As Ringling Brothers closes its doors, 'Cirque du Trump & Media Clownshow' takes center stage
The term “synchronicity,” loosely defined as a “meaningful coincidence,” came to my mind when I learned of the news that Ringling Brothers was shutting down this coming May. After the freak show that was the 2016 election, the carnival that has been the Trump transition and the media circus that has covered them both, it strikes me as quite a “meaningful coincidence” that The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus has decided they can’t hold the public’s attention any longer. The circus market is officially saturated since the most astonishing media spectacle the world has ever known is coming to the public square for at least a four-year engagement.
The Ringling Brothers Circus bought the Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1906, with the two shows officially combined to perform together for the first time in 1919. The new circus replacing it, the Cirque du Trump and Media Clownshow, is a child of a circus marriage too, between the Trump Circus, which has been operating for the last forty years or so with a P.T. Barnum-esque level of commitment to self-promotion, and the repugnant media circus, also known as, The Clownshow, which has been lying, distorting and self-aggrandizing, since at least the time of William Randolph Hearst.
The greatest show on Earth
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus gave themselves the moniker “The Greatest Show on Earth,” but Trump, with his improbable 2016 election victory, is undoubtedly the “Greatest Showman on Earth,” better than Barnum, Bailey and all the Ringling Brothers combined. Naturally, Trump is the unquestioned ringleader of Cirque du Trump and Media Clownshow. He is a part carnival barker, part high-wire act, part clown, part acrobat and part lion tamer. Like the carnival barker, he will draw viewers to the show with his curiously flamboyant hair and bold declarations of remarkable abilities and accomplishments. Like the tightrope walker, he will leave everyone one the edge of their seats with his death-defying (hopefully) foreign, military and economic policy. Like the clown, he will amuse and offend millions with his defensive midnight tweet storms. Like the acrobat, he will astound and amaze with his ability to politically contort and contradict himself, sometimes even in the span of a single sentence. And finally, like the lion tamer, Trump will manipulate the mindless media to do what he wants, when he wants, either by throwing them a distracting piece of red meat or cracking the whip on their backsides.
“I’m funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?” – Tommy DeVito, Goodfellas
What makes Cirque du Trump’s accompanying Media Clownshow so entertaining is that they unaware of their comedic brilliance. Examples of their gut-busting comedy abound, like when they rail against the scourge of fake news…while reporting a plethora of fake news. Or how they breathlessly declare that intelligence reports are “definitive and devastating” proof of Russian interference in the US election, but then also say the same dispatch is entirely evidence-free. Or how with stern-faced seriousness, they broadcast a story on a dossier that alleges that Donald Trump not only adorns his buildings with gold but likes to watch people shower in it too. The ribald comedy of the ‘Golden Shower' story is two-fold. First, it is a story that is so vacuous and devoid of any substance or proof that even feckless shills like Bob Woodward described it as a “garbage dossier.” Secondly, the unfolding of this story is similar to the Iraq war, where Bush officials would anonymously give a quote to the New York Times saying Saddam has WMD’s, and then go to on television and say, “hey, see what the New York Times is reporting?…Saddam has WMD’s!!”
These jesters of the Media Clownshow think they’re cutting Trump down to size with these poorly sourced and paper thin Russian hacking and golden shower stories, but they are really inoculating him against more serious and substantial charges that may come his way in the future.
“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you” – Stealers Wheels
While the Media Clownshow may get second billing, without it, the Cirque du Trump would not exist. The curious thing about Trump and the media, while they both venomously hate each other, they also both desperately need each other.
What is remarkable considering their disdain for him, is that the pancake-faced, tragic-comic buffoons in the mainstream media never failed to deliriously cover live, every single rally and speech (not to mention tweet) Trump delivered during both the Republican primary and the general election campaign. Their standard approach would be to show Trump’s speech, with fingers crossed as fights break out or he says something outrageous, and then mournfully recount either the fight that broke out, the outrageous thing he said, or how awful he was. Trump strategically used his free television time to engage in attacks upon those giving him free television time, thus sparking a narcissistic - vanity cycle where the mainstream media played upon his narcissism by focusing on him so often, while he played upon their vanity by focusing on them so often, and thus both parties prospered.
With the unwitting aid of the mainstream media, Trump, the billionaire plutocrat, was able to convince middle Americans that he was on their side simply because they shared the same arrogant antagonists. These middle Americans saw the establishment media belittling Trump and thought they looked down on him, just like they looked down on them. Like a scene out of Tod Browning’s iconic 1931 film Freaks, these folks went to the polls saying the mantra, “one of us, one of us, one of us.”
The great lesson of the 2016 election is that having the proper enemies can get you pretty far in American politics, even all the way to the White House.
Donald Trump won the presidency by attacking an out of touch and despised mainstream media, and the media made millions and millions of dollars by covering his attacks on them. Like the joining of The Ringling Brothers Circus with the Barnum & Bailey’s Circus nearly a hundred years ago, the Cirque Du Trump and the Media Clownshow has been a wildly successful merger for everyone involved, except of course, for the people of the United States.
“Send in the clowns, don't bother, they're here” – Stephen Sondheim
And finally, while the Cirque du Trump and Media Clownshow will no doubt be entertaining, this next four or eight years will be a most perilous time for our country and the world.
History shows us that a circus can end tragically. For example, The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus used to use a mixture of paraffin wax melted in gasoline to waterproof their Big Top tent. In 1944, during a performance in Hartford, Connecticut, either by accident or an act of arson, no one knows for sure, the Big Top went up in flames. The resulting inferno and ensuing stampede killed 167 people and injured 700, making it one of the worst fires in American history.
Trump now takes power with a constitution that has been deeply weakened after continuous assaults by both Bush and Obama, who have, through their myopic governance, paved the way for a demagogue like Trump to freely follow his more imperial instincts. In addition to this constitutional decay, we’ve had a dramatic deterioration of civic institutions, coupled with the hapless, untrustworthy and unserious press, and our national Big Top has most definitely been soaked in gasoline. Maybe it will function properly and keep the rain off of our heads. Or maybe, with a combustible personality like Trump in charge, either through his recklessness, vindictiveness or inexperience, he will accidentally or intentionally, set off a spark and ignite a conflagration that will engulf us all.
The Cirque du Trump and Media Clownshow is coming to town folks, enjoy the show, but make sure your seat is near an exit, as you sure as hell don't want to get caught in the stampede for the doors when the big tent goes up in flames.
Michael McCaffrey for RT
Michael McCaffrey is a freelance writer, film critic and cultural commentator. He currently resides in Los Angeles where he runs his acting coaching and media consulting business. mpmacting.com/blog/
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.