Last week in a meeting, I compared the populating of content in the CMS of a website to mowing. The rhythm and the rhyme, down and back, to and fro. With effort, one row at a time. After I said it I thought it may have sounded wrong. But with more thought, I think I was right in the moment. Keep it steady, get in the flow, row by row, and get that website content populated. Done and done.
That’s it. I’m coining a phrase. “Nonsense privilege.” This is when you are so goddamn comfortable, so secure, so coddled, that you feel it’s your god given right to believe whatever the hell you want. You see no need to participate in commonly understood politics and debate. You have no need for facts. No need for data. No need for research. Instead, you see your truth and apply it outwardly without any evidence whatsoever. Whether climate change denier, birther believer, or anti-vaxxer, you use your privilege to peddle in nonsense because you can. And your nonsense threatens us all.
The misreading of one of the greatest protest songs ever recorded has always struck me as odd. Isn’t it obvious what “Born in the U.S.A.” is about?
Growing up on the great plains, basketball was my game of choice. I’d enter 3-on-3 street ball tournaments in the summer with a couple friends and we’d hit the pavement. A handful of games over a weekend was always a good time.
Aside from the games, it was also fun mingling about. Walking around, looking for girls, being a little rowdy, sometimes acting a fool. In the mix of all this were the tents. Places covered from the sun where sponsors set up to sell you something.
Inevitably, there was an Army tent. Ready to convince you to join. Sign up, be somebody, be an army of one. And always blasting out of the tent speakers on regular rotation was “Born in the U.S.A.” Always, without a hint of irony. The slick recruiters obviously never stopped to listen to the lyrics.
I suppose it didn’t matter. That chorus was all they ever needed. And whether the Viet Cong, Al-Qaeda, or the Taliban, they’re still there while we’re all gone, also of no concern to the recruiters. They just wanted our signatures.
It happens. And it can sting. But hopefully, when you lose out on a project that means it went to someone who will do a better job. I never mind losing projects to great competitors. It’s the ones who cut corners, do it on the cheap, and talk a good game that really bugs. But if the project instead goes to a studio I admire for their excellence and dedication to the cause, I say high fives all around.
“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation, only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.”
This from the mouth of Michael Cohen as he testified to the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 27th.
Of the many negative critiques of our president, this can seem not as important as the racism, the defrauding, or the bullying. Yet it is one of the more damning, especially to the people he claims to be trying to help. The forgotten Americans, if you will. And sadly, they will never be much concerned with it.
With the base of his support, this brand-centric approach to the way Trump operates should provide much caution. It allows him to lie to them. To bait and switch. To get really excited about all the power he’s gaining and to falsely proclaim he’s sharing it with them. He isn’t. He never intended to. He knew at the outset, that the seedy underbelly of branding allows for all sorts of conning, cheating, and stealing. American corporations have perfected the tactics for centuries, whether they’re dealing in oil, pharmaceuticals, or data.
The Trump brand is a weapon in the fog of this information war. But also, it’s something that’s able to be critique and dissected. The American consumer has had decades of practice in discerning the world of products at our fingertips. The thing we’re failing to understand is that branding can translate to much more than what we buy and sell. That transaction feature of branding makes people think they no longer need to apply any critical thought to the brand in front of them, because the transaction is enough. With products, sure, it can be. But not in politics.
The Trump brand was powerful enough to propel a conman to the highest office in the land. That also means it can take him down. If the people under his spell are ever able to snap out of it and look honestly at the man Trump, what they see will surely shock them. But after that, they’d be able to move forward without the intoxicating false promises of greatness.
Ah greatness, the genius of the brand promise. So vague. So easily defined as whatever a person wants it to be. Once intoxicated, the person sees only what he or she wants wants as long as he or she is incapable, or unwilling, to pull back the veil. Sadly, the base under the spell of brand Trump has no intention of ever doing so.
In this moment, at this time, the social media platforms at our finger tips, these are not friendly connection devices for a passive, contented age of abundance and security. NO! They are the battlefields of a society working itself out when it comes to the great questions of who matters and how we treat each other.
We are at great odds. We are divided, uncertain, dumbfounded, confused, and angry. YES! We are angry. This is an age of absurdity and fantasy. Evidence? Pay it no mind. Data? Pay it no mind. Facts? Pay none of them any mind. Our brains are scratched, our morale constantly agitated, our future looking more bleak than beautiful if the calculations from scientists with their evidence and their data and their facts hold.
The anti-democratic forces are at work. The corporations do not care. The hackers, Russian and otherwise, will not stop. The rich will not save us. The groundswell from the bottom is our only hope. For beauty, for truth, for the future. The battle is raging and will continue to do so. Enough cat pics and celebrity. These times call for more. Much more.
These days, I don’t watch anything more than once. In the golden age of television, how can you? As time continues to zoom by at breakneck speeds, why double up on entertainment? Watch a film or a show or a video, one time and one time only, done and done. No more commitment needs to be made. But recently I made an exception to this rule. It was for ROMA.
I was completely enthralled with this film. It was beautiful, poetic, heartbreaking, gritty, loud, quiet, and loud again. Until finally, deafening. Men are weak, women carry the day. And the political strife that surrounds us at all times cannot be set aside no matter how much our own personal circumstances may seem to require it to be.
I’ll go so far as to say it’s the best film I’ve seen in years. I saw it twice. And I may see it again. You can watch it on Netflix. But I’d suggest a theater. Why? Because of the ocean.