Nothing Is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades As Politics

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

There are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may be shriveled. In the first - the Orwellian - culture becomes a prison. In the second - the Huxleyan - culture becomes a burlesque. No one needs to be reminded that our world is now marred by many prison-cultures…. it makes little difference if our wardens are inspired by right- or left-wing ideologies. The gates of the prison are equally impenetrable, surveillance equally rigorous, icon-worship pervasive…. Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours…. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”— Professor Neil Postman

Donald Trump no longer needs to launch Trump TV.

He’s already the star of his own political reality show.

Americans have a voracious appetite for TV entertainment, and the Trump reality show—guest starring outraged Democrats with a newly awakened conscience for immigrants and the poor, power-hungry Republicans eager to take advantage of their return to power, and a hodgepodge of other special interest groups with dubious motives—feeds that appetite for titillating, soap opera drama.

After all, who needs the insults, narcissism and power plays that are hallmarks of reality shows such as Celebrity Apprentice or Keeping Up with the Kardashians when you can have all that and more delivered up by the likes of Donald Trump and his cohorts?

Yet as John Lennon reminds us, “nothing is real,” especially not in the world of politics.

Much like the fabricated universe in Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show, in which a man’s life is the basis for an elaborately staged television show aimed at selling products and procuring ratings, the political scene in the United States has devolved over the years into a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population.

Indeed, Donald Trump may be the smartest move yet by the powers-that-be to keep the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats, because as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form.

This is the magic of the reality TV programming that passes for politics today.

It allows us to be distracted, entertained, occasionally a little bit outraged but overall largely uninvolved, content to remain in the viewer’s seat.

The more that is beamed at us, the more inclined we are to settle back in our comfy recliners and become passive viewers rather than active participants as unsettling, frightening events unfold.

Reality and fiction merge as everything around us becomes entertainment fodder.

We don’t even have to change the channel when the subject matter becomes too monotonous. That’s taken care of for us by the programmers (the corporate media).

For instance, before we could get too worked up over government surveillance, the programmers changed the channels on us and switched us over to breaking news about militarized police. Before our outrage could be transformed into action over police misconduct, they changed the channel once again to reports of ISIS beheadings and terrorist shootings. Before we had a chance to challenge what was staged or real, the programming switched to the 2016 presidential election.

“Living is easy with eyes closed,” says Lennon, and that’s exactly what reality TV that masquerades as American politics programs the citizenry to do: navigate the world with their eyes shut.

As long as we’re viewers, we’ll never be doers.

Studies suggest that the more reality TV people watch—and I would posit that it’s all reality TV—the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between what is real and what is carefully crafted farce.

“We the people” are watching a lot of TV.

On average, Americans spend five hours a day watching television. By the time we reach age 65, we’re watching more than 50 hours of television a week, and that number increases as we get older. And reality TV programming consistently captures the largest percentage of TV watchers every season by an almost 2-1 ratio.

This doesn’t bode well for a citizenry able to sift through masterfully-produced propaganda in order to think critically about the issues of the day, whether it’s fake news peddled by government agencies or foreign entities.

Those who watch reality shows tend to view what they see as the “norm.” Thus, those who watch shows characterized by lying, aggression and meanness not only come to see such behavior as acceptable and entertaining but also mimic the medium.

This holds true whether the reality programming is about the antics of celebrities in the White House, in the board room, or in the bedroom.

It’s a phenomenon called “humilitainment.”

A term coined by media scholars Brad Waite and Sara Booker, “humilitainment” refers to the tendency for viewers to take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation, suffering and pain.

Humilitainment” largely explains not only why American TV watchers are so fixated on reality TV programming but how American citizens, largely insulated from what is really happening in the world around them by layers of technology, entertainment, and other distractions, are being programmed to accept the brutality, surveillance and dehumanizing treatment of the American police state as things happening to other people.

The ramifications for the future of civic engagement, political discourse and self-government are incredibly depressing and demoralizing.

This not only explains how a candidate like Donald Trump with a reputation for being rude, egotistical and narcissistic could get elected, but it also says a lot about how a politician like Barack Obama—whose tenure in the White House was characterized by drone killings, a weakening of the Constitution at the expense of Americans’ civil liberties, and an expansion of the police state—could be hailed as “one of the greatest presidents of all times.”

