This is not a story about Taylor Swift and the Super Bowl

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The doesn’t have column about Taylor Swift. Perhaps more surprising, a column of all columns about Taylor Swift. And yet attention must be paid, because so much attention is paid. That is the unassailable logic of the media-politics complex, a philosophical school of which Donald Trump is the American Aristotle. Ms. Swift is no slouch, either.

Any news organization would be misleading readers about the reality of American life by ignoring the national controversy surrounding the relationship between Ms. Swift and Travis Kelce, a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, an American football team that plays compete in the Super Bowl on February 11. . And yet any news organization has to believe that this fact has a basis in untruth, not actually lying about a stolen election, but actually considering it at least is the romance true love, or transsexuality. a branding effect by two marketing saviors, or, darker still, a “psychological operation” born by the Pentagon to re-elect President Joe Biden. (The Pentagon has denied this.)

After explaining that basic background information, your news organization approaches a fork in the road. Down one track are more credible or cynical conspiracy theories. This is the path chosen by some Fox News stars. On the other hand, news organizations can ridicule those who trade in conspiracy while not rejecting the cross-branding theory, and consider the if and what the effect that Ms. Swift could support Mr. Biden, as she did in 2020.

As these news organizations enhance and expand the attention of the artist and athlete, they are doing their job: they are covering what has come to be defined as news. . They also reap the fruits of their fascination with Ms. Swift, a topic that all Americans seem to think about even more often than men do the Roman Empire. (It’s no wonder, by the way, that Super Bowls are fast-numbered in Latin. This one LVIII.)

There is a third brand from this particular fork, down which the self-loathing columnist, who was raging (but still struggling) when he planned to write about Ms. Swift and Mr. Kelce, could go the pursuit of high-minded philosophy. That columnist will inevitably bump into Daniel J. Boorstin. Boorstin, a historian, tried to understand what made Americans “create a form of unreality that stands between us and the realities of life”.

In “The Image”, a book he published in 1961, Boorstin concluded that “we expect too much from the world. ” When we pick up the newspaper, we expect to learn about important events. But the real world doesn’t provide surprising innovation very often. This imbalance was not evident when the first newspaper was published in America, Public Events both Foreign and Domestick, in Boston in 1690, promised news only once a month. But then came advances in technology – the rotary press in the 19th century, followed by radio and television in the 20th – and the definition of “news” began to rise to fill all that space and, with it, its – all that desire for something new, something interesting.

Boorstin argued that the imbalance between demand and supply was corrected by creating the “false event”. This was an event or statement that did not arise spontaneously, out of the natural flow of events in the world, but was created, often by a canny public relations agent. This type of news now so defines the daily representation of reality outside of our knowledge that it is difficult to imagine the world without it.

To Boorstin, the fake event was a potentially dangerous form of distortion, a way to shape understanding by exploiting a thirst for innovation. Joseph McCarthy, the red senator from Wisconsin, was a “natural genius” at generating fake events, turning journalists into “grateful lime” consumers and purveyors of his product : “Many hated him; they all helped him.” Sound familiar? Boorstin was writing in an age that now seems like a hobby, before the Internet stretched the canvas for news to infinity while destroying the economics of business, rewarding nattering. unceasingly while discouraging costly imitation. These developments increased the power of false events, as Mr. Trump, his own best journalist, has shown.

Does Mr. Trump mean it when he says that if he is re-elected president he could impose tariffs of over 60% on imports from China? It is even possible that he does not know the answer. It may matter one day, but it doesn’t matter now, not for the short-term needs of news and politics. What matters is whatever next hyperbole serves those same short-term needs. As long as he keeps spinning, the process is beneficial: the more attention Mr. Trump gets, the more attention he gets.

The face of a hero

One result of the artificial innovations, according to Boorstin, was the decrease in performance. People could be famous without doing anything heroic. The famous man, Boorstin, wrote, “The false event is the man. It is deliberately designed to satisfy our exaggerated expectations of human greatness.”

Ms. Swift’s music is a remarkable achievement, one that has made her not only a celebrity but a hero to her hundreds of millions of fans, regardless of her misadventures on the way. She has courted publicity by showing up at Mr. Kelce’s games, rather than rejoicing privately over nachos and chicken wings at home. But even Fox News interviewed a “body language expert” who concluded that the feelings between the two were real.

It is still possible that the romance is set up to be vivid and dramatic; which, in Boorstin’s terms, has only an ambiguous relation to the underlying truth. But perhaps this whole coverage is a perfect, self-satirical crystallization of this media era: a fake-event, not designed by a journalist but created by the media’s own speculation – not something Shallow to add importance, in other words, but something deep turns it into something silly. One can hope.

Read more from Lexington, our columnist on American politics:
How to overcome the biggest obstacle to electric vehicles (February 1)
Why America’s Political Parties Are So Bad at Winning Elections (January 25)
It’s Not Trump’s Party Yet (January 18)

Stay on top of American politics with The US in brief, our daily newsletter with quick analysis of the most important election stories, and Checks and Balance, a weekly note from our Lexington columnist that examines the state of American democracy and the issues important to voters.

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