‘The world is a stage’, the saying goes.
Lately, I’ve been more acutely aware of something that had been prodding at my mind for a while: but that I hadn’t quite put my finger on properly. Specifically, the idea that a fake or ‘scripted’ reality is playing out all over the place – and that this scripted ‘reality’ is populated by actors merely playing parts.
In short, what I’m asking here is ‘are we now stuck in a reality TV show’? Is our collective consciousness being reconfigured into a reality-tv format?
In fact, I’ve been trying to write an article on a broader subject (Scripted Reality) for some time now – and have as-yet declined to publish it, because I can’t quite get my thoughts together coherently.
But watching the frankly weird spectacle of millionaire rap star Kanye West and millionaire US President Donald Trump in the White House rather powerfully triggered me back to this subject. I want to talk about Kanye West and also the ‘Kardashians’ (I’m so sorry) and where they came from: and why this is all so weird (and why it has troubling implications).
In doing so, I also want to talk about the very nature of ‘truth’, ‘reality’ and perception – and what the term ‘post-truth’ might actually end up meaning.
For starters, the footage of the eccentric rapper’s staged twenty-minute conversation with the President strikes me as one of the most bizarre moments so far of the Donald Trump presidency and its accompanying reality-TV freak-show (click on the image to go see the video, if you haven’t seen it already).
And it again forces me to ask whether this all is a reality TV show now – albeit, one that’s been transplanted (with the help of both the media and the ‘viewing public’) onto a broader perception of ‘reality’ with far bigger implications for society, intelligence levels, general perception and collective consciosuness.
More and more, I can’t help but keep thinking that almost everything we’re seeing – in politics, entertainment, media, even geopolitics – is all a scripted theatre based on the reality-tv model. Some time soonish, I’ll try to finish and publish the much bigger article on this subject – which compiles much more detailed references and examples of what I’m talking about.
For the record, I’ve always hated ‘reality TV’ anyway and have never watched it. And I’ve never been a fan of either Kanye West’s music or his brand.
But for the sake of illustrating how this seems to be working here, I’ll cite one of the examples from that as-yet unfinished article. It’s a relatively minor example: the case of the pop star Miley Cyrus.
I have nothing against her personally; but she literally got famous from being in a TV show about a normal girl who was a pop star by night (‘Hannah Montana’). And now she actually is a pop star; she has literally become, in real life, the role she was originally playing fictionally.
So that’s a good example of why we often have to wonder where fiction ends and ‘reality’ begins? Is the real-life Miley Cyrus story somehow the fictional Hannah Montana story come to life?
Don’t worry, this isn’t an article about Miley Cyrus. And it isn’t another article about ‘predictive programming’ in popular media either – though that’s something I should probably revisit again at some point.
But I’m trying to be careful not to mix up the subjects of predictive programming and the reality-tv/reality overlap or convergence that I’m talking about – as they’re probably not the same thing and it could get very confusing.
It’s worth specifying, for clarity’s sake, what the difference is between ‘reality TV’ and non-reality TV – because understanding these dynamics actually helps understand the problems and dangers of a real-world/reality-tv overlap.
It’s essentially the difference between fiction and non-fiction.
In non-reality TV formats – dramas, sci-fi, sitcoms, cartoons, etc – there is an absolute understanding on part of the viewer that what they are watching is a fiction and an entertainment, even if it may reflect the real world or speak to real-world issues. In other words, when I’m watching the latest episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, I entirely understand that, no matter how much it may reflect the real world, I am watching fiction for entertainment purposes.
However, if I was watching the latest episode of The Kardashians, my understanding of its ‘reality’ or nature would be less clearly delineated. In reality TV, it is generally understood by the viewer that they’re watching some version of real life – in other words, it’s not scripted or ‘fake’ in the fictional sense.
In truth, however, most or all ‘reality TV’ probably IS scripted and entirely staged: some viewers probably understand this and watch the shows with this in mind – other viewers, however, probably don’t understand this at all and thus assume that everything they’re seeing is entirely ‘real’ and non-manipulated.
