by Jon Rappoport
January 23, 2013
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I’ve recently been writing about the corrosive effect of television on the national psyche, and how media depictions of tragedies, like the Sandy Hook murders, are geared to create artificial story lines divorced from reality.
I thought it would be a good idea to go back to a 2003 article I wrote about the famous appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
The show had been hyped as the moment when Arnold would announce whether he was going to run in the recall election against California Governor Gray Davis.
Public anticipation was sky-high. No one seemed concerned that NBC was turning over its news division, for one night, to its entertainment division.
This was precisely the subject of the best movie ever made about television, Paddy Chayefsky’s Network. That fact didn’t register with the national media, either.
If Arnold decided to run, he wouldn’t be announcing it at a press conference at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, after a brief introduction from LA Mayor Richard Riordan. No, Arnold would obtain a rocket boost from Jay Leno.
Here is a blow-by-blow account of Arnold on The Tonight Show. I obtained a tape of the show and watched it many times.
The degree of psychological programming was extraordinary. Keep in mind that talk shows warm up and prep their audiences to act and respond with amphetamine-like enthusiasm. And then that audience transmits its glow and howling racket to the wider television audience, thereby exploding an artificially enhanced event across the landscape.
On the night of August 6, 2003, Tonight Show host Jay Leno devoted two six-minute segments to an interview with The Arnold.
Of course, it was more than an interview. Jay had been touting this night as the occasion for a key revelation in the comic play called the California Recall.
Arnold would say yes or Arnold would say no. He would run or he would decline.
Bigger than conventional news, Arnold strode out on to Jay’s stage. A Tonight Show camera picked him up from a grossly complimentary low angle, making him appear even larger and more physically imposing than he is. Jay was positioned standing behind him, applauding, lending an affirmative gloss to the entrance. Already, it looked and felt political.
This was not a beginning; the impression was of something already in motion, a train to catch up with.
As the man of the hour sat down next to Jay, he commented that there was a big audience in the house (“Can you believe all these people here?”) and, capping his first gambit, he stated that every one of them was running for governor of California. (The recall ballot was bulging with candidates.)
Quickly, Jay gets down to business. The business of making the evening extra-special: “Now, I don’t think we’ve ever had this much press at The Tonight Show for any—[let’s see] our press room—normally [the press] sit in the audience.”
Cut to a stark room, shot from above. About 40 reporters doing almost nothing at tables. Obviously, the room was set up for this event.
Jay cracks a couple of jokes about the press gaggle, lowers his voice and turns his full attention to Arnold: “…it’s been weeks…and people going back and forth…taken you awhile, and you said you would come here tonight and tell us your decision. So what is your decision?”
Arnold replies, “Well, Jay, after thinking for a long time, my decision is…”
Very brief pause, the sound cuts out, and then the TV screen displays, in black and white, the old PLEASE STAND BY notice. Thick white letters against a background of an ancient station test pattern from the 1950s. There is an accompanying tone that plays for several seconds.
The audience laughs. There is applause, too.
Cut back to Jay and Arnold. Arnold says, “That’s why I decided that way.” Big audience laughter.
Jay shouts, “Right, good, right! I tell you I am shocked! I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!” More laughter.
Jay then starts out from the bottom again. “[Whether you’re going to run has been] in my monologue…it’s been good for, like, a thousand jokes over the last couple of weeks…”
Once more, Jay gently poses the question. “What are you going to do?” It’s still too early for an answer, and everybody knows it.
Arnold wants another false start. He’s planned it.
“Well, my decision obviously is a very difficult decision to make, you know…it was the [most] difficult decision that I’ve made in my entire life, except the one in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax.”
Laughter, applause, whistles.
This may have been the most important few seconds of the interview. The studio audience warms to the fact that Arnold glimpses an absurdity about the whole proceeding.
“He’s our Arnie, laughing the way we laugh. Hell, all we’ve got are laughs in this life, and our boy isn’t going to go stuffed shirt on us.”
An absolutely important confirmation.
Arnold then gives his rehearsed political speech. He reflects that California was a grand land of opportunity when he arrived in 1968. It was the greatest state in the greatest nation.
