The Demagogue advances himself neither by shrewd argument, nor by mastery of procedure, but by daily shock which enslaves the media and keeps himself in the eyes of his admirers.
It is not so much that people believe what The Demagogue says, as that they are impressed that anyone would say it. They admire his lies even as lies. He appeals to them not despite these mendacities, but because of them. The more careless and enormous they are, the more they make his followers gasp or even whoop, the more they think that here is someone to be reckoned with, Someone Who Cannot Be Ignored.
This is not the first time a politician has employed sensational tactics, but it is the first time a politician has embraced sensationalism as a strategy. Senator Joseph McCarthy was sensationalistic about Communism, but The Demagogue – who believes in nothing -- is sensationalistic about everything. His strategy is not shock for a cause, but shock for its own sake.
The real precursor of shock for its own sake is found not in politics, but in entertainment. For two generations we have laughed at, applauded, and followed the careers of musicians who destroy their instruments and stage sets, singers who clothe themselves in raw meat, and actors who arrange to be arrested for driving while intoxicated.
No, you say, this cannot explain The Demagogue’s appeal. People expect different things of entertainers and politicians. They make distinctions.
No, I say, they used to make distinctions. People who have been habituated to finding shock entertaining lose interest in who offers it to them. The shock’s the thing.