AUDIENCE OF ONE - Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America

 by James Poniewozik











O autor deste livro fez crítica de televisão no The New York Times durante mais de 16 anos. Aqui ele acompanha a carreira de Donald Trump e explica como ela é paralela à expansão da televisão. De tal modo Trump acompanhou a televisão americana que por vezes parecia que a programação tinha como fim os interesses dele a daí o título “Audience of One”. Trump não lia nada ou quase nada mas passava tempos infindáveis a ver televisão. De tal maneira que os estúdios chegaram a emitir um sinal para verificar se Trump estava a ver o programa e ele respondia afirmativamente.

A utilização da televisão por Trump vinha já de muito longe. A TV fez  de Trump um personagem que não se identifica com ele, mas  com o que ele quer representar: Trump é substantivo, Trump é também adjectivo.

Trump não olha a meios para atingir os fins. A certa altura lançou o boato de que Obama não era americano, que teria nascido no Quénia. Claro que Obama divulgou a reprodução da sua certidão de nascimento em Honolulu-Hawaii.

Em 1980, Trump emergiu como uma personalidade da TV. Foi nessa altura que começou a atirar-se aos imigrantes mexicanos, a falar na construção de um muto que lhes barrasse a entrada, que seria o México a pagar o muro, etc.

Insultava os oponentes: Ted Cruz – liar,  Jeb Bush is low energy, Hilary Clinton is crooked.

Jason,  um jovem Cubano - Americano residente na Flórida explicava assim porque votava em Donald Trump: He believed “Trump is fucking crazy” as well as racist against Hispanics like himself. But he planned to vote for him anyway. “The whole system is fucked, so why not vote for the craziest guy, so we can see the craziest shit happen? … At least Trump is fun to watch.”


A certa altura Trump adoptou este slogan de Ronald Reagan. Chamaram-lhe a atenção,  Trump não se importou com isso, disse que ele não registara a patente.

A Convenção Nacional Republicana em 2016 foi um desastre. A organização era péssima. – O discurso de Melania plagiava texto de Michèle Obama. Trump considerava-se o único candidato porque o outro (Hilary Clinton)  era uma mulher. Era o 1.º candidato branco sucedendo a um negro. Sendo Clinton mulher, não contava:  o homem é forte, a mulher é fraca

Eleição em Novembro de 2016

Apareceram várias mulheres (pelo menos três) que ele tinha molestado , mas ele conseguiu passar incólume.

Trump  é viciado em TV. Não lê, só vê TV. A TV tornou-se a linguagem da Administração Trump.

A TV era o leite materno de Trump.

Trump diz que ele nunca chorou. Os bébés é que choram. Eu não sou bebé, diz ele.








Which Came First, Trump or TV?

By Gary Shteyngart

     Sept. 6, 2019

AUDIENCE OF ONE- Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America By James Poniewozik

If TV execs were asked to classify James Poniewozik’s illuminating new book, “Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America,” they might use the term “dramedy.” Poniewozik is a funny, acerbic and observant writer. He calls Melania “the most Trump-like of Trump’s wives, with a model’s glower that matches his own,” and remarks of Trump’s relationship with cable news, “He pushed the drug, and he got high on it.”

But Poniewozik, the chief television critic of this newspaper, uses his ample comedic gifts in the service of describing a slow-boil tragedy. If humor is the rocket of his ICBM, the last three years of our lives are the destructive payload. Along with the TV critic Emily Nussbaum’s spot-on observation of Trump’s connection to the humor of, in her words, the “dark and angry” borscht belt comics, and the cultural and political critic Frank Rich’s unsparing account of the role New York’s liberal establishment played in Trump’s rise, Poniewozik brings a new microscope with which to analyze the drug-resistant bacterium that is our president. And while there is certainly room to examine collusion and Russian interference and the outdated institution that Homer Simpson once referred to as the “Electrical College,” this book is really about the role played by all of us, the faithful citizens of TV Nation. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of “Audience of One” is that it makes Trump’s presidency seem almost inevitable. Of course he won. This is the United States we’re talking about. The same way Boris Johnson tapped into Britain’s inner erudite buffoon, so Trump tapped into our inner core, which all too often turns out to have comprised midnight cheeseburgers and hormonal TV childhoods.

I once caught some friendly fire on Twitter for trying to discuss Trump’s behavior in a way that would suggest he had a personality worth exploring. Poniewozik evades this line of thought by asserting that Trump is TV, the mere simulacrum of a human being projected onto a flat-screen. He grew up with the dawn of television and a TV-watching mother. Over the years, Poniewozik writes, Trump “achieved symbiosis with the medium. Its impulses were his impulses; its appetites were his appetites; its mentality was his mentality.”