So, if ‘reality TV’ dynamics were to supplant ‘reality’, the degree to which it might effect or influence us depends on our perception: if we recognise it as a bullshit pantomime, it will influence us very little, but if we think it’s all ‘real’ then we’re more liable to get sucked into the nonsense… and suffer brain damage in the process.
But perception is exactly what I’m concerned about – more specifically, the eroding away of the lines and our ability to differentiate: which I will come back to, because my question is whether it’s being done on purpose.
I cited Miley Cyrus earlier – not because I have anything against her, but because her ‘story’ seems to illustrate the TV-to-real-life transition model (albeit, in her case, one that orginated with fiction).
But that same format applies to Donald Trump’s presidency, doesn’t it? He was literally a reality TV star who ran for the presidency in a fashion that seemed to borrow from a mix of reality-tv and worldwide wrestling federation tropes, while also apparently following along the lines of the Richard Pryor comedy/satire film Brewster’s Millions (pictured above) – a connection I wrote about here before.
How does all this relate to Kanye and Trump’s spectacle in the White House? Kanye West, like Trump, seems to be living out a ‘real life’ reality TV show: he is the star of his own ongoing Truman Show like drama, just as Trump is – and what happened in the White House seemed to be a crossover episode of two different ‘real life’ reality TV shows.
I’m surprised the universe didn’t collapse in on itself at such a bizarre convergence – a reality TV show WITHIN a reality TV show. Even odder, thinking about that, is that Kanye West did seem to spend some of his long, rambling dialogue apparently talking about alternate realities or parallel worlds – and sounded, at points, like a confused traveller who has been thrust from one reality/timeline into another.
Seriously – and admittedly I couldn’t stomach the entire speech, so I may have misheard bits of it – but he seemed at one point to be referring (literally, I think) to another person or persona in a parallel reality.
In regard to that particular spectacle, it’s not even clear who’s reality TV show we were watching – Kanye’s or Donald’s?
I guess both – but the joke is on us, because we’re all reduced to watching a REALITY TV SHOW that has hijacked or supplanted apparent REALITY so that the delineation has been removed.
How exactly did that happen?
There are varying arguments that could be suggested – some being extremely complicated (up to and including the idea that we’re living in a simulation, etc), which I’m avoiding for now (but will try to revisit if and when I get around to finishing a better article on this subject).
But one simpler start-point would be the fact celebrity itself has been devalued more and more over the years to the point of meaninglessness. Whereas, for the most part, there used to be ‘celebrities’ who were famous and feted on account of something reasonably significant (obvious examples being people like Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, etc), there are instead ‘celebrities’ who have either aspired merely to be ‘celebrities’ from the outset or who have been manufactured to be so.
Hence, the reality TV formats and karaoke talent show formats in which people are offered the platform to ‘become’ pop stars or celebrities – and then they do.
There are people who now aspire to be, for example, Kim Kardashian – a woman who, herself is simply a pre-packaged ‘celebrity’ entity: a successful celebrity programming experiment – literally manufactured wholesale from nothing and made into a powerful celebrity brand. And now she herself – a non-entity to begin with – has been made into an object of desire or even inspiration for a lot of people: a cultural or lifestyle influencer.
She is also married to an actor playing the role of ‘musician’ or modern rock star, Kanye West himself – a self-worshipping, slightly Messianic ‘entrepreneur’ who, like a number of the world’s most successful ‘artists’ today, belongs to a rich boys’ club that seems to have a predilection for weird symbolism.
Though he also appears to have had some kind of breakdown not long ago, from which he re-emerged as an odder, more manic personality.
Again, there seems to be a Truman Show like element to it.
That same ‘artist’ has announced a desire to run for US President some day – an intention he seemed to reiterate in his meeting with President Trump.