This is what happens when an entire nation—bombarded by reality TV programming, government propaganda and entertainment news—becomes systematically desensitized and acclimated to the trappings of a government that operates by fiat and speaks in a language of force.

Ultimately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality shows, the entertainment news, the surveillance society, the militarized police, and the political spectacles have one common objective: to keep us divided, distracted, imprisoned, and incapable of taking an active role in the business of self-government.

If “we the people” feel powerless and apathetic, it is only because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that the duties of citizenship begin and end at the ballot box.

Marching and protests have certainly been used with great success by past movements to foment real change, but if those marches and protests are merely outpourings of discontent because a particular politician won or lost with no solid plan of action or follow-through, then what’s the point?

Martin Luther King Jr. understood that politics could never be the answer to what ailed the country. That’s why he spearheaded a movement of mass-action strategy that employed boycotts, sit-ins and marches. Yet King didn’t march against a particular politician or merely to express discontent. He marched against injustice, government corruption, war, and inequality, and he leveraged discontent with the status quo into an activist movement that transformed the face of America.

When all is said and done, it won’t matter who you voted for in the presidential election. What will matter is where you stand in the face of the injustices that continue to ravage our nation: the endless wars, the police shootings, the overcriminalization, the corruption, the graft, the roadside strip searches, the private prisons, the surveillance state, etc.

Will you tune out the reality TV show and join with your fellow citizens to push back against the real menace of the police state, or will you merely sit back and lose yourself in the political programming aimed at keeping you imprisoned in the police state?

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Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"There are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may be shriveled. In the first - the Orwellian - culture becomes a prison. In the second - the Huxleyan - culture becomes a burlesque." Indeed, Donald Trump may be the smartest move yet by the powers-that-be to keep the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats, because as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form."

Those who say Trump is despised and not wanted by the top elite are not thinking through the issue with a clear and calm mind. Trump is the perfect divide and control weapon/tool. Even better, Trump does not see himself as such just as Yellen, Dimon and Krugman etc. don't see themselves as such.

Save_America1st's picture

I haven't had "tv" in almost 4 years now.  Interwebs what I want on pirate stream shit.  And it's all nearly HD these days, bitchez.

football games live...only on the interwebs.  Deadliest Catch, Gold Rush, Life Below Zero, Gas Monkeys, every single UFC fight for FREE live steaming...or whatever else you want to watch....LOL...all you gotta do is find that shit on a stream site and download it.  No big fucking deal.

Watching and especially PAYING for tv bullshit is a fucking joke. 

Cut your billz bitchez...

Just pay for the interwebs and cut out all that tv bullshit.  They fucking HATE that shit!  So DO IT!!!

Saves me nearly 800 bucks a year. 

I haven't seen hardly a commercial or a fucking bullshit, scumbag political campaign ad in fucking years!  LOL 

fuck 'em!!!!

Countrybunkererd's picture

The real danger is the show itself, whatever it may be, paying for it and having ads in your face are only a small part of it.  The adds are money not the message for them and paying for it just increases their money to make better indoctrinating "entertainment" like the fancy graphs on the football game or...

HedgeJunkie's picture

I get loud, vocal and pissed paying money to go to see a movie at a theater and having to put up with twenty minutes of propagandized commercials.  "Why the fuck do I have to PAY to see a fucking commercial?!!"

I usually get a number of people yelling back 'You're god damned right!"

I don't go out much, obviously.

musimann's picture

That's why they call it programming. Your being programmed, manipulated, controlled. Radio too. Especially all you listeners of "conservative talk radio." I can't tell you many people come up to me after listening to their favorite radio talk show and start talking about current political events like they thought of it. Your just being programmed. Hannity says he only needs you for an hour a day to be Hannitized. "But I don't want to be Hannitized." Don't listen then!

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) Save_America1st Jan 19, 2017 5:16 AM

Quit TV, Films, Radio

I quit TV in the 80s and rest in the 90s.

In the 70s I was 20s so I watched nearly no TV.

I have had very little exposure to TV. I think it's why I am not brainwashed.

MsCreant's picture

Look! Big orange sqwril!

I can almost buy it.

Why all the work to battle so called "fake news?"

malek's picture

You fail to provide examples who would NOT be the perfect divide and control weapon/tool, and why.

Insofar I file this somewhere between useless-thought-exercise and dumping-baby-with-bathwater.