For a certain generation, “Audience of One” will resonate most as a deep dive into our television consciousness before the Jimmy McNultys and Hannah Horvaths took over prestige TV. It is an examination of how our wants were shaped by television, which swiftly moved away from the working-class dramas and comedies of the 1970s (think “One Day at a Time” or “All in the Family”) and toward the 1980s materialism of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and the knit ties of Alex P. Keaton. Trump entered the Reaganized media sphere at the perfect time, and he never left. The audience wanted “a braggart who lived large and said that it was O.K. to want things,” Poniewozik writes of Trump’s many television appearances in the 1980s and beyond. To most New Yorkers, Trump was known as a world-class bankrupt and malignant schnorrer, but shows like “Sex and the City,” on which he made a guest appearance, turned him into “a dashing, bemused man in a business suit or black tie, spending money, dispensing advice, insults and baksheesh.”

 “Audience of One” is worth the price of admission just for its brilliant dissection of the 1980 film comedy “Caddyshack,” which I had mostly remembered for Bill Murray’s battle with some species of marmot. In Poniewozik’s take the movie is a prophecy of our current nightmare, a conflict between “the stuffed shirt Judge Smails,” representing the G.O.P. of yore, and Rodney Dangerfield’s real estate developer, Al Czervik, who “wears ridiculous loud jackets rather than the judge’s ridiculous preppy nautical wear.” Poniewozik then writes: “This particular archetype of wealth especially served Trump later, particularly in the 2016 Republican primary, when he essentially ran as Al Czervik.”

The book then pivots toward the rise of the prestige TV antihero, which in characters like Tony Soprano, the burly, perpetually aggrieved New Jersey don, captured a strain of Trump’s “oy is me” tristate humor. These shows certainly reinvented how we approached the mostly male antiheroes, but it is difficult to imagine how any TV writers’ room worth its salt would ever sign off on someone as one-dimensional as Trump. For all his ill deeds, Tony Soprano loved his children and his wife (can you imagine him sexualizing his daughter as Trump has done?). Walter White certainly understood climate science. Don Draper read a book or two, and not merely the volume of Hitler’s collected speeches Trump reportedly kept by his bedside. And yet, when it came time for the election, Trump pulled off a Walter White-style gambit in “keeping the audience on the side of the antihero by convincing them that his enemies were even worse.”

Poniewozik then delves into the advent of reality shows as a continuation of the antihero genre. He quotes a supervising editor on “The Apprentice” — without which Trump arguably would never have become president — describing the show’s mission as “Make Trump look good, make him look wealthy, legitimate.” But Trump’s years on the often low-rated show fully prepped him for his famous descent down the escalator and his rise to the debate podium. He “recognized intuitively what the televised debates were: an elimination-based reality show.” Moreover, the cheesy “boardroom” of “The Apprentice” would ultimately become “a direct blueprint for Trump’s administration, a dogpile of competitors, cronies and relatives throttling one another daily for survival.”

The presidency has become what it never was under Obama or Clinton or the Bushes, no matter how different their governing styles or agendas. It has become “Must See TV.” Despite the apparent bedlam, special care is taken to make sure that the plotlines, in industry parlance, “hook,” and that the characters always say crazy, unexpected things. Ever thought you’d see a Jewish white supremacist in the White House? Well, now you have. A renowned neurosurgeon who mistakes Hamas for hummus? Send him in. Anthony Scaramucci, whatever he was? Check.

Still, Poniewozik never underestimates Trump’s malicious genius (as so many of us have). “He had a genuine ability to improvise,” he writes of “The Apprentice.” “He knew instinctually what the camera wanted.” As the traditional three-network news audience, united in at least the concept of human decency, fractured, the future president presided over campaign rallies that appeared “like something out of ancient, tribal oral tradition. His effect was to erase everything between Gutenberg and the cathode-ray tube.” Ultimately, it led to a presidency run from the set of “Fox & Friends,” which “would tell him what a good day he had before the day even began.”

And with the inception of Twitter, many of us were conscripted into doing midnight battle with “Florida Christian Mom,” who as likely came from the St. Petersburg in Russia as the one in the Sunshine State. We entered an echo chamber that reverberated solely to the sound of one man’s voice, thinking, perhaps, that “the only cure for this creature that came from the media … was more media, like a homeopathic cure.”

To that effect, Poniewozik offers few solutions for the problems that plague the mass media realm, other than a hope for inclusive shows like “Friday Night Lights,” instead of the us-vs.-them Trumpism of “The Walking Dead.” He is less a neurosurgeon (though I suspect he would not confuse a Middle Eastern fundamentalist movement with baba ghanouj) than a general practitioner with his stethoscope tight on our country’s wheezing chest. He’s got Trump’s grifter late-night 1-800 number, and he’s got ours as well. “Before he started his victory speech,” Poniewozik writes of Trump on the fateful night of Nov. 8, 2016, “he searched one more time, over the heads of the crowd, for the red light of the TV-news camera, the one thing on Earth that was most like him. It never slept. It was always hungry. It ate and ate and ate, and when it had eaten the entire world, it was still empty.”

Gary Shteyngart’s latest novel, “Lake Success,” is now out in paperback.




  Audience Of One' Aims To Show How TV Shaped Donald Trump — And Led To His .

