11 April 2011

Larry Ray : Donald Trump and the Two-Headed Cow

The Great American Sideshow! Graphic by Larry Ray / The Rag Blog.

The Great American Sideshow:
Donald Trump: See the two-headed cow!

By Larry Ray / The Rag Blog / April 11, 2011

America has always had a fringe element of nuttiness but most everyone knew it was nuttiness and not to be taken seriously. Before today's instant mass communication, conspiracy claims, wild headlines, mean gossip, and outright lies were mostly the stuff of checkout aisle tabloid newspapers. Today many people can't, or refuse to tell the difference.

Nightly prime time TV programs take the lowest road, from the intellectually lightweight "Biggest Losers," where morbidly obese people vie weekly to see who has lost the most weight, to "reality shows" documenting unreal races, contests, and nail-biting competitor eliminations.

The reality is that these carefully scripted competitions are shot with huge film crews hovering all around, documenting supposed intimate spontaneous adventures that have nothing whatsoever to do with reality.

But millions of people never miss these nightly shows. And, sadly, many of these viewers make little distinction between reality and total hogwash while watching TV, surfing the internet, or emailing wild electronic missives back and forth to one another. These minimally discerning and vocal folks have become a new and easily manipulated political bloc.

So when Donald Trump, New York real estate developer, marketing mogul, and reality show producer, popped up all over television recently, saying he should be our next president, lots of folks thought that was a great idea. The next day's polls ranked him number two behind favored Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Never mind that Trump's eccentric, egomaniacal ranting, including questioning President Obama's legal American citizenship, was not a serious testing of the political waters at all. It was an age-old carnival barker ballyhoo designed to "turn the tip."

"Turning the tip" is old carny lingo meaning to attract the gawking townsfolk meandering on the carnival midway to a specific attraction... almost always the sideshow. The barker, usually wearing a straw pork pie hat, would taunt, tease, and invite,

"Have you seen Bossie! The world's only living two-headed cow? It's all on the inside! Step right up. Be among the few who will ever see a living, breathing two-headed cow! Only 10 cents, a thin dime, limited viewing, so step right up!"

And people dug into their pockets for that dime, crowding the barker's ticket stand while another carny quickly opened then closed a corner of the canvas entrance flap offering surreptitious peeks at the bizarre wonders inside.

Once jammed in the tent, people were led quickly past a dimly lit rude stall with a straw floor where a badly stuffed small cow sporting a bit of creative taxidermy stood motionless. The "professor" inside the tent repeated Bossie's astounding medical history all the while urging folks to move along, offering, for only a nickel more, the rare chance to see Jargo the dog-faced boy.

Next day at school the two-headed cow was all anyone could talk about. Everyone knew someone who had seen this mutant marvel the night before. Various accounts had the cow being milked while one head slept and the other ate. I imagine that had anyone brought it up at our 50th class reunion, many would have still remembered seeing that two-headed cow ... or someone who had.

Trump doesn't want to be president, not for a minute. But he does want to "turn the tip" of voters wandering the American political carnival midway into his own private tent to gorge his own insatiable ego and sense of power... Trump's own personal real-time reality show.

In an America where, for a disturbingly high percentage of our population, the misrepresented, trite, and false have become reality, it was a no-brainer for Trump. The ridiculously coiffed megalomaniac is already part of today's media side show and well knows all the divisive bally to spout.

When daytime radio and cable TV's stock-in-trade is now largely a corral full of two-headed cows of varying intellect like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachman, and wildly dressed Tea Party people ranting about "taking back" America, they become the norm and it is harder to find a really unusual two-headed cow.

So, instead of summarily dismissing Trump as a wealthy blowhard, America's mainstream media instead, day after day, touts this new, particularly outrageous, bellowing two-headed cow... because two-headed cows still always attract viewers, especially if they have bad hair.

[Retired journalist Larry Ray is a Texas native and former Austin television news anchor who now lives in Gulfport, Mississippi. He also posts at The iHandbill.]

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