Audience of One
Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America
by James Poniewozik
Pub Date 10 Sep 2019
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A generational work that, using television, reframes America’s identity through the rattled mind of a septuagenarian, insomniac, cable-news-junkie president.
In the tradition of great cultural figures like Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman, New York Times chief television critic James Poniewozik traces the history of television and mass media from the early 1980s to today, and demonstrates how a “volcanic, camera- hogging antihero” merged with America’s most powerful medium to become our forty-fifth president.
Beginning where Postman left off, Audience of One weaves together two compelling stories. The first charts the seismic evolution of television from a monolithic mass medium, with three mainstream networks, into today’s fractious confederation of “spite-and-insult” media subcultures. The second examines Donald Trump himself, who took advantage of these historic changes to constantly reinvent himself: from boastful cartoon zillionaire; to 1990s self-parodic sitcom fixture; to The Apprentice-reality-TV star; and, finally, to Twitter-mad, culture-warring demagogue.
A trenchant, often slyly hilarious, work, Audience of One provides an eye- opening history of American media and a sobering reflection of the raucous, “gorillas-are always-fighting” culture we’ve now become.
About the Author: James Poniewozik has been the chief television critic of the New York Times since 2015. He was previously the television and media critic for Time magazine and media columnist for Salon.
“The Mueller Report of television criticism! James Poniewozik’s Audience of One is both damning and illuminating, a witty, penetrating exposé of Trump’s most intimate relationship, the one with the medium that made him.” - Emily Nussbaum, television critic for The New Yorker
“Now that the Donald Trump freak show has replaced all regularly scheduled programming, staggering us daily, as one of its longtime chroniclers I’m grateful for this brilliant, lucid, and essential book to help make sense of this American nightmare.” - Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire
“In the vast literature of Trump-theory, Audience of One immediately takes a place in the first rank; it has to be read by anyone interested in understanding how such a buffoon became our nation’s chief magistrate. We have always known of course that Donald Trump’s success is attributable in some way to television; what we have not grasped—what we have refused to grasp—is how his career reflects the tastes and predilections of our beloved entertainment industry right down to the smallest details of its technological development. For anyone who still counts on enlightened celebrities to deliver us: Read this book and repent.” - Thomas Frank, author of Rendezvous with Oblivion
“In this brilliant new book, James Poniewozik shows how the media landscape increasingly fragmented over the past few decades, with the rise of cable, the Internet, and social media, and how our political world fractured as a result. Smartly argued and beautifully written, Audience of One deserves an audience of millions.” - Kevin M. Kruse, coauthor of Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974
“With wit, insight, and clarity, James Poniewozik puts Trump at the center of a series of changes that swept through American popular culture and political systems. Poniewozik’s essential book shows how these evolutions incubated Trumpism, even as Trump’s rise exposed the limits and vulnerabilities of the media, which too often found itself floundering in the face of his shameless manipulations.” - Maureen Ryan, chief TV critic for Variety