Tits, Trump and Twitter beef: What it means to live in a post-truth age
Could it be you? This was the question posed to the public on the advent of a new phenomenon known as "reality television". Shows like Big Brother opened the doors to the masses and provided entertainment which was grounded in real events between real people.
By allowing anyone the chance to claim their 15 minutes of fame, these revolutionary programmes awarded celebrity status to normal folk. However, these everyday people were soon plucked, preened and perfected until they looked like everyday celebrities. It was at this point, adrift in the fake tan, silicon and body shimmer, that someone decided to close the gap.
Exposure has become a key goal of the selfie generation
Shows such as The Hills and The Only Way Is Essex purportedly put real people in seemingly scripted scenes. Phrases such as “docusoap” and “docudrama” were coined in order to try to explain what on earth was happening. Neither drama nor reality TV, these shows exist within a programming purgatory where nothing is coherent, consistent or credible.
While the ascent of muscles and manicures continued to plague our screens, a certain property tycoon was making his own reality TV debut. Blonde bigot and billionaire businessman, Donald Trump is anti-Muslim, pro-gun, anti-Mexican and absolutely hates political correctness. It’s at least somewhat ironic then, that this man is running for President of the United States.
But having captured the minds of many Republicans, he is a dash of colour on an otherwise anaemic canvass. A disruptive addition to the political landscape, the public was first introduced to Trump via reality TV show The Apprentice. But when it comes to political debates, ratings are still all he seems to care about.
Trump is known for using his fame to push his controversial agenda
Trump’s integrity is marred by his unfounded claims, such that “thousands” of Muslims celebrated on 9/11 (which may have its routes in a wholly disreputable segment from an MTV documentary). However, this is par for the course, the Trump campaign trail peppered with untruths. Opinions are transient, facts exaggerated and figures made up. But having convinced his disciples not to trust the media, he has become their sole source of knowledge.
No better with individuals than facts and figures, he casts wild aspersions about a person one minute, compliments them the next. That said, he never managed to settle his differences with his UK counterpart Lord Alan Sugar (a technology magnate the big cheese on the British version of The Apprentice).
A feud between the two men on Twitter highlighted that even high-profile business-owners are prone to publicly slating one another. When Trump criticised the handling of the UK’s deficit and criticised investment in Scottish wind turbines, Sugar responded stating; "The Scottish don’t want you!" and instigated a torrent of abuse from Trump in response.
Trump can be especially vicious on social media
Of course, “Twitter beef” isn’t restricted to tycoons. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Seth Rogan and Justin Bieber have all indulged in it. Most recently however, Kanye West and fellow rapper Wiz Khalifa engaged in a feud on the platform. When West thought Khalifa was speaking about his wife, Kim Kardashian, he posted a numbered list of angry tweets.
West even went as far as to mention Khalifa’s child who he has with West’s ex-girlfriend, Amber Rose. "Even him saying things about my son I still didn’t say anything about his kids. They are innocent babies. You don’t talk about a baby, ever, ever," Rose stated in an interview with Matt Cole Weiss and Theo Von of the Allegedly podcast.
"That just shows how f**king ridiculous he is," she added. The argument captured the attention of the public and the remaining tweets have been retweeted hundreds of thousands of times. But in a shock move, Amber Rose and Kim Kardashian then posted the same selfie with one another.
The original argument arose from West assuming that 'kk' referred to his wife
While the internet attempted to make sense of the situation, an optimist might say that this was merely a way for the two women to surreptitiously state that it's all water under the bridge. However, I would argue that they merely seized the opportunity to create another headline - which completely undermines Rose’s impassioned contribution to the argument.
But this is just another marker that we are living in an increasingly meaningless world. The other woman in the now-infamous selfie shot to fame following the release of a sex tape and consequent reality TV show (a “docusoap”, to be precise). Devoid of any discernible talent, Kim Kardashian and her sisters still manage to be role models to thousands of young women.
However, the Kardashian clan coaxes these impressionable young women back into the patriarchy of centuries gone by. Earning tens of thousands of dollars per post, they use social media to promote the use of waist-training products (read: corsets) and perpetuate the idea that women should be seen as objects.
The Kardashians encourage women to strive for an hourglass figure
That said, role models are no longer expected to be brave or pioneering and this maddening carnival of TV-trained, surgically-enhanced, chemically-lobotomised entertainment seems like a celebration of stupidity. There appears to be as much authenticity to celebrities' off-screen performances as their on-screen performances and while "real" and "fake" remain resonant words, teenagers of today have grown up thinking that all of this is normal.
Meanwhile, Trump’s unique brand of outrageous rhetoric also promotes the idea that truth is no longer important. "Politics is a popularity contest" and "all publicity is good publicity" are the sort of archaic phrases your grandad might say. But until now, I didn't believe either to be the case. Where previously, politicians were perpetually pressed on facts and required to back up any claim with evidence, Trump’s claims aren’t subject to such expectations.
Reality television, celebrity culture and pseudo-politics all serve to enforce the idea that the value of “truth” has changed. But without authenticity we can’t have truth, without which we can’t have meaning. And without meaning we can’t have value at all.