Anything resembling an actual “election” is still months away. But the circus is running in full (questionable) colors well in advance. There is one candidate who knows a circus – not as the bland ringleader, but as the craziest clown there is.
There’s no value in naming this particular clown because he thrives on hearing his name. That’s probably what this is really all about as narcissistic politics finally crawls up its own backside to die. He was recently dubbed “White ISIS” (Whisis) by the still-excellent Daily Show for his desperate willingness to promote the main goal of ISIS – conflict between the Muslim world and the West. So we’ll use that term.
But that’s less important than the reaction to the big show because somehow Whisis finally crossed the line. That is, there is a line. We found the line!
We live in a time when satire is too easy to be considered an art form. The most reliable sources of the news now include The Onion and the Daily Show, each outlet reporting something like news more blankly than the actual news while the jokes write themselves. Pure entertainment has to go further as a result, and no one knows this better than Matt Stone and Trey Parker of “South Park”.
They know exactly where the line of bad taste is because they routinely cross it – and in the process move it. Episodes of their show from just a few years ago often seem tame. Matt and Trey keep a frenzied pace where they crank the episodes out in real time as they chase the line of good taste like a cat going after a laser dot.
At some point, you have to wonder if there really is still a line.
Satire has been killing the Developed world slowly because it has taken away our ability to see our crazy world as anything but funny. Everything, no matter how sad or tragic, is now fodder for a joke eventually. Tragedy plus time? Just wait until the downbeat, that’s long enough.
Into this environment stepped the ultimate entertainer turned politician, Whisis hisself. While famous as a “dealmaker” he’s really much more of a Khardashian at heart, making more money off of reality shows and merchandising than as the operator of, say, a taxpayer subsidized casino which he ran into bankruptcy. His net worth of about $4.1B is considerably less than what he’d have if he took his inheritance and simply put it into an S&P500 mutual fund.
In our satire saturated world people like him for being a “self-made man”.
It’s been far too easy to characterize Whisis as a Nazi for months now. Rounding up 7M Mexicans in boxcars was only the first sign. It was followed by a call to register Muslims and closely monitor mosques – a clear foray into fascist territory. But somehow that wasn’t quite enough.
When Whisis called for a total ban on Muslims entering the US, however, something snapped. The Republican establishment has been lashing out consistently, desperate to reign in the clown that is stealing the show. That has emboldened the press which has dropped any pretense of objectivity and gone full-tilt. This is not America, they say – pretty much in unison.
The problem, however, is primarily a Republican one. An online poll (which is to say a poll of dubious value, caveat lector) by the Pew Foundation shows the proposed ban on all Muslims is very popular among Republicans with as many as 65% supporting it. In the general voting population only 35% do, which is to say it’s extremely unpopular outside of the party.
The clown has managed to find the most polarizing issue possible – and it will only increase his popularity in the only ring he’s currently performing in.
What is amazing about this, however, is not that a performer found the line and grabbed attention by dancing over it. Matt and Trey do it mo’betta on a weekly basis. What is absolutely astounding, if you think about it long enough, is that perhaps our world built for satire still has a moral compass after all. There is life beyond satire and performance. We have our limits.
The final straw? Whisis is frankly embarrassing everyone. We just look really stupid.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. Whisis will probably find a way to push the line further with clowish craft, polarizing politics into a world divided between what is his and what still belongs to reality. What that does to national security or, more importantly, national decency is still anyone’s guess.
Once the line is crossed, it always moves. That should scare us more than anything else.