Angertainment returns to the halls of Congress
Last year when Adam Frisch came within a few hundred votes of shocking the nation he coined the term “angertainment” to describe his political foe, Rep. Lauren Boebert.
The term fits a rising number of elected officials with nothing more than a superficial interest in governing or legislation. Instead, they focus on bombastic arguments and conspiracy theories to attract media attention. When they aren’t thumbing out unending invective, they’re seeking out the reflective flash of any camera in their vicinity.
Sometimes they get both. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Boebert — two of the leading purveyors of angertainment — began their time on the House Oversight Committee last week haranguing former Twitter employees over their personal social media accounts. Nominally charged to protect the public through these hearings, they were far more concerned about their own self images.
Neither cared what answers they received. In fact, they almost seemed upset when one of the individuals testifying dared speak and steal valuable camera time. They cared solely about firing off accusations, founded or not, and making a show of being “tough” so that they could disseminate to their fervent fan bases.
Probably via Twitter.
The lowbrow performance art has even become a staple of once-reverential moments like the annual State of the Union address delivered by the president. Last year, the dumb-namic duo were famously caught standing up, mouths agape, screaming at President Joe Biden during his speech to Congress.
Less than 15 years ago a similar outburst from Rep. Joe Wilson during President Barack Obama’s health care address to Congress (Wilson yelled “You lie!”) led to a bipartisan backlash and an apology from Wilson.
Vocal criticism of Boebert and Greene came from only one side of the aisle while only a few Republicans even ventured muted objections. To the contrary, the media splash they enjoyed spurred ever more theatrical displays. The bigger the event, the more ridiculous the plan or prop.
It is no wonder that before this year’s State of the Union, Greene paraded about with a white balloon meant to reference the Chinese spy balloon Biden ordered shot down over the ocean. She went on to channel her own Wilson and shout “liar” at Biden during his address.
While the cameras shifted to Boebert on several occasions, she seemed more restrained. Of course, maybe she was just too busy embarrassing herself on Twitter. When Biden mentioned schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Boebert replied in electronic form “Hey Joe, YOU CLOSED THEM!”
Despite the all caps certainty she felt, Boebert apparently failed to remember that schools were closed by former President Donald Trump and then left to the discretion of governors.
Judging by the lightning-quick reaction online, maybe she would have been better off if Twitter had actually shadow-banned her.
In fact, the only thing that seems to get in the way of these angertainers is each other. The once besties have become competing Regina Georges. Over the past year they have thrown shade and fought in a bathroom. Last week Boebert took a catty swipe at Greene’s balloon prank, probably upset she didn’t come up with it first.
I actually cannot tell if the rift is real or manufactured to earn both more spotlights. Likely neither cares much. The outcome works for their megalomaniac ambitions.
For me I would not care so much if this was simply another regurgitation of reality television dreamed up by lackluster broadcast executives. But it is not. It is the U.S. Congress — and a swath of elected offices down the ticket following their lead.
Every time angertainment draws a bigger audience than Rep. Jamie Raskin explaining the intricacies of legal methodology, our country gets a little dimmer and drawn into a darker hole. For our sake, I hope we all change the channel when given the choice in 2024.