It isn’t something that should be regarded as a joke: in fact, Kanye’s big moment with Trump in the White House could conceivably be an opening act in what will be a future bid for president. What you might’ve been seeing, in essence, was one reality-TV-star-president helping lay the groundwork for his reality-TV-star-president ‘successor’ in the future.
Which entirely places the US Presidency in the mold of what was depicted in the film Idiocracy – a film about a future in which all of the population is stupid and in which a time-traveller from the 1990s is the only person with a high enough intelligence-level to help solve their problems (I referenced that film here before, in relation to the late Stephen Hawking’s predictions about a stupider population in the future).
Seriously, anyone who’s never seen the film Idiocracy (and particualrly how that film’s version of the US President is depicted) should check it out some time – that’s an old film, but it seems to predict the era of both Trump and Kanye.
Sticking, for a moment, to the matter of Kanye West’s strange and unlikely marriage to Kim Kardashian (and bearing in mind his stated intention to run for president after Trump has completed his second term), this all actually gets weirder and weirder the more you look at it.
For example, the reason the ‘Kardashians’ are famous at all is because of their connection to O.J Simpson. Robert Kardashian was Simpson’s friend and his Defense Attorney.
They weren’t famous then or known as ‘The Kardashians’: but as this Slate article from 2016 asks: ‘How did one of the most infamous families in American pop culture get so entangled in the most infamous murder trial of the century?‘
It’s actually seems kind of creepy. When O.J Simpson’s victims were found, he apparently hid out at the Kardashians’ house.
This article a year ago from Daily Beast recounts some of the story, including the fact that Robert Kardashian was complaining about all the media coverage and intrusions into his house, and it adds ‘The irony, of course, is that this engine of content creation—not to mention the very notion of mining “reality” for entertainment—eventually became the Kardashians’ bread and butter. While Kardashian condemned the advent of this new level of scrutiny, his ex-wife and daughters saw it as an opportunity, eventually becoming the biggest celebrities in a TV genre that takes its cues directly from the sensationalist coverage of the “Trial of the Century”…’
Weirder yet, there were persistent claims that O.J Simpson was one of the Kardashian girls’ father. Also, Caitlin Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner – and generally known now as ‘the most famous transgender woman in the world’) was also in the Kardashian family, having been married to one of them: and some of those girls are – according to Wikipedia (seriously, I struggled to look into this stuff and not suffer some of the aforementioned brain damage) – their stepchildren.
I generally didn’t know any of this until I looked it up: the only person I’d heard of in this story was O.J Simpson and the only thing I knew about the Kardashians was that one of them was married to Kanye West.
But what’s fascinating is that the O.J Simpson business not only gave birth to the Kardashians (the most famous and ‘successful’ reality-tv stars and probably the biggest thing on American telly other that Trump himself), but it also arguably gave birth to the modern ‘event’ news coverage format (the rolling, back-to-back coverage format that the news channels adopt whenever there’s a terrorist attack, for example).
And which, like reality TV itself, plays a big part in how our perceived reality – or our collective consciousness – is being hacked and reconfigured.
It’s just as weird, thinking about it, as the fact (as highlighted here) that Trump and Kushner are/were so connected with some of the big New York players in the 9/11 conspiracy: and that the Trump presidency seems to have been 9/11 going full circle, *and* that a lot of people consider 9/11 itself to have been the start-point of a new, scripted ‘reality’ based on deception, mass manipulation and false narratives.
But the point is that it seems increasingly as if ‘reality’ and reality-TV have merged: almost like two parallel worlds converging, such as you might find in a sci-fi story or a comic-book.
There are in fact some very, very good comic-book stories along those lines (admittedly, parallel or alternate realities converging, rather than ‘reality tv’ and ‘reality’). I won’t specify or overly detail them here, but – generally speaking – the heroes usually try desperately to *prevent* such a converging of ‘realities’. And, generally speaking, the merging of realities causes big alterations to life, society, consciousness and memory, that most people can’t or don’t detect, except for some of the heroes.
At which point, a hero (let’s say, The Flash, for example) will behold this altered reality and have an inner monologue along the lines of “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!” or “This isn’t how I remember it!”
