Culture

Former R.E.M Frontman Michael Stipe Blames Alec Baldwin, SNL for Trump’s Surge

Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live (via YouTube)
Donald Trump’s popularity can't be chalked up to satirical skits.

Former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe told Alec Baldwin that he deserves blame for the rise of Donald Trump because he portrayed Trump on Saturday Night Live

In an interview on Baldwin’s “Here’s the Thing” radio show published yesterday, Stipe said it was “so sad that we have allowed ourselves to sink to this level of, really, entertainment, that’s what it is.” He added, “I blame media completely for it. Including Saturday Night Live, sorry to say it.” 

“What does it feel like from inside?” Stipe asked Baldwin. “What does it feel like playing that character?” 

“It’s satire, it’s brilliantly done, but it’s still adding to the push of . . . Warhol said, I think, there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” Stipe continued. “How have we created this monster?”

In his response, Baldwin stated that he originally wasn’t sure if he could play the role “because in order to do that effectively, you need to have some appreciation of the person” (which he didn’t have for Trump) but stopped short of directly addressing Stipe’s problem with the fact that SNL had covered the candidate in general — perhaps because it’s one of the dumbest things that anyone has ever said. 

Yes, publicity obviously plays a huge role in popularity; but just what, exactly, would Stipe have had SNL and the rest of the media do? Just not cover a presidential candidate? Pretend it isn’t happening? SNL’s purpose is to parody what’s going on in the world, and what was going on in the world during the time of the election was, you know, the election. 

SNL’s purpose is to parody what’s going on in the world, and what was going on in the world during the time of the election was, you know, the election.

Donald Trump became popular because he resonated with people, not the other way around. For many people, Donald Trump represented the exact opposite of everything they hated about President Obama. For example, Trump refused to comply with the standards of political correctness that many people felt were destroying our culture, and, after nearly eight years of a president who refused to call ISIS “radical Islamic terrorists,” Trump had no problem saying he would “bomb the s*** out of them.” These are people who had become so jaded by hearing Republicans being smeared as being “racist” and “sexist” for anything and everything under the sun that they automatically dismissed it when anyone applied those labels to Trump — even when those labels were warranted. And, most significantly of all, many of them felt they had been so ignored by mainstream politics and culture that anything Trump could have said or done just would not have mattered — because he was still the only one who they felt actually cared about their concerns. And “elites” (their word, not mine) like Stipe suggesting that their support must be “completely” due to the media, that they were reactive idiots with no real reason to support Trump other than the fact that they saw him on TV, is the exact kind of attitude that only further convinced them that the Donald was the only one who was really listening, who really understood. 

Let me be clear: I am not saying that I agree with those who decided to support Donald Trump in this election. (I did not support Hillary Clinton either, Pepe-the-Frog Twitter, so calm your thumbs down, please.) Like many people, I was deeply disturbed by hearing Trump laugh about sexually assaulting women, and I could not disagree more with his views on immigration. On a personal level, I’ve all-too-often opened my Twitter mentions to find that I’m being bombarded with some of the most racist, sexist, homophobic vitriol I’ve ever read from his supporters because I made even the slightest criticism of their candidate. This election season has presented me with an uncomfortably close look at the extent of bigotry, hate and ignorance that exists in the hearts of many. As a woman, it’s been devastating to realize the level of disrespect for women that people are willing to excuse, and it’s disheartening to know that all signs point to much more of that in the future. 

#related#But chalking up Donald Trump’s popularity to being “completely” the media’s fault — to say that Alec Baldwin somehow deserves blame — is a stubborn, misguided refusal to examine what really happened. Donald Trump was a deeply, deeply flawed candidate. But he was also running against a person who spent most of her campaign under investigation by the FBI, who accepted money from countries guilty of grotesque human-rights violations, who had the nerve to claim that all women claiming to have been sexually assaulted had a right to be believed, while being married to Bill Clinton, and who put her own convenience and comfort over our country’s national security. Her supporters are furious at people who didn’t vote for her or who voted third party, but it’s not hard to understand why people might see that route as the only one that would allow them to sleep at night. 

This election has brought a lot of ugly issues to the forefront, and there are clearly so many problems that need solving. I don’t know exactly how that can happen, but what I do know is that unless they are related to a December 2011 breakdown on a plane over a game of Words with Friends, they are probably not Alec Baldwin’s fault. 

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