It’s 1997. 16 total strangers have been deposited on one of the very small islands off the coast of Malaysia and forced to fend for themselves.
This is being overseen by a Swedish Television station in the chase for ratings. It’s also being done in total secrecy. They’re hoping that eventually the show they’re creating might prove a massive ratings hit.
They’re going to call the show ‘Expedition: Robinson’.
In order to survive their experience on the island, the ‘contestants’ are all going to have to cooperate. Yet at the same time, every week, one of the 16 ‘cast members’ is going to get kicked off the island.
The Swedes had never seen anything like it. And they simply couldn’t stop watching.
The next year, 1998, a producer in the US named Mark Burnett decided to make his own version. He called it ‘Survivor’.
And so began the birth of ‘Reality TV’.
The hit show Survivor also gave Burnett another idea. A show about business: how to be a ‘businessman’ and to pitch ideas. But Burnett needed a bit of a hook. A sort of ‘your fired’ segment in the show.
It just so happened that Burnett was celebrating the fourth record-breaking season of Survivor at a skating rink owned by a certain Mr Donald Trump. The name was plastered everywhere. You couldn’t miss it.
Burnett decided to call the show ‘The Apprentice’. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Except that the show was complete fiction. Made up entirely. Despite its casting as ‘reality TV’.
Bill Pruitt, one of the show’s producers, recently commented about it to The New Yorker. Trump ‘had just gone through I don’t know how many bankruptcies’, he said. ‘We made him out to be the most important person in the world. It was like making the court jester king.’
And king he has become.
We’ve become so fixated on this court jester that a strange oblong space object that came VERY close to the Earth this past year, and may have been ‘a fully operational probe sent intentionally to earth vicinity by an alien civilization’, sailed by us with barely a press mention!
Harvard researchers came to that conclusion no less. (That it may have been alien, not space rock.) Not some crackpot amateur astronomy sleuth.
Anyway, back to the king. And not-so-reality TV.
Recall the Swedish TV experiment I discussed just above.
The very first contestant kicked off that trailblazing 1997 Swedish ‘Expedition: Robinson’ reality TV show was a Swede named Sinisa Savija. When he got back to Sweden, Savija became morose. He complained to his wife that the ‘Expedition: Robinson’ editors would most likely ‘cut away the good things I did and make me look like a fool.’
Which is exactly what the show’s producers did.
For Savija, his feelings grew worse and more intense about what he’d been through as a contestant on the Malaysian island. Just a couple of months before the show aired, Savija took his own life by stepping in front of a speeding train.
Reality TV is anything but ‘real’. It is not even remotely so. It is staged, and stage-managed. Perhaps this explains Trump’s compulsion to always tell it like it isn’t.
Don’t believe me on that one?
Here are some exceedingly enlightening comments from Stephen Grosz, a psychoanalyst and author of The Examined Life, as reported in the Financial Times, 12 January.
‘…Before throwing his hat into the political ring, Trump threw it into the wrestling arena. Between 1988 and 2013, he ran wrestling events, appeared ringside (notably in the Battle of the Billionaires), and was even inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. Despite being presented as a competitive sport, professional wrestling is scripted. The competitors, results, pre-match and post-match interviews — all of it is make-believe. The broadcasters give their audience all the things you’d expect in a work of fiction: backstory, suspense, symbolism and so forth.
‘In wrestling, as in literature, names are never neutral. Naming a character is an essential part of creating them. There’s always a “face” (short for babyface, or hero) and a “heel” (villain). Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are faces. Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Rick Rude are heels. Wrestling pits good against bad, a genuine he-man against a phoney rascal…
‘…In professional wrestling, fact and fiction are worked together to create storylines that connect with the audience’s feelings. Wrestling’s good v bad, real v fake storylines provide clarity. What’s vital is this — fictional storylines can unleash genuine emotion. For the wrestling fan, as long as it feels true, it doesn’t matter that it’s fiction. Facts are beside the point. Feeling true is more important than being true.’
You can see how Trump works this logic to his fan and supporter base. President Obama’s birth certificate episode is one example. And more recently, the caravan of criminals and gang-rapists about to overtake America. It’s why the US southern border desperately needs a wall. According to Trump at least.
Trump knows that for his base, it’s just as Grosz says it is.
‘There may be data proving the wall isn’t the best way to secure the border, but for many Trump supporters, those facts are irrelevant. For his enthusiasts — especially those who share his anxieties — Trump’s lies feel truer than the truth.’
Strange days in the US presently when even a possible alien spacecraft sighting can’t get a run in the news.
For Money Morning
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