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Even if we watch, will we know what we're seeing?

It is not a TV show.

As difficult as it’s likely to be to refrain from thinking about the impeachment hearings as yet another reality show; as hard as some in politics and the media will try to present and speak about the impeachment hearings as though it’s a circus sideshow; as easily it will be to talk (and write) about the impeachment hearings as some sort of sporting event — replete with winners and losers, offense and defense, momentum swings and crucial errors ... this is not presented as entertainment.

You’d think we’d know that. You’d think that we wouldn’t have to be reminded.

I have my doubts.

The President of the United States was watching the opening of the hearings on Wednesday and offering Twitter commentary — as though he were Crow T. Robot watching some hackneyed horror movie on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The late-night talk shows have been waiting for the public hearings with more uncontrollable glee than children in their beds on Christmas Eve. Who will tell the funniest line, create the cleverest skit, prolong the corniest running joke?

This is who we are in 2019. This is how hard-wired we’ve become to treat it as something for our amusement. Our tribalism has reached the stage where we act like fans before we think like citizens.

It is not a TV show.

It was inevitable that the march of progress of our information-sharing and entertainment-producing devices would evolve not only our thought patterns, but even the seemingly most solemn of patriotic duties we have — to consider removing the leader of our country from office.

The impeachment hearings for President Trump have drawn multiple comparisons with what happened during those of presidents Nixon and Clinton. In terms of media presentation, though, they are less apples and oranges than enhanced versions of the same product, coming before consumers along a conveyor belt.

In Nixon’s case, the country sat in front of TV sets (nearly half of which were still in black-and-white), while details were dispensed and digested ... then put into context at the dinner hour by actual newscasters with names like Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley.

By the time Clinton’s impeachment rolled around, we already were treading the treacherous waters of instantaneous information feeds ... and the partisan push for judgment (and ratings) had superseded the value of context at all.

Now, context is a quaint old notion, and truth itself is up for grabs. Everything is spun out of our control as citizens to comprehend it. One voice’s truth is another’s lie.

Even the resolution, whatever it might be, will be considered illegitimate by nearly half of those who have been watching.

It is not a TV show.

The power of personality employed by this president is a natural progression in the process that we can trace back 60 years.

It was in the 1960 presidential debates where one candidate came off as looking like a movie star, and the other like some dark-corner functionary with a perpetual five o’clock shadow.

Those listening on radio, analysts have said, believed Nixon was the better of the two that night ... but television was now in charge of our perception synapses and, on the screen, JFK was magnetic.

Twenty years later — through Vietnam and Watergate, giant rabbits and tumbling down stairs — television subliminally fed the notion that the country needed a candidate who looked like he was a president, who could be (and act) the part.

Enter Ronald Reagan, who brushed off criticism like a pro and presented an image that was made for the last great television age before the splintering of the message through cable and the internet.

Reagan and Clinton knew how to work the room in front of a national audience; their respective vice presidents — Bush the Elder and Gore — decidedly did not.

By the time we got to Obama, the multimedia war for attention spans had exploded, and here was a candidate who not only knew how to use it to his advantage — think, for instance, of the outdoor convention speech set against a backdrop of faux Roman columns — but understood that popularity in and of the moment was as important as policy, if not more so.

It is not a TV show.

The impeachment hearings of President Trump hit our screens two days after Sean Spicer, the first press secretary of this administration, was eliminated as a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.”

With his old boss tweeting his support, Spicer lasted far longer on the show than his not-so-fancy footwork should have allowed.

But that’s where we are now ... the inbreeding of politics and media producing a society staggering on less than solid ground, and a pop cultural vortex waiting to swallow us whole.

Movies already are being made about an administration that hasn’t completed its first term. The amount of books being written could be a forest-thinning project of their own.

The Trump hearings don’t so much resemble their precursors as they do another milestone in modern media ... the murder trial of O.J. Simpson. Sides drawn, wall-to-wall media coverage, huge attention grabber, a license for the media to print money. Arguments that will last for decades; two people still dead.

And truth? Well, to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, we look at truth from both sides now, from win and lose and still, somehow, it’s truth’s illusions we’ll recall. We really don’t know truth, at all.

It is not a TV show ... except, of course, that it is.

Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin will be mocking "Dr. T and the Women" at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com

Robert Galvin