A serious point is that a converging of ‘reality’ and reality TV over time would presumably have all kinds of accumulative effects on the dynamics of perception, thinking, public discourse, identity, society, and much else – but that we might not really notice for a long time.
Constitutional Attorney and author John Whitehead, writing at the Rutherford Insitute in July this year, hit the nail on the head with an article titled ‘It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics‘, in which he explores the effects and purposes of the scripted soap-opera of the Trump presidency (or, perhaps more accurately, the media’s depiction of the Trump presidency) on the viewing public.
Crucially, he cites ‘Studies that suggest that the more reality TV people watch—and I would posit that it’s all reality TV, entertainment news included—the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between what is real and what is carefully crafted farce…‘
Indeed, there have been warnings for years now about the massive and deliberate dumbing down of society via the proliferation of certain types of television, media, music and technology: the purpose being to create a less intelligent, less informed and easier-to-manipulate society that is incapable of recognising or ascertaining truth or meaning.
I mentioned earlier the devaluation of ‘celebrity’: but this was just one of the earliest manifestations. In fact, everything has been devalued and dumbed-down in due course: politics, news media (both the way it is presented and the way it is consumed), the entertainment industry, public discourse, general behaviour, and so on.
If you take news media as an example, the major news broadcasters particularly in America, have been dumbed down to the point where it basically always looks like school teachers speaking in a patronising tone to little children (the little children being the viewers): and the way the news media has handled the Trump phenomenon (which was arguably its own creation in large part) is the most obvious, long-playing example of this reality-tv/soap-opera style pantomime being maintained indefinitely in order to keep people from thinking about or focusing on important things.
Even the idea of ‘truth’ itself has been devalued to the point where things are even being referred to commonly as ‘post-truth’: I’ve lost count of how many references I’ve seen to the “post-truth world”.
It’s a world in which there can be no ‘truth’, because everything is subjective, perception-based, sectarian, confirmation bias: in other words, ‘truth’ in the objective sense is no longer even being championed or sought, but rather a subjective ‘truth’ based on psychological needs or servicing a political, social or corporate agenda (or both).
Crucially too, where the biggest news media platforms are playing this game, so too are the biggest ‘opposition’ platforms: for example, something like Alex Jones (who himself has been outed as an “actor” “playing a role”) and Info Wars, which is simply playing out the same ‘post-truth’, subjective, sectarian pantomine, only from the other side of the equation (thus giving the illusion of an ‘opposition’ media).
The ‘psy-op’ essentially is to make you an idiot, having to choose from one reality-tv/bullshit purveyor or another reality-tv/bullshit purveyor that’s posing as the alternative.
But the point about ‘post-truth’ subjective perception is that the idea of truth itself is no longer relevant – instead you have ‘opinion’ in its place.
The Rutherford article touches on this somewhat too: ‘One of the reasons many people are addicted to watching TV news is that they feel they must have an opinion on almost everything, which gives the illusion of participation in American life. But an “opinion” is all that we can gain from TV news because it only presents the most rudimentary and fragmented information on anything…’
He’s talking about mainstream news there: but I would add brands like Info Wars, Breitbart and others (which I’ve argued before are *also* the new ‘mainstream’ paradigm) into that equation too.
In other words, ‘truth’ becomes dissociated from facts or from establishing evidence-based arguments and instead becomes associated with Received Opinion, Viral Falsehoods and easy-to-remember memes or catchphrases that are simply passed on like a virus.
So, coming back to the original theme, at what point does ‘post-truth’ equate to ‘post-reality’? Well, clearly, ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ are ideas that are closely related to each other. If you can get a critical mass of people no longer invested in the idea of ‘truth’ or no longer even able to discern what ‘truth’ is – you can essentially manufacture their ‘truth’ and feed it to them; meaning you can essentially manufacture their ‘reality’ and feed that to them.
