May 25, 2011
Before Ronald Reagan became governor of California, and then president of the United States, people wondered if an actor could become a good politician. It’s no surprise that actors are excellent at campaigning and giving speeches. But lately I’ve noticed that acting is becoming the most important skill involved in policy too. Let’s look at some examples.
1. The U.S. acts as though it doesn’t have permission from Pakistan to attack Al Qaeda on Pakistani soil. The government of Pakistan has to publicly complain about it and threaten vague consequences to be seen as defending its sovereignty.
2. The U.S. has to act as though the Israelis and Palestinians can come up with a workable peace plan if they try hard enough.
3. Republican politicians that don’t agree with the main party lines have to act as though they do or else face consequences.
4. Donald Trump acted as though he was seriously considering running for president. The media acted as though they believed him.
5. Democrat politicians have to act as though the rich are a bunch of immoral tax dodgers that are the main cause of the budget problem, as opposed to the main source of funding.
You can probably add to the list. But I think you see the point. During the Reagan era, I believe the acting was mostly limited to how one presented one’s self to the public. Now the acting is integrated with most major policies. For example, it is generally understood that any politician who says he knows how to solve the budget problem is literally acting. In the past, that sort of claim might have been interpreted as lying. But a lie is something that the perpetrator expects the recipient to believe. We’re way past that point. What we have now is pure theater. Our politicians aren’t lying in the technical sense of the word because their fiction is as transparent as any movie or stage play. The audience is in on it.
I’ve seen some in the media claim that certain groups and politicians are not reality-based, as though some of their actions can be explained by collective delusions. I think that might be how things got started. The world became so complicated that no one could see obvious solutions for any of the bigger problems. That situation breeds hallucination. But I think we’ve moved beyond that point, at least partially. To me, it is starting to look more like a stage play where the audience expects fiction and the actors deliver. Meanwhile, with any luck, engineers and entrepreneurs are working behind the scenes to invent solutions to solve all of our reality-based problems.
Am I correct in saying that in recent years, government policy and literal acting (as opposed to lying) have merged in a way that is unprecedented?