One of the delights of living in Canada is that we have the best seats to the drama of our friends to the south. Considered merely as spectacle, American politics is now perhaps the most diverting in all the world. America’s president is the greatest showman since P.T. Barnum, and his talent is a little like Falstaff’s, the latter having observed that he “was not only witty in (himself), but the cause of wit in other men.” With Mr. Trump we may say, to take merely a neutral descriptive, he is not only interesting in himself, but is the cause of some extremely dull people being interesting, too.
I cannot imagine another incumbency that would exert a magnetism on behalf of CNN’s Jim Acosta for example, yet under Mr. Trump’s baton the rude and frequently obnoxious Acosta, whining perpetually at presidential press conferences, has built himself something of a profile, albeit a demeaning and trivial one. Extending this notion, one of Mr. Trump’s many claims is that a goodly portion of the American press, however much it exerts itself in contempt and hostility towards his person, actually owes him a great deal. From The New York Times, to the desperately woeful Huffington Post — the journalistic wormhole to infinities of mediocrity — the American press owes what audience it may claim, more to Trump, and their bitter, bent, interminable coverage of him, than to any other factor.
Mainstream media is dependent on Trump, but for the raucous cable channels, he is their very lifeline. They could not function or exist without Trump as their obsessive, singular, manic focus.
There might be some virtue, however petty, in their stalker-like attentions, if all the panels and specials and “breaking news” marathons offered some glimpse or glimmer of insight, freshness of observation, coherence of interpretation or solid analysis. But all is channelled through an outraged filter of shallow contempt and a haze of intellectual and moral condescension toward their target, the American president.