It takes a surprisingly short amount of time for the public-at-large to accept what would previously be seen as an extremely abnormal state of affairs as a new state of normality. Let us take this past week for example; in any previous presidency, the news that the president had been accused of paying for the silence of pornographic actresses who he had sexual relations with would be the main scandal of that president’s reign. In the Trump administration, however it isn’t even the main scandal of the week, with the presidents’ nakedly racist remarks made a day before dominating the headlines. The likelihood is, something else or indeed many other things else will occur in the next week to remove both stories from the foreground of the public imagination just as Trumps previous threats against North Korea over the size of his nuclear button, his outbursts against both his former acolyte Stephen Bannon and the anecdotes related in the expose, Fire and Fury, of the first six months of his rule are now firmly in the background.
If a Lewinsky or Iran-Contra scandal happened today, then it would be forgotten within the month. Whether by accident or design, the Trump administration produces so much controversy and outrage, it goes from the bizarre to the normal and then to the boring very quickly.
We’ve seen lesser examples of this in our own country. See how news about Brexit grabs the public attention less than now it did in the first six months after the referendum. We’ve collectively factored in a certainty that it’s happening and that there will probably be some difficulties in the process, so what would have been earthshattering and unthinkable just over 18 months ago is in fact ordinary and routine. Similar phenomena can be seen in all long standing wars from Korea and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. We get attuned to seeing regularly scenes of combat on their television news. The names and scenery gets familiar and less exotic, and we get less interested and indeed shocked by what is happening. Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan was a major news story in 2007, but five years later unless there had been a major development, footage of the war on the television news had become predictable, ubiquitous even.
The human collective ability to become accustomed to what in the very recent past would have been bizarre is a psychological survival mechanism in parts. However we must also not get too accustomed to the ‘new normal’ as being ‘the way things are’ as although our adaption aids our mental state and become attuned to new and frightening surroundings, it blinds to that which is taken from us. There has been a destruction of democratic norms across the world in the past decade. Mostly notably in the United States, but also in Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela and The Philippines to name but five others. A reduction in democratic oversight, whether it’s an attack on the independence of the judiciary as in Poland or the Trump administrations decimation of the State department and American diplomacy must never be accepted as normal, as to do so is to accept that an end to democracy is the normal destination of ones country’s destiny.