The Capitol insurrectionists had to riot one-handed — because they needed the other hand to hold up their smart phones, so they could shoot the movie.
It didn’t occur to them that they were also recording evidence of their crimes, and that this evidence would be used at their trials.
Just like it didn’t occur to their leader in the White House, who has committed so many crimes on-camera, up to and including the crime of inciting the Capitol riot.
Because it’s all a movie.
We’ve never fully appreciated how vulnerable our minds are to images on screens, even after decades of those images shaping our culture and even our beliefs, the way divinities used to.
Rudolf Valentino was the first performer to be called a screen idol — and the term was entirely apt. After Valentino died, millions of devoted fans were not just sad, they were distraught, staging massive demonstrations of their grief. Some reportedly committed suicide.
Valentino was just the first in a long line, culminating in a president with no qualifications, or qualities, apart from being famous. Celebrities replaced the gods and god-anointed aristocrats that had been banished by Enlightenment science, which had also made mass media possible.
Now, in our media-saturated, entertainment-obsessed culture, to become a celebrity is the goal to which our fondest dreams lead. To live onscreen is our definition of the good life. It’s heaven. And like heaven, it’s also a way of denying death, a Susan Sontag might point out, if she were still here.*
Much of our moral philosophy is now a junkyard of catch phrases from movies, TV shows, pop songs, and ads: “Trust your heart,” “If you can dream it, you can be it,” “Don’t let anyone tell you no,” “You deserve this,” etc., etc.
In the idolatrous but much more entertaining version of Christianity that televangelism has given us, Jesus wants you to be rich and famous. The eye of the needle is now a mile wide — especially if you’re armed, which he also wants for you. This is an action movie we’re talking about here.
And if we truly believe, and are very lucky, one day…
We’ll be famous.
Maybe even in a starring role in The Attack on the Capitol.
Or one of the sequels, in production now.
*As Sontag wrote in On Photography:
All photographs are memento mori…
It would not be wrong to speak of people having a compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more to be equivalent to looking at it in photographed form…
Today everything exists to end in a photograph.