Trump’s family town hall had all the markings of the cult soap, Dallas

Continuing our exploration of the “Cult of Spectacle” is Trump’s town hall with the family

Trump's "poised and polished" family is a dead ringer for 1980s cult soap Dallas

Trump’s “poised and polished” family is a dead ringer for 1980s cult soap Dallas

In CNN’s pseudo-intimate setting, a carefully curated audience posed flaccid questions: What do you most admire about your dad? Tiffany Trump answered and, as expected, asserted her dad’s drive, focus, and unwavering ability to make the deal were his most admirable traits. Another audience member asked Melania if she was planning on having another child. Asking irrelevant personal questions effectively cloud the real issues and work to suppress critical analysis. NBC’s “Trump” correspondent, Katy Tur, jumped on the bandwagon calling Trump’s family, “Aspirational… well-spoken, successful, polished and poised…”

Poised and polished was certainly on display that night. It’s easy to be poised and polished and if one isn’t worried about whether or not there is enough money to pay the rent and bills every month. Trump’s children had the benefit of attending the best schools without fear of being debt slaves after graduation along with access to incredible opportunities and resources. They have also been groomed for the spotlight – like their father. That type of privilege breeds a sense of entitlement and this very elusive quality is something that the 99% strive to emulate. The problem is that entitlement is imminently easier to locate on a flickering monitor than it is to cultivate in real life.

Larry Hagman as JR Ewing.

Larry Hagman as JR Ewing.

Trump’s family reminded me of the old 1980s cult soap opera, Dallas. The series – for those who are too young to recall – revolved around an über rich oil family in Texas. They were all beautiful, deceitful, self-centered, greedy, poised and polished. Every week a salivating public followed their despicable escapades. Why do we ogle those whose lives bear no resemblance to ours? It’s the Dallas syndrome and right now, Trump is our Dallas. In the same way we forgot about our own troubles for one hour each week, while the Ewing’s straddled luxury and chaos, focusing on candidate’s families cloud key issues and conditions us to disregard agendas that impact political and economic legislation.

Clouding the issues is the handmaiden of apathy. As our attention veers from substantive debate, we embrace what is easily comprehensible and dismiss more complex arguments. It becomes second nature. Worse, our own expectations become chimerical. We have been weaned on television and it’s progeny, the Internet. As a result we are “distracted by empty gusts of ego-boosting puffery”. I extract that quote from Jaron Lanier’s seminal treatise, You Are Not a Gadget. In it, he explores how the “hive” mentality that rose up out of the computer age has wreaked havoc on our intellect. The mob mentality eschews individuality and revels in conformity. We accept the easiest, shortest, most palatable answer because several hundred other people – whom we’ll never meet – posted their approval. While we obsess about those we have no connection to, we absolve ourselves of accountability. Our fascination with Trump continues, to the detriment of everyone.

— Deborah Johnstone

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