Do Instructional Videos Work? [commentary on Ye and his pal Donald]
The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is . . . that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world…is being destroyed.
Hanna Arendt, On Lying and Politics
I’ve been fantasizing about an instructional video designed for an Audience of One, the Esteemed and Steamed Former President of the United States, Donald J. Trump: A series of well-known professional athletes, on camera for just a few seconds each, would cite an important game or tournament that they lost. Teach the man how to do it. “Hi, this is Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. My team lost the Super Bowl in 2021. I accept the loss, and I’m aok.” “Greetings, Mr. Trump, this is tennis champion Serena Williams, I lost the US Open in 2019. I accepted the loss, and I’m doin’ great!” “I’m Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. In 2019, my team lost the NBA championship to the Toronto Raptors. I accept the loss, and I’ve moved on.” “Hey Donald, this is A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces. In 2020, the Seattle Storm beat us in the WNBA Championship series. And I feel fine.”
Which would make sense if making sense and telling the truth was part of the political game. But it’s not. And telling lies is not exactly what’s going on in the media either, in the arenas of what was once known as political discourse. It’s not about lies and truth, it’s simpler than that, it’s about saying anything and gauging the reaction it brings. Does it get a reaction? Does it rile the base? Does it “inspire” loud echoes? Does it go viral? Does it elect those willing to sacrifice love of humanity to love of power? Does it frustrate and anger your political opponents? Does it give rise to anger in your supporters, bringing them to the brink and even over the brink . . . to violence? Answering “yes” to any of these questions encourages the mouthpiece to say it again. Which is why the “I lost” instructional video would fail to change the behavior of the former President, even as it delivers the ridicule he deserves. Professional athletes know how to accept loss, much as they do not like to lose.
So the public becomes a continuous marketing focus group for the potty-mouthed power-hungry, and the media its handmaiden.
Cosmopolitan UK, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Ye (née Kanye West), also has a history of unwillingness to accept loss. His disrupting behaviors at Grammy, MTV Video, American Music, European Music, and other award events attests to this…overruling the judges with his loud platform, grabbing the mic, running on and off the stage, tweeting, interviewing. Generally, he brags of awards he should have won, and then apologizes to the winner he offended, and then changes stance once again.
His antics, which include running for president in 2020 and getting 70,000 votes, building a fashion empire, making highly acclaimed records, marrying and divorcing Kim Kardashian, praising Jesus and changing his name to Yeezus (Jesus!), and so on, are supposed to eventually cohere into some kind of philosophy that fulfills a messianic fantasy. The phenomenal success that enables him originated in the music industry, where no doubt antisemitic “folklore” made the rounds—many of the successful creators and promoters in the movie and music industry have been Jews. So Ye gave antisemitism a go in the media, to see who would get riled, to get himself back in the news, to be viral again. The shameful cycle of hate, not just antisemitism, but racism, sexism, Islamophobia, Transphobia, etc., starts with this perverse form of marketing. If you’re fame-addicted and you espouse hate, maybe your online popularity spikes—but you’ve also given permission to violence-inclined people. And you’re culpable.
Given Ye’s religious commitments, I’ve started fantasizing about an instructional video designed just for him. Various adherents who had taken an oath of silence—Buddhists, Hindis, Christians, the hermit in Monty Python’s Life of Brian—would appear on camera, for hours, saying nothing (In a pinch, you could substitute Andy Warhol’s Sleep). The eight-hour film would be put on a continuous loop and presented to Ye, who’s a fan of spiritual passion. Just as the first film would be made in an effort to help Trump learn how to accept loss, this instructional video might inspire Ye to stop talking.