Hoi Polloi's picture

Sometimes reality is just reality as it is. Too much conspiracies around

Countrybunkererd's picture

it is good to be cautious, their level of evil NEVER sleeps and is without doubt generational in scope and execution.  I think Trump being the designated mole is less likely than them taking him out JFK style for their plans.

Lynx Dogood's picture

Very good article with good links. The only question that I have based on the conclusive finish "the real menace of the police state"!

Is it only the police state that we fight? Is the police state now the term for total government fascist control, that now encompases all of the regulations and rules that twist and mold us to conformitiy (the same fascism beurocracy movment that our (US) government modeled after Hitlers & Mussolini's  rules and regulations for business and conduct).

Many americanss look only at the police as the cause of this problem, and the police are thus blamed for the results (am not justifying moronic police actions). When in reality we have culturaly degraded our selves and and government to the lowest levels of debasement, that is over regulation and the marxist beliefs that it is someone elses fault, never taking personaal responsibility for our individual actions.

HedgeJunkie's picture

A couple of years ago my wife and I took our first vacation something like 35 years.  Three weeks with a couple days in DC.

I'm sitting outside the ass end of the Rayburn Building and some politician gets dropped off.  She smiles at me in a charming politicians way.  I announce "Welcome to my house."

She was horrified, tucked all her shit in and RAN inside.

I still laugh at her horrified gasp and panic.

waldo simon's picture

Thanks, (again) Cog. Your post validates the spirit of this article,which IMHO is totally pertinent,

and succinct.

Many of the following posts, although probably well intentioned, miss the point.

TV has utterly molded the common collective reality, and, therefore those who control that medium,

control the--tv watching--masses.

The reference to the movie "The Truman Show" is an inspired analogy.

Personal responsibility for the creation of one's own reality, as unlikely as that seems, is the only answer

ebworthen's picture

I always knew reality was a hoax!

BabaLooey's picture

"Reality TV" is the poorest form of "entertainment" out there.

If it was "reality" - there would be NO scripts, no takes, no set ups, no make up, no plot.

Trump's "The Apprentice" was a show. NOT anything close to "reality". 

The ONLY "reality TV" is what spills out of CCTV - life - as it happens. 

The rest is made up bullshit.

espirit's picture

Be exposed to any libtard, and you risk losing your soul.

Just try it.

Byte Me's picture

By extension:

"Reality TV" <=> "Fake TV"

In keeping with all the other inversions, because, the medium is the message.

polyb1123's picture

'It’s a phenomenon called “humilitainment.”

A term coined by media scholars Brad Waite and Sara Booker, “humilitainment” refers to the tendency for viewers to take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation, suffering and pain.'


I believe that's called schadenfreude.  Oh wait, common core strikes again!

Liberty2012's picture

Perhaps related but not quite the same. Schadenfreude carries the connotation of being deserved, of a lesson to be learned.

polyb1123's picture

as if....

Schadenfreude (/????d?nfr??d?/; German: [??a?dn??f????d?]; lit. 'harm-joy') is pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. Borrowed from German into English and several other languages, it is a feeling of joy that comes from seeing or hearing about another person's troubles or failures. It is an expression of pleasure or self-satisfaction at another's failure.[1]


even wiki gets it better than you. 

VWAndy's picture

  We got played by every potus going back pretty far. A never ending chain yank?

espirit's picture

About time to say FU.

TalkToLind's picture

Oy vey, y'all goyim just ain't turning homo fast enough so we're gonna put Will And Grace back on TEEVEE!

espirit's picture

Oy vey, the Jewish Defense League still believes in God, Guts, and Guns.

Not sure all indoctrination includes Goys, but guns is good enough.

BabaLooey's picture

Notice, the vast majority of the comments there are negative towards the shit-show.

Besides, Debbie Messynobrain has jumped the fucking shark, a la Streep, in being a total asstard/Soetero-Canks loving cunt.

People that watch network TV are fucking zombies. Period.

I have one friend that does. She calls it her "guilty pleasure".

"Why do you feel guilty about it?" I asked.

"Because it's an escape from reality" - "I need to take my mind off of things" - "I think it's funny" - 

....all reasons she gave me.

I looked at her like a dog reacting to an odd noise.

...."and you're always bitching about not having enough time" (which she is)...."so add "because they steal time from me by wasting it distracting me for a net result of nothing - super."

