Blogs

The Tortoise and the Hare – Election Edition

Wednesday morning.
5 a.m.
My eyes are riveted on the TV.
The images flow past.
Everyone is stunned.
We’re still pinching ourselves, convinced we’re having a nightmare.

We’re used to happy Hollywood endings.
But last night, “the dark force” triumphed.

Analysts pile conjecture atop conjecture, unable to make sense of an interminable electoral evening, frowning at the impossible become reality.

Even the future occupant of the White House looked stunned, as if he too couldn’t quite grasp the significance of what just happened.

My tussle-haired, pyjama-clad six-year-old son sidled over to me…
His world hasn’t changed.
“We’re not watching cartoons, mommy?”

“No, not this morning, dear. Something surprising happened last night. Something both improbable and big. They elected a new President of the United States… but how should I put it… he’s…”

Words fail me.
No, the words are playing bumper-cars in my head.
How to explain what we couldn’t see coming, could not even imagine?
How to explain the “end-of-the-world” feeling emanating from the TV set?
How to explain the unknown, the underlying fear and the collective anxiety about what may now arise?

“Do you remember Aesop’s fable, ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’?
Do you remember how nobody believed the tortoise had a chance to win the race?
And how everyone laughed at how slowly the tortoise moved?
Well, yesterday, in the United States, it’s the tortoise that won the race…”

“Oh…”

***

For days now, exactly what happened has been analyzed ad nauseam.
The electorate was dissected.
Compartmentalized.
Divided.
There’s talk about its anger, its rage.
Its rancor.
Its solitude.
Its rejection of the elite and the establishment.
There’s concern about what it has become and what it wants.

All sorts of conclusions are being drawn and there’s worry that the American people will strongly project their feelings: do they really represent hate, fear, division, coarseness, even the grotesque?

But beyond the “post-Trump shock”, the American election, like the Brexit before it, marks the end of an era – that of “media hegemony”.

***

“W.T.F?”
The Daily Telegraph’s front page is eloquent.

For weeks and weeks, pollsters and pundits gorged us with a steady stream of prognoses, demonizing the “adversary”, seeking to control our behaviour remotely with predictions and by distorting reality.

The commotion is pervasive.
They’re looking for a scapegoat.
Top canard on the list is: “the revolt of the white voter.”
The void needs to be filled, to explain the inexplicable and to justify the anomaly, rather than initiate much needed introspection.

I suddenly remember a Figaro article from a few years ago, describing the Fourth Estate as the only unchecked power.

Clearly, the outcome of this race has the media picking up the pieces… outperformed by the “court of public opinion” which chose, this November 8, 2016, to fully occupy its nexus of power.

The media world, like the public affairs industry I am a part of, will never be the same.

Here, the recent election of Justin Trudeau has fueled debate on the almost surreal importance of image in politics in a world famished for truth and authenticity.
Trump’s election has lifted the veil on the ever finer line separating information and entertainment.
It showcased above all the spectacular rise of the “citizen journalist” and the phenomenal power of social media.

What if politics has become a business, a reality show?
What if everyone could become their own media by providing ongoing commentary and opinions, unvarnished and unfiltered?
What if we tossed aside opposing viewpoints and gave our own account?
What if our personal opinions suddenly mattered?
And what if, on that fateful 8th of November, the people refused to have the course of events dictated to them?

Trump gambled on communications that were light years away from genteel decorum and the unwritten rules.
He was repeatedly underestimated.
His ambitions were mocked.
His hopes were ridiculed.
A strategist, he played the media, carried and amplified by his supporters (including over 14 million followers) who now have many outlets and a voice to carry and share his message.

As he prepares to occupy his new premises, we can bet that he will do more than change the decor.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the “Trump Channel” broadcast, live and continuously, the goings-on at the White House and tell all about an intoxicatingly powerful globe-straddling business, occasionally punctuated with the now famous “You’re fired!”

For communications aficionados, the future looks fascinating…

It will require attentiveness, openness, honest introspection and enough humility to drop the conventional and the ready-made…

After all, the tortoise won.