Several years back, I think it was around 2012 or so, long before the idea of Donald Trump becoming or even running for president ever entered the public consciousness, I had an idea for a story. It was about a public figure in the news, not so much a news anchor or a proper journalist. This was someone who was something of a pundit, though that word implies the notion of being an expert called upon to speak on a particular subject. The character was deeply inspired by people like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Neil Cavuto, Tucker Carlson, and even the raving madness that is Alex Jones.
The character was supposed to put forth ridiculous notions, not unlike what the above list does (or for at least one of them used to do) on a regular basis for a living. He would spout hate and intolerance while calling for the pushing forward of certain legislation or action while screeching like a harpy to stop others. But here’s the twist, it’s all a character the man plays because he’s something of a political science genius.
See, this man went to college, found himself deeply invested in the geopolitical state of the nation and the world, but he came to a conclusion some time after he graduated and began working in the world of broadcasting. He found that people rally more quickly against something or someone they hate than they do in support of something or someone they laud. So he had the idea to build a dramatis personæ, an identity that would only exist in the sphere of broadcast that would be the most hated, most reviled, most detested man alive. He would garner so much hate that anything he said, the public would turn against and stand in opposition of. He would use this as a way to coax the public towards a better direction by demonstrating how dreadful his ‘suggestions’ would be.
Of course, in actuality, he is a kind, thoughtful, progressive individual who wants to see the world unite under the ideals of peace and acceptance. He also makes sure that his appearance on television and the internet is so radically different that when the makeup is taken off, no one would recognize him, either by face or by voice.
I don’t recall how I intended this story to conclude, but it seemed like it was a pretty interesting idea to pursue. I never did, and I’m glad I didn’t. Not too long after I conjured the idea, I started to see the state of politics in this country begin to shift from just loudmouthed spewing of ineffectual hatred on Fox News that was only slurped up by those who were afraid of brown people to the first steps toward where we are today. I busied myself with other projects and before I knew it, the grand joke that we are all still living through began as Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president.
Not long after that, people like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity suddenly gained significantly more notoriety in the public forum, and not just by a matter of their ratings going up. They began to infect other forms of media. I saw their clips and quotes appear on twitter (I’m sure they were all over other social media platforms but I don’t bother with any of them) where I could not avoid them without just shutting down my account and refusing to go back. Even the best filters wouldn’t remove references of them completely.
Then I started to see other names pop up: Richard Spencer, Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos (holy balls is that hard to spell), and Steven Crowder just to name a few. I saw how they were all truly the most repugnant scum I could imagine, pushing ideologies of hatred while at the same time decrying that they were being misrepresented through ‘fake news’ (god I hate that phrase so much). The idea for my ‘mastermind political scientist’ character drifted back into my consciousness, but not enough for me to really notice. It took the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton for him to reemerge from the doldrums of my unconscious mind.
I realized that such a notion is a terrible idea. Sure it might make for a great story, but how it plays out in the narrative I originally constructed is utterly antithetical to how it actually happens in the real world. We have several such morally repugnant voices of intolerance and hatred disguising themselves as voices of reason, logic, common sense, and morality, all of them blasting away just as often as they possibly can. They demand they be debated as if anything they have to say is worthy of debate.
The notion that someone should have their child ripped away from them and both parent and child placed in concentration camps, all as a means of deterring others from coming into the country is not something to debate. It is something to be arrested for and the charge should be ‘crimes against humanity’ and those who perpetrate it should be held accountable in international court. The notion that ‘Hitler had some good ideas’ is not up for discussion. His ‘good ideas’ gave us the Holocaust, the murder of millions of innocent people just because they were the wrong religion or they weren’t pure-blood enough, or they were gay or handicapped or in some other way ‘undesirable’.
These are not things one ‘debates’. The side screaming for a debate isn’t interested in the debate itself. They are interested in using whatever platform they can drag their shabby and slimy selves onto to amplify their message. To ‘debate’ them is to make it appear as though such vile and immoral ideas are more valid than they actually are. It validates the notion and the monster putting it forth. It isn’t even about determining who is right and who is wrong. It’s about who ‘wins the argument’ which those who do not deserve the platform will fight to accomplish at any cost, by whatever means they can. That includes duplicitous tactics. Again, it’s not about right vs. wrong. It’s about win vs. lose, and these monsters have gotten really good at making it look like they win. They argue in bad faith, refuse to listen to facts if they are too inconvenient or don’t push the narrative they want and denounce them as ‘fake news’. They make disjointed, disconnected, unrelated claims and use their own feelings and their own twisted sense of reasoning in place of facts.
These are the very people these shooters and mass murders cite as inspiration for their heinous acts. They have been emboldened by the voices of hate and bigotry, made to feel unsafe, as though a family of non-white people entering the country will somehow take away their ‘white power’. So they take up arms. They look at their television, computer screen, or their phone as that hate pours out and nourishes them. They hear the words of the demagogues and the president and whisper to themselves “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it, just like you say I should” before going out and ending the lives of innocent people their racism and bigotry tells them are the enemy.
I don’t need to write the character I had in mind. He exists in each and every one of these awful voices. The only differences are they aren’t political science geniuses, they don’t have an agenda to rally people against the things they say, and they don’t believe the opposite of what they spout. They actually believe the horrible things they announce on air. They are the character my character wanted to portray, in every aspect of their lives, not just when a camera is pointed at them. I can see all of it as a case study in exactly what would happen if I put forth this character into a book. He wouldn’t inspire the best in everyone. He would only garner hate; hate against himself, hate against the groups he’s degrading to make himself look as horrible as possible, and hate in the media for letting him continue to broadcast.
There is no silver lining here. There is not underlying motive meant to rip the face off of humanity to make us all see our own biases and prompt us to think better and do better. These are people who genuinely live, eat, drink, and breathe the hatred they push out to millions, and they make ridiculous amounts of money by doing it. Racism is apparently terrifically profitable in this country (and in a few other countries).
Maybe one or two of these real world people had hopes originally to be an actual voice of reason. I would like to think they didn’t always hold such terrible values. Maybe they started off far more centrist, then they saw how much more they could make by sensationalizing. That money and power changed them and so they started saying more and more horrible things, until they started to believe it themselves. Until they radicalized themselves. That is what I fear would happen to this fictional person I had conjured. He wouldn’t continue to push for his idealized world, at least not the world he imagined back in college when he was so full of hope. He would end up corrupted by the industrial machinery that rewards spectacle and demagoguery. You drink enough of the Kool-Aid and you will end up believe the very message you’re constantly repeating.
I’ve long since given up on trying to write such a story. It has been unfolding around us right now as we sit and watch the world spin on in whatever direction it will. It only just resurfaced recently and gave me pause. I cannot by any stretch of the imagination bring myself to will him into existence. I would only add to the problem, and quite possibly paint those who are directly responsible for the radicalization of vulnerable minds in a more sympathetic light. They do not deserve that kind of positive PR. They deserve to be torn off the air, deplatformed, and made to pay damages for the harm their dangerous and inciting rhetoric has caused.
I’ll stick to writing porn thank you very much.