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“Breaking Bad”: It’s Now Gone Viral in American Politics and Culture

“Breaking Bad”: It’s Now Gone Viral in American Politics and Culture September 3, 2021

Politico published an article on Wednesday detailing just how lucrative it was for mainstream media sources to report on the four years Trump was in office. Quoting now:

“Over the past year, the major cable channels have lost from 34 percent to 43 percent of their audiences.”

That Politico article dovetailed nicely with a video posted by Russel Brand in which he talks about “. . . the symbiotic relationship between mainstream media outlets, the weapons industry . . . former military officials, [and] all [who] work together to perpetuate war and profits.

 

This got me to wondering how much Politico was profiting from printing yet another story about Trump—which ironically—bemoans the loss in revenue to mainstream media outlets such as itself. Which in turn got me to thinking how much money Brand might be banking. After all, could he not be considered guilty of profiting from the Afghanistan war—by ironically—talking about all the people that profited from this war?

And lest I be denounced as a hypocrite, I might as well poke fun at my own choice of subject matter today, which is yet another blog in which Trump is featured in some way.

Sex sells, but Trump may just sell better

It might seem like America and the whole world changed after Trump took office in 2016. Actually, things were getting bad long before he took his oath—in America and abroad. The earth was warming at unprecedented rates; Covid-19 was incubating in a Petri dish or hanging from a food vendor’s hook somewhere just waiting to kill millions; the water wars had already begun; and so forth.

Still, like opening Pandora’s box, chaos and pandemonium seemed to follow Trump’s inauguration speech. We all knew this the moment Sean Spicer—already under the spell of Trump—told Americans to believe what their eyes weren’t telling them. That the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was bigger than the crowds at Obama’s inauguration. Things pretty much went downhill after this presidential pissing contest.

I’m sure Trump is pleased at how the thousands of lies he’s told since his swearing in still earns him so much admiration and praise, but he deserves far less notoriety. (The Washington post tallies his false and misleading claims at 30,573, and this is just counting his years in office.) To the extent that Trump warrants any place among the infamous, it’s only because he made it OK for a lot of politicians, powerful people, and misguided Americans to start breaking bad along with him.

So, whether we like it or not future blogs, articles and books will be written about him, because he was precisely the wrong person to hold the highest office at such a pivotal time in American history. And, because it would also be highly irresponsible of us to discount his continued influence. There are just so many lessons we still need to learn about how his actions threatened our democracy—and still do.

Trump is a byproduct of our culture

Riddle me this. What happens when a nation is governed by predominately white males for 245 years, whose primary legislative agenda is the accumulation of wealth for major corporations and a select few, who pass laws that rig the legal system to favor the wealthy and powerful, and who neglect the needs of the poor and helpless?

Answer: You create a way of life that idolizes and rewards people like Donald J. Trump. For Trump merely exemplifies how some people think and act when raised in a culture that values financial success above any other form of achievement.

The Wall Street bull. A symbol of the ruthlessness of capitalism. / Image by Alexander Naumann from Pixabay

To his credit Trump has learned how to maximize capitalism to build wealth, to manipulate the courts and our legal system, to take advantage of the loopholes built into our tax system, and to take advantage of all the other “systems” which America has set up to ensure people like him succeed. Trump has become what our American way of life has created and destined him to become.

So, it should come as no surprise that mainstream media, even media outlets that lean towards a particular political ideology made a ton of money covering Trump’s presidency. If anyone is to be blamed for the wealth generated by the press reporting on Trump it’s the American people. We are the ones that tuned in on our televisions and other devices, thus generating revenue for these companies.

We all had our reasons to tune in, didn’t we? As for myself, (and I think I’m speaking for others as well), I tuned in when I noticed how quickly some of my neighbors, friends and family members broke bad the moment our commander in chief shown his true colors as a rude badass.

Forget for the moment the context in which I just outlined above the role American culture played in preparing an individual like Trump to acquire his office. Instead, think about our role in electing a man to represent ourselves, knowing full-well the kind of person he was. Consider for the moment, the man’s character and core personality traits. Roughly half of Americans still love the guy. They value his values. They admire the way he treats others. They see in him the kinds of virtues that best exemplifies humanity.

Evangelicals adore this man

What’s even more perplexing? By and large, Christians adore him. He is their knight in shining armor; a modern-day savior whom they believe best personifies Christ and who stands ready to enact laws they think will establish their version of a theocracy.

Like the new Texas abortion law . . .   which will reward citizens who are willing to snitch on rape and incest victims with a bag worth $10,000 in silver to inform the government where and when an abortion has taken place.

Embed from Getty Images

I call this communist infused capitalism, or just the horrific effects of conservative religion in our country. Talk about draconian! This sounds like a law straight out of the book of Leviticus.

But I’ve now gotten way ahead of myself on a topic I might talk about next week. My aim here was to leave you with an example of just how bad things have gotten after breaking bad became the new norm in Washington.