However, now the atmosphere in California is “disastrous,” he says. There is a “disconnect” (thank you, pop psych 101) between the people and the politicians.
“The politicians are fiddling, fumbling, and failing.” Very big applause follows. The audience is doing its job.
Close by, off camera, we hear Jay thumping his own personal hand claps. The host is pumping his studio crowd and, albeit with a shmear of irony, giving his seal of approval to a remark whose veracity is supposed to be tested by the recall election itself.
It’s clear there is a phalanx of teen-age girls screaming at a very high pitch in the studio. They’re adding a major element of hysterical enthusiasm. Where did they come from? Are they a legitimate Arnold demographic? Were they pulled out of a mall to paper the crowd? Do they migrate from talk show to talk show? From this point forward, they will play a huge role in every audience outburst.
Arnold gathers steam. He tells one and all that the people of California are doing their job.
They’re working hard.
Paying their taxes.
Raising their families.
But the politicians are not doing their job.
Now he executes a decent blend around the far turn: “And the man that is failing the people more than anyone is Gray Davis!”
The crowd goes wild. The girls scream at this political denunciation as if they’re at a kiddie rock concert in the magic presence of four sixteen-year-old pretty boys. It’s eerie.
And now the audience is suddenly on an edge.
They can handle the juice.
Arnold senses it.
He lets the audience-hysteria roller coaster die down and then, taking it up to heaven, announces that, yes, he, Arnold is, yes, GOING TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA.
Boom. Bang. Pow. Zow.
The studio audience cracks the ceiling. Wilder than wild. The girls are shrieking clouds of sound way above high C. Undoubtedly, the show is flashing applause signs.
Jay shakes his head and grins like a pro hypster who’s just witnessed a very, very good variation on bait and switch. As if Arnold was supposed to say no, but now he’s saying yes. (Yet Jay knew if Arnold declined to run, the whole show would have been a dud.)
The Tonight Show band lays down some heavy chords.
Jay shouts, “There you go! There you go! That woke ‘em up! That woke ‘em up!” We cut to the press room, and sure enough, the reporters are now on phones, typing at their keyboards. The story is live and good to go. A global event is underway.
Amid the roar and the music, Jay, smiling broadly and wisely, shakes his finger at Arnold and says to him, “You know something?”
It seems he’s about to utter, “That’s the best damn switcheroo I ever saw!” But he doesn’t do it. Instead, as the noise abates, he says it’s a good time to go to a break.
The band plows into a funk riff, under the applause, and the show cuts to commercial.
The sea has parted. The consecration has been performed.
The ax felled the tree in the forest, and everyone heard it.
Marshall McLuhan rolled over in his grave, sat up, grinned, lit a cigar, and sipped a little brandy.
In the next six-minute segment, Jay and Arnold attain a few more highs of audience madness.
High one: Arnold mentions that 1.6 million Californians have signed the recall petition and are saying, “We are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore!” Wowee.
No one notices or remembers this line was made massively famous in Network, a bitter satire on news as entertainment.
Is it remotely possible that Arnold recalls the 1976 Paddy Chayefsky film and its wacked-out news anchor, Howard Beale, who survives a ratings dive and firing by delivering a delirious populist message on air and becomes, for a short time, the most revered man in America?
Is it possible Arnold knows the TV network portrayed in the film gives its news division to its entertainment division—precisely what’s transpiring right there, for the moment, on The Tonight Show?
High two: Arnold clarifies his message to all politicians everywhere. “Do your job for the people and do it well, or otherwise you’re out. Hasta la vista, baby!” Zowee.
High three: After reminding the crowd that they all know Gray Davis can run a dirty campaign “better than anyone”—and that Davis has been selling off pieces of California to special interests—Arnold says with conviction and confidence, “I do not have to bow to any special interests; I have plenty of money; no one can pay me off; trust me, no one.” Audience hysteria. They love that he’s rich.
High four: Arnold says of Davis, “Everyone knows this man has to go!” Zow. Huge roar.
