest democracy. There is no better entertainment when it comes to reality.

In his first two weeks in office, Trump signed no less than 21 executive orders and memorandums, some came as direct succession to the promises he made on his campaign, here are a few that made big headlines:

-Building a wall along the Mexico border
-Withdrawing from the Trance Pacific partnership trade deal
-Banning the entrance of citizens from 7 Muslim country’s to the U.S

Here it’s worth mentioning that an executive order is not the president creating new law or appropriating new money from the U.S. Treasury — both things that are the domain of Congress; it is the president instructing the government how it is to work within the parameters that are already set by Congress and the Constitution.

The order to build a wall along the Mexican border for example instructs homeland security to allocate existing resources towards the project. If Trump would want to complete it – he will have to muster the necessary funds through congress. The presidential order to withdraw from the TPP trade deal was a symbolic one since the deal would have never been approved by congress anyway (not even under Obama). And finally, the order of the so called ‘Muslim ban’ was suspended by a federal judge in Seattle under the claim that it contradicts the American constitution. Trump justified the ban by saying that among others – the 9/11 terrorist came from this list of banned countries, although in reality – not a single one of them had (watch 4:25). 15 of the 19 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, another 2 from the emirates and 1 from Egypt (last one from Lebanon). The absence of these countries from Trump’s order is not a coincidence – these are among the US most important allies in the middle east – unlike countries like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – all of which were included in the ban.

But who cares right? signing the executive orders achieved its purposes; one of which is to create the notion that Trump is getting his elbows dirty and going to work without wasting time – not a rare display by itself – almost all American presidents started their presidency by signing a series of orders (Among them Obama with 9 orders in 10 days). It is the second purpose that is far more interesting – and that is to do the thing that all reality superstars excel at – sweeping ratings while entertaining the crowd. Entertainment doesn’t have to be positive of course; 2 boxers punching each-other to death in the arena is considered entertainment. A movie or a TV series with extreme graphic violence is entertainment. Public sayings and deeds that you wouldn’t expect the US president to say or do are entertainment.

Last weeks fiasco with the Mexican president who canceled his meeting with Trump following Trump’s tweet that “…If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting” is another fine example for such entertainment. Just imagine Trump enters JFK’s shoes and running the Cuban missile crisis with Khrushchev via Tweeter. Hollywood no longer has to come up with ridiculous movie scripts.

In that sense Trump is going to deliver the ‘goods’ and more. Much like his companies that he doesn’t really manage – Trump is not very interested in running a country, he’s far more interested in himself and in the Trump brand. Obviously he has a huge burden of proof, America is not another one of his failed projects that he can sweep under the rug, its ‘only’ the largest world economy. So yes, he shows that he’s keeping busy and that he’s making good on his campaign promises by signing executive orders that are sometimes symbolic in nature and sometimes have no real purpose – other than to rake ratings of course. And yes, he uses tweeter to write impulsive and silly things that have wide repercussions, because he knows that most humans are not interested in politics nor watch the news; its boring, not to mention long (as this article), especially for a brain that keeps demanding more and more immediate stimuli.

Trump’s tweets on the other hand? 140 characters of pure entertainment written in the simplest language possible. Boom. 

And that’s the thing when you run a reality show: you constantly need to introduce new and existing stimuli- to surprise and amaze the audience – to make people grab their heads as if saying “He didn’t just do that did he?” but he did. Trump does whatever he feels like because for him ratings are far more important than anything else – and the more extreme and ridiculous you go – the more of it you’d receive (derived from the basic assumption that there’s no such thing as bad coverage) – and so the brand will flourish.

That’s Trumps specialty, and no American president in the past could outperform his excellent show because non stood at a point in history where people are constantly bombarded by stimuli, and get bored so easily. No American president in the past took advantage of the free media by using the formula of ‘extremism = rating’ so effectively as Trump does and no American president in the past had a platform like Tweeter – or indeed took advantage of such a platform – as if he were an impulsive high school bully who spreads ridiculous nonsense resulting in diplomatic incidents.

For millions of Americans and people worldwide – Trump is no more than a huge dopamine supplier who runs the worlds biggest reality show. And  the ratings? They’ll probably keep reaching new highs.

The caricature is by the New York Times

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