Before 2016, we all knew politicians were adept at twisting the truth, but the degree to which many now deliberately lie daily to hold onto power is a spectacle of the highest disorder. Frankly, I’m stupefied at just how quickly after Trump took office so many of our elected officials became so corrupted. Deceit is so rampant, that any citizen can easily factcheck the deception emanating from the mouths of politicians in real time. And while lying is bad enough, the willingness of some politicians to incite violence to remain in power—to literally pit fellow Americans against one another in a manner that causes both harm and death—is profoundly disturbing. It’s not only un-American; it’s amoral.

Is it that they think Americans are really that gullible? Or is it that they think not enough Americans value honesty and integrity? I suspect it’s both.

About Scott R. Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is a former minister and now writes for Thinkadelics about the joys and benefits of living as a freethinker. He is the author of the novel Blind Guides and Picking Wings Off Butterflies. You can read more about the author here.

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8 responses to ““Breaking Bad”: It’s Now Gone Viral in American Politics and Culture”

  1. I can’t even.

    Ever since he announced he was running in that giant clown car of awful politicians, I’ve been appalled at his supporters. New Yorkers as a group did not vote for him because they knew exactly who he was and where he came from. We all knew exactly who he was and where he came from, but a disheartening amount of people (primarily evangelicals) made it clear he was exactly who they admired.

  2. I know how you feel. This was one of those blogs that I could have just kept writing and writing and writing. Exhausting and maddening, but still relevant. Trying to “knock” sense into people using just words is a tough slough. Especially when trying to rattle Christians out of their slumber. In many respects Trump puts the master of deception (Lucifer) to shame. Good Lord! Why Christians insist on bending the knee to both is beyond comprehension.

  3. I live in a house with one television, and family who absolutely adored the tv show Breaking Bad. I disliked it for the unrelenting violence and lying and betrayal. Looking back on it, it was the story of a banal, everyday man put in a bad place (cancer diagnosis in the USA, which is virtually always a bankrupting event) who went down a very dark path trying to pay for his treatment, then embracing the dark lifestyle.

    Trump, OTOH, was born rich and squandered most of it. I suspect he’s only at his current level because of a lifetime of not paying his bills. You can’t even have sympathy for him like you could in the beginning for Walter White, who started down the path with good intent.

    The rightwing has always been about pitting factions of Americans against each other for the crumbs left over. Back in the 1980s (when ketchup was counted as a vegetable in school lunches), there was a joke featuring a Republican, an everyday white man, and an everyday not-white man. A dozen cookies are placed on the table in front of them and the Republican grabs 11 of them and then tells the white man, “That other man is trying to steal your cookie”.

  4. These are interesting analogies. I think it’s human nature to pity and understand people like the Walter Whites of this world. Life’s tough and at any moment anyone of us can be thrust into a situation in which we might have to break bad. But perhaps not take it as far as Walter did. People also have little respect for those born with a silver spoon, who take more than their share fair, and who whine when things don’t go their way.

    I’ve ben watching the 100 series. There’s a line in the series where Clark says “Maybe there are no good guys.” Which is definitely true for the character in this series, and perhaps a little true in real life. I know I’ve been forced into saying and doing some questionable things in my life, and I suppose everyone else has too.

  5. I started watching “The 100”, if you’re talking about the show where a ship sends its troublesome teens down to a planet of mutants in hopes of killing them. I forgot why I stopped watching it.

    As for Breaking Bad, I saw a meme once about a fictitious Canadian version of the show, where the doctor says, “It’s bad news, I’m afraid. Cancer.” (pause a beat) “We’ve got you set up for treatment starting next week, and it’s all covered.”

    In the same vein as Breaking Bad, there’s a program called In The Dark, that starts out with a blind woman who discovers her young friend was killed in a drug deal. She knows that couldn’t be right because he didn’t take any part in the drug life, so she starts asking questions about the murder. I had to stop watching the show because it drifted into she and her roommate and a coworker drifting into drugs and murder and running from the law and committing felonies right and left, and I just felt degraded after watching all of that, week after week.

  6. Yes, that’s The 100 I was talking about. I’m in season 6 of 7.

    As for “The Dark” there’s a lot of series / shows that end up being too dark for me as well. I had a college professor who also spent time in the Middle East participating in archeological digs. He said jokingly in class one day that perhaps in 50,000 years future archeologists will start digging up relics of our own civilization. What they will find is that we worshipped the television, because of our fascination with the TV. Our fascination with the TV has evolved into our fixation of all the others devices we uses, but not the fascination that American culture has with all violence we watch on those devices.

  7. Actually, it’s “In the Dark”–The Dark is a German series about something entirely different. 🙂

    The unrelenting horrible-ness of In the Dark just wore me down, just like in Breaking Bad. Whew. Seeing the worst of what humanity can do is depressing.

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