   September 11, 2019

    Audience of One

Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America

by James Poniewozik


Dwight Eisenhower "became president by winning the war in the European theater," writes James Poniewozik in his new book Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America. "Donald Trump became president by winning the 9 p.m. time slot on NBC."

But Trump isn't just on TV, according to Poniewozik. He is TV. Over the course of his life, Trump "achieved symbiosis with the medium," he argues. "Its impulses were his impulses; its appetites were his appetites; its mentality was his mentality."

Poniewozik does not, of course, mean all TV. Trump is not Gilmore Girls. Trump is not the Great British Bake Off or Friday Night Lights or Frasier or Glee, or any kind of TV show grounded in a presumption of empathy for other people. Poniewozik makes the convincing case that the more Darwinian genres of TV — reality, sports, cable news — have legible, internally coherent moral teachings and ideologies, and that these both shaped Trump and helped create the cultural conditions for his rise. Those messages include:

"That life is a constant, zero-sum competition, and if you are not beating someone then someone is beating you. (The lesson of sports and game shows.) That the best response to any controversy or crisis is to heighten the conflict. (The lesson of TV news.) That people perform best when set to fight against one another for survival. (The lesson of The Apprentice.) That there is no history or objective truth beyond your immediate situational interests, and that reality resets with every tweet or click of the remote."

Poniewozik is a witty, acrobatic guide through recent decades of TV, tracing the cultural forces that led to Trumpism, touching on everything from Dire Straits' Money for Nothing ("like a concert opening act for Trumpism"), to the glitz of the Reagan years, to Archie Bunker ("Trump's sitcom John the Baptist") and the rise of the TV antihero ("in literary terms a protagonist without conventional noble attributes; in layman's terms an a--hole you find interesting."). These antiheroes, bigots, pugilists, and narcissists lit the way, Poniewozik argues: To get to Trump, we first needed Tony Soprano, pro wrestling, reality TV, and maybe even Batman.

Poniewozik is especially perceptive about the incentives of cable news, and how CNN in particular built a business model on people not wanting to look away from disasters. "Trump was a plane that crashed every day, a Poop Cruise in perpetuity...He was a one-man solution to the problem of what to do when there was no breaking news."

Reading Poniewozik is like watching a motorcyclist zip around traffic. (Traffic being the wider history of populism, values voters, demography, etc.). He is abundantly smart, and you get the sense that he's just tossing out connections and theories the way you might scatter bread crumbs to pigeons. "Someone else can sort that out," he writes of every other political and cultural consideration in Trump's rise.

But the book's largest omission is a serious consideration of Trump's supporters. You can easily see how Trump's belligerent, spiteful performances would get him attention. But what happens in that small, crucial distance between attention and support?

Between a TV show and person (or book and person) an alchemy takes place, one that has to do with who the person is and what they care about. People have complicated inner lives, they weigh their priorities, they care about abortion or guns or immigration, and these factors affect how they understand and internalize the messages they receive. It would probably be hard to write a book that accounts for both sides of the equation, but here is where a dusting of modesty would help.

Poniewozik's book does contain a quick acknowledgement that "[p]olitical coalitions are complicated things" and that people vote for lots of reasons. But when he imagines himself into the minds of Trump voters, the result feels artificial.

Here, for instance, he describes the religious right during the Chick-fil-A controversy: "The president of Chick-fil-A denounced gay marriage; suddenly a chicken sandwich with waffle fries became a religious-right deep-fried Eucharist." His larger point, about "cultural choices as ideological markers" is clearly true — it's the simplification, and contempt, that grates.

Over the course of the book, describing Trump's intended effect, Poniewozik compares Trump to the Pope, to a "voluptuary prince being carried on a palanquin," to a "golden god," to the "sun who gave every flower life," and even, in an extended mapping of the Catholic liturgy onto the structure of The Apprentice, to God himself. (Though to be fair, he also compares Trump to a pimp, a basilisk, and both Gollum and the flaming eye of Sauron.) This is all meant to be droll, but the idea of MAGA hat wearers as thralls to the golden god onscreen both underestimates and excuses them.

It is worth returning to the distinction Poniewozik makes between TV like The Apprentice and TV like Cheers: TV that treats other people as objects and obstacles, and TV that treats people as though they have interiority. This is also a distinction we can make in how we treat and think about other people, something related to what the philosopher Martin Buber calls the I-you interaction, in contrast to the I-it interaction.

To be clear, Audience of One is both brilliant and daring, particularly when it comes to Trump's image making. It is a tactile pleasure to read. Poniewozik's sentences zip! His jokes land! His interpretations shimmy!

But I couldn't get past that gap, the one between image and audience, the place where the thinking, digesting, and responding happens. In Poniewozik's reading, Trump's supporters must be stupid, dazzled creatures, absorbing the darkest messages of television and regurgitating them uncritically on the ballot. But people are not mere receptacles of culture. And treating Trump voters as yous rather than its — in other words, as though they have interiority, beliefs, and the ability to weigh options — does not exonerate them. If anything, it acknowledges that they are fully responsible for the choice they made.