High five: Arnold plays a final joke card. “I will pump up Sacramento!” Yet another roar.
The band takes it out with more funk. Jay stands up and goes over and hugs Arnold, in profile, near his desk, and follows him closely toward an exit at stage left. Jay starts to whisper something in Arnold’s ear, but pulls back and smiles and, still on camera, applauds Arnold along with the audience.
It’s show biz in a bottle. Jay, Arnold, the crowd, the band, bouncing off one another and yielding the effect of absolute (synthetic) thrill.
Beyond the fact that Arnold made a political speech on The Tonight Show and announced his candidacy and cuttingly attacked his major opponent, there were the semi-subliminal aspects. The Tonight Show had created its own enormous esteem over decades—and then, out of nowhere, it provided the background for a globally famous actor to decide—almost on the spot—to run for office in the same state where the show originates. In the entertainment capitol of the world. In front of the clear prime-cut admiration of the host.
And the studio audience, that specialized creature from whose maw instant credibility can be coaxed and birthed in seconds—the audience was very, very ready to go. All along.
The audience is not an isolated force. It distributes waves of simulated feeling to its initiated in-the-fold brothers and sisters, in their apartments and homes and huts at all points of the globe. These waves also flow to every media outlet from Nome to Tierra Del Fuego to Cape Town to Hong Kong.
Every nuance of expression on Arnold’s face, on Jay’s face, was registered and absorbed above the feverish in-house cheers and screams and shrieks.
This means something.
“I know a guy who can introduce your message to the softest, wildest, water-cooler crowd this side of paradise.”
“Oh yeah? How big?”
“Only a thousand or two. But they are instantly hooked up to, say, ten million people in the target area. It’s as infectious as Ebola.”
“And that’s not all. I’ve got a host for that softest, wildest audience, and he has the whole world in the palm of his hand. When he exposes your message—for the first time anywhere—and when his audience goes nuts with glee, nothing will stand in your way. Your opponents will go down like bowling pins.”
“Too good to be true.”
“I know. And let me point out what I’m saving you from, you most fortunate of all mothers. If you tried to launch your message at a shopping center or a press club or a hotel ballroom or construction site or on a movie-studio sound stage, you could get laughed right out of town. Really. Because, let’s face it, you do have a pretty vapid message when you boil it down. You need a unique venue, where the joke and the camp and the craziness are all folded into the event itself, and the shock and surprise and hoopla are integrated as well. You need an audience that celebrates bad and good jokes as all good, and the host has the ability to marry up every shred of this bizarre happening and take his crowd to orgasm. Talking multiple.”
“And the contagion factor?”
“The audience in the television studio and the viewing audience at home are One. What stuns and delights the former incorporates itself into the living cells of the latter. Right now. The home audience is terrified of being left out of the party. They’ll go along. The host and his in-studio crowd give instant universal legitimacy to the moment. Believe me, it’s irresistible.”
“Like that McLuhan thing. The audience becomes the actor.”
That is how it happened. That is how Arnold S obtained his billion-dollar ad on Jay Leno, on August 6, 2003, and that was when he won the recall election. There was no counter-strategy for it.
Gray Davis was left with his putz in his hand.
Arnold’s announcement of his candidacy was the end of the election.
In the aftermath, media pundits did not punch up this piece of mind control with any serious heat; nor did they immediately seek a heavy investigation of the ethics of NBC in allowing the Leno-Arnold event to take place.
For example, NBC is owned by GE. What business interests does GE have in California? Might such interests be assisted by an Arnold victory at the polls?
It’s amusing that another NBC heavy hitter, Rob Lowe, left the liberal West Wing series and joined the Arnold campaign to add a little more sparkle to it.
The overwhelming media play that slammed into gear the day following the Leno-Arnold moment formed a synapse-welding juggernaut. It was, of course, all based on where Arnold made his announcement to run.
It was a perfect killing ground: Arnold, the earnest and powerful and Germanically jolly and occasionally self-deprecating soul, aware of the comic-book component of his success; Jay, the jokester, who can work as a homer and straight man at the drop of a hat; and Jay’s audience, willingly propelled into the late-night nexus of “we’ll laugh so hard at any old damn thing we’ll make a cosmic celebration out of it.”
