The worlds of news and entertainment continue to merge in strange new ways. For the past decade, the mainstream media has been a form of cheap infotainment. Then, with the election of President Donald Trump, it morphed into wall-to-wall conspiracy TV mixed with generous portions of reality TV. And now in 2018, we’ve reached a dangerous new tipping point - the mainstream media has become a LARP.
Now, if you’re not familiar with the term, a LARP is a live-action role playing game. Imagine lots of people dressing up as their favorite fictional characters and acting out certain events, solving puzzles, and piecing together complicated narratives in real-time. A LARP, essentially, is a giant mashup of videogaming, role-playing games, cosplay, and Hollywood sci-fi films. In other words, a LARP is a form of entertainment based on an ongoing narrative that a group of people come together to act out on a regular basis.
There’s a lot to unpack here but first let me say that I am not a LARPer. I have not LARPed, and do not plan to LARP any time in the near future. But I can tell you this – CNN and the rest of the mainstream media is a LARP. The talking heads who routinely appear on TV are the gamemasters who decide the rules for the general public.
In many ways, the members of the left-wing media have turned into live action game players playing the "Trump game” or the “Russia game” every single night. There is nothing else they talk about. And right-wing media like Fox News is no different than CNN, but they play the “Clinton game” or the "Mueller game" every single night. This has become so tiresome that I literally can’t watch this stuff anymore. Every single night, there are the same people, trying to tell us what to think so that we move forward in this game. They style themselves champions of the Left or champions of the Right, and act out their medieval knight fantasies of how they are planning to save the day for the American people.
Inside the mainstream media LARP
Back in the day, I used to enjoy watching CNN. Even when all they covered was wars and plane crashes, I used to watch. But now I can’t watch Anderson Cooper or Erin Burnett or any of the other LARPers for more than 10 minutes before I'm tempted to check out what new conspiracy videos have just been baked over on YouTube.
There seems to be an ongoing "cast" of the same people who appear on these cable TV news programs, night after night, and day after day, to play the same game. The same group that gathered during the 2016 election still get together every single day to discuss one and the same narrative. On most nights, they are separated into two teams (Team Trump and Team Never Trump), just like you’d expect in a typical LARP.
Moreover, it often seems like these MSM LARPers are acting out roles, dressed up as their favorite news icons of years gone by. Green screens in the background help to give the illusion that they are somewhere important in the world like New York or Washington. They are given handy little titles – usually based on some form of identity politics – and asked to act out their appointed roles. Once you are a "Democrat" or a "Republican," you are not allowed to change your narrative. As a result, we get the same type of histrionics, name-calling and feigned outrage that you might expect from a bunch of stage actors or WWE wrestlers.
It gets even more bizarre when the media attempt to act out famous news scenarios from decades ago. Tonight, we’re going to pretend we’re back in the days of Watergate! Let's bring back that Bernstein guy! Tonight, we’re going to pretend that we’re back in the days of the Cold War! Let's bring back someone who can analyze the evil intentions of the Russkies!
And when they are not role-playing their favorite characters, members of the media seek to inject themselves into the game. They are the ones leaking notes into the public domain, in the hopes that other LARPers will run with it. They are actively seeking to score points these days - they want to be the one who brings down a celebrity, influential figure, or yes, the President.
The goal of the mainstream media LARP is regime change
Here is where we can really begin to discern the features of a LARP. Remember when the media was dispassionate, balanced and trusted? All of the legacy media here is tainted – and that includes the nation’s most esteemed newspapers. Each journalist attempts to become part of the story – they are playing a game, trying to win points for unlocking the next clue to the Clinton pay-to-play puzzle or the next piece of the Russia conspiracy. In fact, it’s no longer uncommon for a TV news host to turn to the camera and say something like, “President Trump, if you are watching this – and you probably are…”
The result is that the media is no longer just “news lite” or “infotainment.” Conspiracy TV has merged with Reality TV to give us the LARP. Each media company is a vast sprawling conglomerate in search of eyeballs and viewers, and it’s no surprise that Time Warner – the parent company of CNN – does everything possible to make news feel like entertainment. It’s literally gotten to the point where vast new conspiracies seem like they are pulled from Hollywood films or Netflix movies. The whole term "the Resistance" has been straight-up lifted from the Star Wars movies. And sci-fi movies, of course, are the basis for many a LARP.
Still don’t believe me that the MSM is a LARP? If you check out the definition of LARP on Wikipedia there’s a rather cryptic phrase in there:
“Politically themed LARP events may attempt to awaken or shape political thinking within a culture.”
There – we have it. CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the rest of the mainstream media has constructed this elaborate LARP to achieve a political goal. This political goal, of course, is regime change.
That’s what makes this LARP different from a traditional LARP – there are real-life stakes here. It is no longer just a game. Let's just hope it doesn't end badly.
Hero image by Rene Asmussen from Pexels
Knight in battle gear by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash