Shortly after the election of Trump, I watched my great-niece perform in her high school production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Great show, well done. Interesting script. Amazing that a theater production ending in the death and destruction of its main characters is a brilliant musical comedy. “Shop of Horrors” is a story of Audrey II, a plant that starts out bringing fame and fortune to its caretakers. It demands to be fed — “Feeed me” — and in response keeps getting bigger and more demanding. It causes its caretakers to do horrible things to appease its appetite for human blood. Growing into a monster plant, it eventually eats those who had befriended it.
Audrey II must be a metaphor for something. What is it that initially seems good, greatly pleasing to its owners, but demands to be fed more and more until it grows into a dangerous monster? Audrey II could stand for drug addiction, it could stand for racism or hate — choices and attitudes that initially seem harmless, buoying their victims, but often lead to something horrible — but these metaphors don’t fit the “Shop of Horrors” story line. The lovable characters in this story live on skid row and just want to live the American Dream. When they experience a little success, they want more and more and more. The more success they get the more success they want. They cannot resist and finally give their lives feeding their deep hunger for success. This play endures because it communicates that these characters are us. We all have an Audrey II, demanding to be fed.
As it turns out, there are many people in this country who equate power with success. Who knew? You might say they are greedy for power. They feed this hunger more and more until finally the hunger for power possesses them. (Think: Rudy Giuliani at the Republican Convention.) Many Republicans leaders realize that Donald is a dangerous con man but these Republicans were attracted to the potential bounty of power he could deliver to them. Repudiations of the Trump candidacy from prominent Republicans were tepid and most came after it was already too late to have any impact. Their warnings assuaged their consciences, but they were not so strong as to deprive them a ticket on the gravy train of a Trump win. (Mitt Romney on board, poor John Kasich stuck in Columbus.)
For the disaster known as the election of Donald Trump, I blame the Republican establishment but I blame the media more. Motivated by greed the media fed the phenomena of Trump, helping it grow stronger and stronger — eventually bestowing on it all of America’s nuclear launch codes. It was a fun ride with great ratings. Pushing Trump with billions of dollars of free advertising paid off big. Had Hillary been able to produce terrific ratings by calmly explaining her well-thought-out proposals for public policy, she would have had the same attention. Thoughtfulness doesn’t bring a crowd, clownishness and outrageous behavior does.
The warnings of “Shop of Horrors” is that the power of greed is great, and in the end, if we can’t stop feeding it and feeding it, we’ll be destroyed. Just this week, CBS gave a portion of its valuable “evening news” time to an alt-right bigot who held forth on his views of discrimination. It was all trash. Scott Pelley, the CBS anchor, was recently honored with the “Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.” In my estimation, Walter Cronkite would never have given air time to broadcast such hate and would have had the clout to control his own show. Pelley is a professional frontman. The CBS decision to give this alt-right idiot prime air time was not to advance credible journalism. The goal was to boost ratings by stimulating viewer interest. The point was to feed the greed of their corporate bosses to make more income. It is greed that determines much of what the media does. If the media could provoke a riot or a race war, for society it would be a tragedy, but for the media it would be a bonanza of increased advertisement revenue. Think of the revenue that a nuclear exchange would bring.
The most horrible realities — war, poverty, famine — in the final analysis have often been propelled by greed. Was it greed that prevented the Republican establishment from sinking Trump when it had a chance to do so? Was it greed that motivated the media to promote Trump? Did “Feeding” Audrey II —The Monster of Greed — Cause The Election Of Donald Trump?