Something out of nothing.
GE: We bring good things to life.
(To read about Jon’s mega-collection, The Matrix Revealed, click here.)
There are many who are afraid to admit that twelve minutes on Leno won the election. They refuse to believe that the audience-to-larger-audience infection is real. They want to exist in a fantasy where most citizens turn the factual issues over in their minds before casting their ballots.
It’s too nasty to confess that garble and gobbledygook can sustain us on the ridiculous basis that other people have attached themselves to it like barnacles—and that therefore we too must adapt to this submarine force.
But it’s time we admit that reality can be passed, hand to hand, mind to mind, adrenal gland to adrenal gland, from a concocted, groomed, cultivated, prepackaged television audience to any target area on the planet.
A target area like voting precincts.
When private citizens show up in the studio to see Leno in person, they soon get the message. They are not just there as happy onlookers. They are drawn into the process. They are offered a trade-off.
If they become active shills for the show right there in the studio, they will become part of the story. They will attain a new status. Their laughs and squeals and shrieks and rebound guffaws, their revved-up salvational applause at those moments when a guest segment is falling flat—the audience is providing key segueways and fillers and affirmations and speed candy for the larger audience at home. It’s a group collaboration.
And it’s overtly political when a fading movie action hero trying to roll a seven on his latest film suddenly says he’s going to take over the reins of California.
Then it becomes a whole different twelve minutes. Then the studio-audience overreach of wild hysteria and laughter and clapping hands and standing O’s and the quality of the emotion are everything.
The movie hero, Arnold S, is suddenly carrying an immense amount of good will to the moon.
He is outlined and underlined and haloed in what they used to call pure jive, but this jive is now viewed by millions of at-home viewers as the real thing. Because on television, very little is the real thing and you have to accept all substitutes. Otherwise, you are doomed and exiled to the dark realms where you will question the authenticity of what everyone else is buying.
Much better to re-invent an exuberance that comes from an earlier branch of the evolutionary tree. Much better to find out you can roar from the belly and help this Arnold dude go for his coronation. Much better to experience a synthetic facsimile of emotional torque and bust a move that will shower sparks around his head and push him through a porthole into an ozone that just might be the closest thing you’ll ever find to immortality.
The signs are on in the TV studio, the final directions are being given, the musicians are ready, the applause fluffers are gesturing at the audience, the go-signal is given.
We have a hero, we know his name, we know what to do. What else do we need?
That’s a slice of Matrix programming for America.
Now in 2013, it’s standard practice. Politicians plan their guest shots on Leno, Letterman, Fallon, Ferguson, Kimmel, The View, etc.
If they want to appeal to the younger crowd, they do Fallon, who plays the wild child with a juvey rap sheet, backed up by a howling studio audience who must be breathing meth through the ventilation system.
If they want to hit the fading boomer crowd, they do Letterman, who persists in his nightly imitation of a semi-retiree on the verge of dementia.
The formula is the same. Jack up the studio audience, transmit the hysteria to the viewing audience at home, and spread the television disease.
The audience as actor.
Which, by the way, is why reality shows are so popular. People who otherwise would never have moved out of the audience are now stars in their own right, in front of the camera.
The audience is now thoroughly aware that their contribution makes or breaks a television show, and so they feel perfectly entitled to celeb status and their own reality series, in a jungle, in a house, in an apartment, in a bathroom.
Entitlement-audiences and entitlement-citizens walk hand in hand through a society where rights are expanding to mean “I’ve got my cell phone, I’m somebody.”
The content of an idea or the value of an object is merely the number of reflections of applause that accompanies its presence.
And there is this evolution: a) What’s marketing? b) I have to market myself. c) I am what I’ve marketed.
The tree falling in the forest never makes a sound. There is no sound unless and until and only when the sound is promoted, preferably on television. Then it exists.
Then the people who watch the tree fall on their screens hear it, and they become important. They become kings and queens in a cartoon matrix.
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.