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Yes, go ahead, blame the élites

This article appeared a year ago on Medium.

Today, everyone is blaming Trump for what's happened, but political élites like Clinton and Bush are not blameless. They are responsible for creating this disenfranchised mass of voters and driving them into Trump's arms.

Has it occurred to you that the people who most lament the election of President Trump are responsible, not only for his ascent, but also for his very existence?

I’m not speaking here of the liberal elites with their lofty ideals of diversity, integration and multiculturalism, and their flagrant disconnect from more down to earth considerations. No, I’m pointing fingers at the corporate elites, on both sides of the aisle, who allowed the world to evolve into one where Trump could thrive.

But let’s backtrack. Eight years ago, Mitt Romney was fighting for the Republican nomination when an opponent accused him of speaking French. As a French-Canadian, this stuck a nerve. What is wrong with speaking French? Or any other second language, for that matter? The opponent wanted to make Romney seem un-American. Had being educated become un-American? Granted, Americans, more than most electorates of the world, want their Presidents to be ordinary men (cue in the photo-op of candidates eating hoagies), although it used to be “just like us, only better”. That time, the polished, well-educated candidate won his primary, but elites should have heeded the signs.

A year later, I was living in a rental house where we inherited our predecessor’s cable set-up: 800 channels. Wow! As I tried to navigate this abundance of entertainment for a show I wanted to watch (to find it five minutes before it would end), I was constantly assaulted by vulgar and superficial drivel. You stop zapping for a second, and a Kardashian appears on your screen. It’s horrible, it’s like turning on the car radio during a Justin Bieber song.

If I couldn’t switch channel immediately, my brain would start going numb, hypnotized by the strangely fascinating irrelevance. I cut cable soon after; with Netflix at least I can choose what turns my brain to mash.

True, throughout history, mass-market culture has never been particularly elevating, but what we are seeing today seems a bit worse. And hey, I get it; it’s sooo much cheaper to produce shows like the Bachelorette. Why hire writers to craft a story and dialogue? Why hire actors when people will do anything for a second in the spotlight? Why take a risk on something new when you can reboot stuff with name-recognition ad-nauseam?

This is the corporate mind-set at work: all about the bottom line, all about the shareholders. By only caring about return on investment instead of quality, these publishers, TV execs, and other corporate bigwigs who have skewered American culture for the last thirty years have also constructed a new definition of value. For many people nowadays, two things define a person’s worth: fame and money.

With the benediction of everyone involved in the entertainment and media industry, that pap is fed into the brains of the electorate (junk food for the soul), then we wonder why people vote for a vulgar and famous millionaire with a vague relationship to facts? Of course Trump won; he’s the bad, ill-mannered boy who “made it” – a well-liked narrative if ever there were one. And say what you will about him, he rightly read the zeitgeist.

Moreover, these so called gatekeepers of content can wring their hands, blame deplorables, Republicans, Russians… There is a good chance Trump wouldn’t have been elected if the media empires they control hadn’t given him so much attention.

And folks, it ain’t over. Trump has been a bonanza for the media – news has become the ultimate reality show, people are hooked. This coming election, will these elites be ready to sacrifice their bottom-line for the common good? Allow me to remain skeptical.

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