As part of my ongoing collaboration with The Fortunecats, we produced a show for the 2017 Brighton Fringe Festival called ‘The Brexorcist’.
‘The Brexorcist’ – A Darkly Satirical Musical Catharsis
Nominated for Best Live Music at Brighton Fringe Awards 2017
Involving: The Private Sector, Seth Morgan, Frank France, Jason Pegg, Tim Harbridge, Sarah Gardner and the Dulcetones, Glen Richardson, Dave Suit, Graham Darg, Tim Leopard, Simon Adams and Chris Hope. Makeup Design by Deborah Turnbull and Julia Monkcom. Filming by Nick Driftwood. Visuals by Eric Drass. Directed by Sam Hewitt.
It hardly needs saying, but we live in strange, unpresidented (sic) times. The President Elect of the United States of America, Donald John Trump, is an extraordinary individual, in every sense of the word.
One of his most notable attributes is his addiction to Twitter.
Seemingly without thought or consideration, he delivers bite-sized slices of wisdom whenever he deems fit. Whilst one may argue that this is precisely the modus operandi of the Twitter service, it seems ill-fitting of a man who is soon to command the most powerful country in the world.
Since Mr Trump chooses to tweet, it seems worthwhile to investigate what else he’s revealing along the way.
This bot parses Donald’s tweets, and performs a sentiment analysis to find out his mood. Generally speaking, this form of analysis is best used for larger volumes of text, and tends to be a bit hit and miss on a 140 character tweet. However, Mr Trump uses English at the level of an eleven year old child, which makes things easier.
This sentiment score is turned into an emoji, indicating his mood.
In addition, the bot examines the meta-data of the tweet and assesses the likelihood that it was authored by the man himself, or sent by a member of his team. It is generally accepted that Trump tweets from an Android device, while his team tend to use iPhones. Indeed, at least one member of his staff posts the geo-coordinates along with the tweet, allowing me to neatly create a map of where the tweet originated.
Fake News and Feelings
The term ‘fake news’ is applied to all forms of information, true or false, depending on political agendas. We are said to be living in a Post-Truth age. As Newt explains below, truth no longer matters, it’s all about how people ‘feel’
This bot does not try to understand the words of Mr Trump (a challenge for many), instead it mathematically analyses his tweets and presents the data in a deliberately vague and emotive manner.
After all, people don’t want facts, they just want feelings.
The Overton window, also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept.
The ‘fitness’ of a political idea is dependent on the mood of the population. However, political ideas are rarely presented in an unbiased manner. Stories are spun and sensationalised, dependent on the political leanings of the media owner. The Daily Mail contains stories that would never be printed in The Guardian, and vice versa.
Political ideas can be made more palatable if the prevailing narrative of the media outlet supports them. For example, stories about ‘benefit cheats’ and ‘welfare queens’ support the notion of curtailing welfare budgets without ever explicitly mentioning Government policy.
As more extreme views get discussed, the Overton window shifts, and previously unthinkable ideas become normalised and accepted. In many ways, the media influence the Overton window even more than politicians.
Play School was BBC children’s programme which ran from 1964 to 1988. Part of the show featured a section where the audience were invited to look through the window at a scene filmed outside the studio. Often a factory or a domestic scene. A literal invitation for children to explore the world of adults.
It struck me that the Play School window could offer a glimpse of what’s through the conceptual Overton window.
I am fascinated and terrified by these baying crowds. Who are these people? How can they not only accept, but openly embrace an ideology of hate?
Each of them is a human being, equipped with the same faculties for intelligence and empathy, yet they are apparently so enamoured with this man that they are blind to the hatred and lies he speaks.
This bot examines them, one by one, to try and see the humanity.
@everytrumpette draws from the large corpus of photographs of the attendees of Trump rallies. A face detection algorithm identifies a member of the crowd, and then zooms in. A unique soundtrack is created from samples of Trump’s own words.
Whatever your feelings about Hillary Clinton, the fact remains that Donald Trump is clearly an entirely unsuitable leader of the United States. Much has been written about the danger that he represents, yet in the increasingly polarised climate of American (and UK) politics, it seems rationality is taking second place to emotion.
I understand the desire for ‘something different’ or ‘anything but these bastards’, and that desire undoubtedly drives some to find answers in the fringes of politics. However, Trump’s nomination by the Republican Party legitimises a fascist ideology of hatred and mistrust which can only be counter to the advancement of humanity.
Unfortunately, appealing to fear is a vote winner.