Subcontinental Divide - 2017


HOCUS POTUS: The Media and its Delinquent Progeny

By Ahsen Jillani

“@aHSENjILLANI. Looooser. Just like @MerylStreep and that civil rights black man in GA. Greatness is upon you. #LOSERLOSER #BUILDTHEWALL #PUTINROCKS #NANYNANYBOOBOO" – Donald J. Trump

So by the time you read this we'll have a new President of the United States (POTUS). I just got a Facebook message inviting me to the inauguration “personally." It seems now that practically anyone who could play a musical instrument has dropped out of the festivities, and our glorious leader has hired four homeless men to beat on empty trash cans all evening. It's the Make America Great Again Fantasy Tribute Band. Now I wouldn't have an issue with a guy with a Pomeranian puppy pelt pasted to his head tweeting from his 18K gold plated toilet at 6am if he wasn't…POTUS.

Having said that, I admit that I've enjoyed the show thoroughly and strangely. Yes, this is capitalism; the media ratings are going to shoot sky high for the next four years. A reasonable and intelligent person quietly going about “Making America Great" is not exactly entertainment. So, the brokenhearted commentators, anchors, analysts, academics, experts…well, they make millions if you like to watch them looking brokenhearted. There are only two options here: We lose, or, well, we lose.

So here's the funny aspect of this, and coming from someone who edited a few newspapers and magazines back in the day—there is no mainstream news media in America; it is an entertainment medium that mints money every time you tune in. We can track this back to WW II, when the media acted as a propaganda machine to further the government war effort. They stepped out of line a few times during Vietnam and the rulers quickly made adjustments. By the 1990 Gulf War, we were back where the corporate/government machinery wanted us: watching smart bombs zig zag through bunkers while we had a pizza slice in one hand and a beer in the other.

This wasn't rocket science either, as channels expanded and cable TV bloomed. The media entities realized that Americans weren't sitting in front of the TV to get downer news. Life was like a football game. You wanted your testosterone to fire me. You wanted to get emotional and break furniture. You wanted to cheer for Team USA. By 9/11, the federal authorities had perfected the science. They would ignore media that questioned them. They would deny them White House access or credentials. They would insult journalists and suggest they were unpatriotic for questioning the Cheney-Rumsfeld view of the world.

Truth was, they said, if journalists weren't “embedded" in the tank convoys, they may die. Many in American media bought designer desert fatigues and spent the war in fancy Baghdad hotels talking to Arab insiders and ducking as missiles flew by miles from them. The $3 Trillion war launched by showing satellite photos of garbage trucks is still raging. But money flowed freely. Good media ratings; great defense contracts.

Facts actually don't need to interfere with the operation of American media at all. More Americans actually die from falling out of bed annually than have been killed by terrorists on Western soil. That won't exactly keep you glued to Fox News when you have 2000 other channels available. So this brings us to “reality" TV, where every surprise look is taped seven times to get it just right to pull at your (clogged) heartstrings as you reach for another pizza slice.

I lived five houses away from the local “Extreme Makeover" home in Charlotte and endured the citywide fiasco for a week as Disney/ABC invaded the street for a week like the National Guard and I couldn't walk on a public sidewalk because Disney guards were protecting the stars of the show. When the surprise ending came, the lucky owners of the home didn't react properly. Take after retake happened until they fell down hyperventilating, jumping like idiots, hugging each other and collapsing in the arms of the Hollywood A-listers and city officials slobbering over tall blonde ladies and construction workers who looked like Chippendale dancers.

So when our glorious POTUS is telling CNN to sit down because they are fake news, it's not really hurting anybody. People want to tune into CNN to see the fight. The networks know, because they produced this golden boy whose brash, ego-maniacal actions keep folks glued to the screen. The underemployed country boys, the unemployed rust belt blue collar workers, the evangelicals who say that people are just jealous of the naked pictures of the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS), well, they are waiting for America to be great again.

I have been scratching my head about the again part for two months. The POTUS tells us that people who are with him are about to experience greatness again: 1930s, The Great Depression? 1940s, a brutal WW II? 1950s, Korea and launch of Cold War and global CIA operations? 1960s, JFK/Marilyn, Civil Rights and Vietnam? 1970s, worst economic crisis in US history? 1980s, hyper-inflation and staggeringly-high interest rates and threat of nuclear annihilation? Maybe, just maybe, POTUS is talking about 1997-2000, when despite Somalia, despite Monica, despite GOP witch hunts, the dot-com stars aligned as a new technology matured and gave us a taste of greatness. 9/11 on, we have seen tax money doled to the defense industry, a crippling recession and collapse of the real estate and banking industries. That can't be where we need to be again. I remain puzzled.

But, FakeNews and a fake reality star like POTUS, and where the entire planet knows where the moles are on the first lady's most private areas, well, somehow this is all fitting for a country striving to be great “again." So what if our supreme leader has French kissed every contestant in his beauty contests; so what if there's audio of him discussing his sexual exploits; so what if Putin may have videos that shows his sexual perversion. We are all headed for greatness. Just don't cross the POTUS during his morning toilet break, or you'll never be great again.

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Ahsen Jillani lives in Mint Hill and wants Melania as president.