Elco the Constitutionalist's picture
Elco the Constitutionalist (not verified) Jan 18, 2017 11:42 PM

I might believe a word of this, if it was not from the Rutherford Institute.

Twee Surgeon's picture

Who the hell is still watching television ? I haven't seen a TV show in years, nobody I know watches T.V. anymore except the grand-parent types. I dont believe any of the media statistics anymore and I certainly will not watch the pukes.

HedgeJunkie's picture

I AM an actual grandparent, and I abandoned TV about ten years ago.

I'll binge watch a few movies every couple of weeks, but not a signle TV show.

And am already talking to DIL about limiting TV/Computer and home schooling.

GooseShtepping Moron's picture

Donald Trump is the unified front against tyranny, you douche noodle.

Anonymous_Beneficiary's picture

Riight...sorta like comet ping pong is just a regular ole pizza joint!

Dislodge trump's cock from your ass for a moment and you will think much more clearly.

Liberty2012's picture

Crude imagery is a tool of fools and trolls.

BabaLooey's picture

I agree.

As much as I want to believe in Trump, I cast an experienced jaundiced eye at him.

Prove it. Go to work. Show me. 

Do some of Trumps' picks for his cabinet concern me? Hell yes. (and I not falling for the Jew/non Jew distraction - I could care less if he has some Goldman Sachs former squid lips on his team - I could care less if he had Dewey, Cheatam & Howe or the New Christie Minstrels  - GET THE FUCKING JOB DONE).

I was for Trump early on, and still am.

However, now that he's "hired" - he's gotta produce tangible results, or in my mind, he's fired.

THAT - I believe - is the major difference between the Soetero/Canks zombies and the majority of the Trump voters.

Those zombies LOVE to call Trump voters "worshipers", and have assigned all sorts of derogatory monikers as to Trump, feeling "good" about themselves. THEY fell for Soetero's bullshit, and 8 years on, are STILL falling for it, when OCEANS of evidence says otherwise. The fucks a failure. A war monger. A liar.

Fuck 'em.

Give Trump and WHOMEVER he has on his team some time. It will tell if we got played or not.

Victor von Doom's picture

Half agree with you BabaLooey. Mind you, a true opposition would shut the Fed, pull out of Israeli politics and smash the domestic Communists flat with an iron fist, let alone the barbarians.

We won't see any of this from Trump - so he is not the savior - just a step - a small step, in the right direction.

HedgeJunkie's picture

Personally, I will favor him with allowing him to actually assume the office before making any sort of judgement.

He'll get the same six months Bush and Obama got before I start riding their ass.

If Trump fucks up or turns out to be a sell out.  I'll be bitching right along with the snowflakes.

ChaoKrungThep's picture

Au contaire. A Hillary POTUS would have been sufferable, even bearable, since she would have "saved us from Trump", and with no real personality she could have squeezed by for four years. Trump, however, has a personality which divides everyone with its insults, praises, inconsistencies and total (superficial) unpredictability. Exactly what the PTB need: A TV game-reality style POTUS whose "policies", scripted the PTB, will quietly sail through legislation while the haters and lovers scream at each other. This's why they pulled the plug on Hillary. She was too honestly [sic] crooked, with no flare for crime. For they plan next, they needed a real gangster showman.    

Victor von Doom's picture

Half agree. I think they are in the process of co-opting him now. If he resists they'll try to kill him.

Magooo's picture

The Owners of the Fed work out the zeitgeist and give the sheeple what they want...


Obama - Hope and Change -- after Bush this is what the sheeple demanded... and they got more of the same


Trump - Make America Great ---  with the economy collapsing - this is what the sheeple want

Countrybunkererd's picture

yes, "but he never took the blood oath"

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Why be plugged into TV for hours on end, when I can be plugged into ZH for hours on end?


OverTheHedge's picture

I just wrote a pithy, incisive and well-structured comment, nipped out to find a link to confirm my hypothesis, and came back to my comment to discover it gone. Can't be bothered to redo it, but the link is excellent, so in the spirit of wasting time on zerohedge, here it is. Remember this when you are arrested for not believing in the msm narrative:

Liberty2012's picture

"GooseShtepping Moron Jan 18, 2017 11:52 PM
Donald Trump is the unified front against tyranny, you douche noodle."