In fact, it occurs to me that if some force, intelligence or agency was trying to create the ‘Matrix’ and transfer our collective consciousness over to it, it would do it incrementally and experimentally – in careful stages, hacking our sense of reality a bit at a time.
And trying to redirect our sense of the world towards soap-opera-style reality-TV format would be a good way to begin warping our sense of reality.
In keeping with the Miley Cyrus paradigm mentioned earlier, arguably we now also already have an actor playing the role of ‘leader of the free world’. Literally, a reality TV star and long-time celebrity with no political experience is the President of the most powerful nation on earth: and the entire world – and all of the media – seems to now revolve around his antics and his Twitter account.
If the presidential campaign seemed to ape the Richard Pryor movie Brewster’s Millions, the post-election Trump now seems to literally be living out his own Truman Show scenario, where the whole world (or at least the entirety of the media) seems to revolve around him entirely.
As said earlier, both Trump and Kanye West seem to be living out their own dramas and believing the entire world revolves around their reality TV show.
In the White House encounter, Kanye – if I’m remembering correctly – even referred to the ‘Hero’s Journey’ in regard to President Trump: a reference to the influential Joseph Campbell mono-myth model that lays out the mythological structure of the archetypal hero and his/her journey of self-realisation. Campbell’s model was also the inspiration for, among other things, Luke Skywalker in George Lucas’s Star Wars saga.
It was weird-as-fuck to hear a millionaire Hip-Hop star and celebrity brand cite it in reference to President Trump: but it seems to highlight both Kanye’s and Trump’s self-perception and the idea that they are both the stars or ‘heroes’ of their own reality-TV dramas and that the rest of us are all just compulsive viewers.
The Truman Show reference is also curious for another reason.
The star of the Truman Show was Jim Carrey. Listen to both the kind of stuff Kanye West was saying and the slightly manic, incoherent way he was saying it, and then watch any videos in recent of years of Jim Carrey – and there’s a definite similarity.
Both of them seem like people who’ve had some kind of explosive, personality or perception altering experience.
If you haven’t seen any footage of Jim Carrey from recent years, look it up: he definitely comes across as someone who’s had either a major mind-altering experience or some kind of profound spiritual awakening. Kanye West doesn’t seem to be on the same level (Carrey is more coherent and makes more sense), but he also does have the same manic, mile-a-minute and sometimes incoherent way of trying to speak that Carrey now displays.
In both cases, they now sound like individuals who’s brains are struggling to process something, but who are trying as best as they can to express something that might be (either in reality or just in their minds) profound.
Kanye West even sounded like he was skirting around some interesting, even valid, points in places – but he was so bad at organisng or structuring his sentences and ideas that he often just came off as nonsensical. It’s the same incohernece that Trump himself often seems to have – although Trump’s might be for very different and less interesting reasons.
But again, as with the less important example of Miley Cyrus, the border between fiction and reality (or perhaps even more so between reality TV and reality reality) seems to have been eroded so that no one knows which is which anymore.
And maybe, in the not-so-distant future, there will be generations who really don’t know what’s what anymore – and who don’t even know enough to care about separating one from the other. We’re basically there already.
Is the entire US presidency now a reality TV show? Who knows? It’s certainly being conducted like one.
And if so, what’s to negate a future ‘President Kanye’, with a future Mrs Kardashian as America’s First Lady? If you think about it, it’s really no more absurd than President Trump and First Lady Melania. America’s current First Lady is already a former glamour model who can barely deliver a sentence, after all – from that to Kim Kardashian shouldn’t be so much of a leap.
But by then reality will have collapsed completely.
Read more: ‘Trump, the Alt-Right & the Weird Reality/Reality-TV Overlap’, ‘Alex Jones, Info Wars, Mind Architecture, Cult Tactics & the MIND WAR‘, ‘Iron Man 3 & the Bin Laden Myth‘, ‘The ISIS Fear-Porn Psy-Op Reaching Critical Mass‘, ‘Trump, Kushner, the Dancing Israelis & the 9/11 Redirection‘…