In the movie Training Day, there is this scene where Denzel Washington is reading his morning newspaper at a diner. A new police officer that joins him at the table for the latter’s first day at training wouldn’t stop talking and disturbing Denzel’s newspaper reading. That makes Denzel angry and he tells the rookie officer while pointing to the newspaper, “this is a newspaper right, there is 90% bullshit, but it’s entertaining, that’s why I read it, because it entertains me, you won’t let me read it.” And on the discussion goes.
As usual Trump dodged the hard questions and even dog whistled his radical ultra right nationalist cult followers
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The story of the presidential debates in America is no different. For that matter, that is true for the entire world. There is no substance whatsoever in any discussion about democracy. It is all lies and stories. In America, it is the season of presidential debates. Each party is trying to convince the people why it deserves their vote.
The presidential debates lacked substance
Donald Trump and Joe Biden had their first face off in a presidential debate followed by the second debate, which was done virtually because Trump has the coronavirus. Both debates, especially the face to face one was quite a circus. Trump did not care or respect the rules outlined for a healthy discussion on the stage. He kept pushing Biden to throw him off of his game and win the freak show, which is what it was. As usual Trump dodged the hard questions and even dog whistled his radical ultra right nationalist cult followers. The likes of QAnon and others well received his message when Trump said, “Proud Boys stand back and stand by”: that if Trump loses the election, they should be ready to attack. Anyway, the debate was devoid of any substance and one hell of a freak show and with Trump present on the stage, expect more of the same in future debates.
Sadly, the practice of democracy has come down to entertainment. Because while cricket and Netflix are meant to entertain, governance is not
In that manner, Trump is a lot like Shahid Afridi. Not many critics around the world considered Afridi a true cricketer, just like many do not consider Shah Rukh Khan a true actor. But, maybe this is the nature of the times we are living in; when substance, genuineness, and competence do not matter. Anything that is hollow yet spicy, sells. While many ridiculed Afridi for his cricketing, especially batting skills, every time he was on the crease, we all were glued to the TV. While his performance most of the time lasted for minutes if not seconds, that duration was one freak show with the viewers’ adrenaline rushing through the roof and the audience in the stadium did not literally even have a roof.
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Shahid Afridi made every cricket match feel like a cricket World Cup match especially when he had the bat. Afridi did not really play by the accepted norms of batting and that was the reason why he could hit any bowler in any way. When tactics are smashed with brashness, that is what happens. That results in empty entertainment. Shahid Afridi and Donald Trump share that trait. Every time I see Trump on the stage, it is as if Shahid Afridi has come to the crease with his bat in his hand ready to smash. And sadly, we subliminally expect and want it.
Democracy is not meant to entertain
Our bar to be entertained and blown away has gone up. Our attention span has come down for anything that is of substance. The only time we patiently watch something is when we binge watch Netflix, where the most favorite shows are the ones that arouse our anger, hatred, and all sorts of other emotions. Have you noticed that every good show is the one where a villain character is elevated to a high level and then satisfaction comes after we see them being put down by the hero character. Kurdoglu in Ertugrul, Gandiya in Money Heist, Cersei in Game of Thrones, and so forth are some examples.
Sadly, the practice of democracy has come down to entertainment. Because while cricket and Netflix are meant to entertain, governance is not. In the United States, many youngsters do not vote. To encourage them to do so, rockstars used to be brought in to convince them to go out and vote. This time around, with Trump and the freak show that debates have become, no rockstars are needed. Trump himself provides better entertainment. Who cares if it is ridiculous and substance free?
Imran Jan is a political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter @Imran_Jan. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.