Another brick in the wall
Scandal and Spectacle
Someone asked me if I watched former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress last week. Unless you count highlights from comedy shows, no, I didn’t watch it. Did I want to? Not really.
One of my friends asked me a few weeks ago if I watched the State of the Union. I realize people expect me to be interested in events like this, as a political science student. There was once a point when I liked going out to events like State of the Union watch parties. “What’s the point?” I told her. “It’s just an excuse for the President to promote his own policy priorities while his own party cheers and the opposing party sulks for 90 minutes.”
I’ve gotten to a point where following daily news, at least that coming out of Washington, seems completely pointless. Everything seems routine and easy to anticipate. Was anyone really surprised that Michael Cohen claimed Trump directed him to commit illegal acts? Trump-related news doesn’t have the ability to shock me anymore or provoke any other emotion out of me either.
In 2017, Lee Drutman from Vox published an article describing “Trump fatigue syndrome,” defined as “the exhaustion you feel from trying to stay on top of the nonstop scandals and absurdities emanating from the Trump administration.” Drutman claims that, simply put, if everything is a scandal, then nothing is scandal. The increasing frequency of these stories make them feel less scandalous than they should. We stop being able to have a strong emotional response when we hear the same types of stories over and over again.
Drutman’s advice was essentially to take a break from the news if you need to, writing, “If we can consume media mindfully, and if we can take time off now and then, I think we’ll be okay.” Is that a realistic solution? We can’t log into Facebook anymore without getting news from Washington. We can’t even watch comedy shows anymore without hearing about Trump.
I fear that there’s unfortunately a possibility that this inability to be shocked, extreme political rhetoric as the new normal, and indifference to FBI investigations involving the president, are part of a reality that will continue beyond the Trump presidency.