Yes he is a breath of fresh air. People have been strangled for so long, some have forgotten what clear fresh air is like. It seems foreign, but they will remember.

Magooo's picture

You fucking FOOLS are being PLAYED.


Just like the Libtards were PLAYED by Obama.


They voted for Hope and Change - and what did they get?  More wars - more debt - more Bush.


And Joe Six Pack will get more wars --- more debt - more Obama


Look at Trumps key appointments --- establishment players --- loaded with Goldman Sachs people ....


And he's already walking back just about every election promise he made.  


Remember how he said he'd gun Yellen - hahahahaha - that's a good one given Yellen is the spokesperson for the people who run the show --- and she gives POTUS his orders




Wake up you stupid fucks!!!!

fbazzrea's picture

You fucking FOOLS are being PLAYED.

Wake up you stupid fucks!!!!

lol you're funny. 

there's a showdown looming between Yellen and Trump apparent to those paying attention. 

Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that the U.S. dollar was "too strong."

then yesterday (Wed):

"The U.S. dollar extended its strength in late afternoon trade Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said the central bank expects a few rate hikes a year until end of 2019".--Marketwatch

Agreed Yellen speaks for the banksters, but proof of Trump's loyalty to the American people and commitment to MAGA is revealed by his desire to talk down a strong dollar, a major headwind to reviving America's much needed exports to reduce our open-account deficits.

Trump talked the USD down. Yellen talked it up. this isn't going to work for DJT. i expect some fireworks soon.

articles such as this need to be written and discussed to keep the electorate's eyes open, but at this point, DJT is pursuing his campaign agenda and i have the utmost confidence in him to honor his word to the best of his ability. any shortcomings will be light years ahead of any alternatives offered and considering the enormous odds stacked against him, he's already done much more than anyone has the right to expect based on the track records of his predecessors.

and for turncoats and lib shills hoping to foment discontent, save your breath and spare us your toxins for now. we've got a celebration coming tomorrow. don't want to spoil it with your BS.

omega1960's picture

Your argument  sums up pretty much, I could add up to it, but you failing to persuade due to your foul language and insults.

dogismycopilot's picture

Hollywood has revealed themselves.

Turn it off.

Buy some books, watch some Alex Jones on youtube, and excercise.

Magooo's picture

Alex Jones is another cog in the machine. 


He's Jewish and he supports the Zionists - you need to watch him here

Magooo's picture




The Protocols Of Zion
Published 1903


A one page summary



* Place our agents and helpers everywhere

* Take control of the media and use it in propaganda for our plans

* Start fights between different races, classes and religions

* Use bribery, threats and blackmail to get our way

* Use Freemasonic Lodges to attract potential public officials

* Appeal to successful people's egos

* Appoint puppet leaders who can be controlled by blackmail

* Abolish all rights and freedoms, except the right of force by us

* Sacrifice people (including Jews sometimes) when necessary

* Eliminate religion; replace it with science and materialism

* Control the education system to spread deception and destroy intellect

* Rewrite history to our benefit

* Create entertaining distractions

* Corrupt minds with filth and perversion

* Keep the masses in poverty and perpetual labor

* Take possession of all wealth, property and (especially) gold

* Use gold to manipulate the markets, cause depressions etc.

* Introduce a progressive tax on wealth

* Replace sound investment with speculation

* Make long-term interest-bearing loans to governments

* Give bad advice to governments and everyone else




"I care not what puppet is placed on the throne of England to rule the Empire, ... The man that controls Britain's money supply controls the British Empire. And I control the money supply."  Nathan Rothschild


 “Once a nation parts with the control of its currency and credit, it matters not who makes the nation’s laws. … Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of parliament and of democracy is idle and futile.” — Mackenzie King, Canadian Prime Minister 1935-1948.


"I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men." - Woodrow Wilson, after signing the Federal Reserve into existence



“Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.”  ? Woodrow Wilson

Lynx Dogood's picture

So before 1903 or so. It was good to be a Mason, as they where not compromised.


Then you quote your Hero (LOL) Woodrow Wilson. One of the most evil & destructive presidents this country has ever had. Oh ya, your Jew bashing. Because everyone with a jewish sounding name is evil and controls you & your world (weather or not they are practicing Jews, they may just be evil people!). It's a fact look at what the internet says!!!!!!!!!!!