How the Kardashians Paved the Way for Trump’s Presidency

– or how the 2010s became a decade of bullshit. 

After Trumps election, many people found themselves asking ‘how did we get here?’. Looking back it is quite clear that Trumps election was not an unexpected anomaly. Instead his election is syptomatic of a much larger shift that has taken place over the past decade. From reality-tv to social media, I will argue that the most significant change that has taken place over this past decade, is our relationship with the truth.


By Sofie Lekve. Opprinnelig publisert i Replikk nr. 48: 2010-tallet. 

If someone had told us in the past decade that Donald Trump would one day become president, that Facebook would become a powerful international political force, or that the most influential pop-culture figures among the youngest generation would be youtubers – we may have had a hard time believing them. However, as we have seen, a lot can change in a decade.

Looking back at the past ten years, we find a decade of great change. Perhaps the most significant changes have been political, social and technological. We now have an entire generation of people in the West that do not know a life without technology. Social media has become an integrated and important part of our lives, causing a significant impact on our mental health. Social media opened up for a whole new career path as a so-called “influencer”, quickly becoming one of the most popular career choices for children.(1) It has also greatly affected the way in which we communicate with one another, and how we arrange our social lives. Politically, we have found that white nationalist terrorism has been established as a greater threat to Americans than international terrorism.(2) Europe has also seen a general increase in nationalism and civil unrest.

Kilde: Foto: Butch Dill / AP


Fake News has become a real threat to many modern democracies. With the rise in use of social media, more and more people all over the world now get their news from other sources than the mainstream media outlets. This has caused a massive spread of misinformation, which has in turn led to a great deal of mistrust to the mainstream media. How to deal with fake news is going to be one of our many great challenges for the coming decade. Particularly the campaign that culminated in the election of Trump in 2016, was riddled with misinformation, that was both intentionally and accidentally shared. The Trump presidency has also set a new precedence for how many lies and how much deception a political leader can get away with without facing consequences. 

Given all these changes that have affected both international politics and our individual lives, there is one unexpected outcome that will mark this decade more than any other. That change is in our relationship with the truth. 

One thing that is interesting to note about both the presidential campaign and the presidency itself, is that it was extremely hard to argue with Trump. By this I in no way mean that Trump had good arguments, or was good at debating. Quite the contrary. Trump refused to adhere to the common social rules of debating, communicating or human decency. He became empowered by his complete lack of shame when confronted with hypocritical behaviour, or when scandalous secrets were revealed. He appealed to his crowds by reaching for the lowest common denominators, and changing policies according to how well received they were by the crowd. His complete lack of pride, integrity and honesty were, ironically, the very attributes that landed him the (previously believed to be) most honourable position of all. 

Trump lies. About anything and everything. His closest allies have one of two options; learn to adopt the same methods, or quickly find themselves fired and shamed. Many of his most egregious lies are easily disproved, however the evidence never seems to be good enough to change the minds of his supporters. Given this, one would assume that winning a debate against Trump should be quite a simple thing. Turns out, it isn’t – far from it. 

The problem isn’t just that Trump lies. Politicians have lied to their constituents since the very dawn of politics. In fact, one could go as far as to say that voters expect that their politicians are, to a certain extent, lying to them. However, Trump seems to lie in a different way than any other politician before him. This is because Trump doesn’t just lie. Trump, for a lack of a better word, bullshits. 

When we lie, there is always an intent behind it. Usually when we lie, our aim is to conceal the truth. We may have different intentions when we lie, whether it is to cover our own actions or to protect the person we are speaking too. We may lie to our friend if we are planning a surprise party for them, but we know that in all probability once the lie is revealed all will be forgiven. A lie can be either well-intended or malicious. The common denominator for why we lie and how we lie, is that we have a relationship to the truth. 

Bullshit differs greatly from all other forms of lying, because it results from its utter lack of a relationship with the truth. In his brilliant essay ‘On Bullshit’, Frankfurt is able to pinpoint exactly why bullshit is so incredibly annoying, and why it tends to anger us so much:

Det er umulig for noen å lyve uten å tro at de kjenner sannheten. Det å frembringe bullshit fordrer ingen slik overbevisning. En person som lyver, forholder seg til sannheten, og respekterer den i en viss forstand. Når et ærlig menneske snakker, sier han bare det han tror er sant; og for løgneren er det like uungåelig at han må si det han mener er usant. For bullshitteren, derimot, gjelder ikke dette; han befinner seg verken på sannhetens eller usannhetens side. I motsetning til løgneren og den ærlige har han ikke blikket rettet mot kjensgjerningene overhodet, annet enn i den grad kjensgjerningene er relevante for hans interesse for å slippe unna med det han sier. Han blåser i hvorvidt det han sier, gir en korrekt beskrivelse av virkeligheten. Han griper – eller finner på – ting etter forgodtbefinnende.(3)

Bullshitteren overser disse kravene helt og holdent. Han avviser ikke sannhetens autoritet, slik løgneren gjør, og setter seg ikke opp mot den. Han vier den ganske enkelt ingen oppmerksomhet. I og med dette er bullshit en større fiende av sannheten enn det løgn er. 

Now, undeniably there has always in some instances been a certain degree of bullshit in politics, but never before have we seen it completely encompass an electoral campaign and presidency as it has in the case of Trump. But going only ten years in the past we would find that a Trump campaign would presumably not have been successful. Trump is not so much the problem as he is the symptom of much deeper and complex issues that have taken centre stage in the past decade. That is the question of authenticity and truth.

The way in which we understand truth and authenticity, I would argue, have changed quite a bit in the last decade. Particularly social media has played a big part in this. When we all signed up for facebook and instagram, we quickly saw this as an opportunity to express ourselves in the way we always wanted. We could present the very best sides of ourselves, and present an image of the person we always wanted to be. No doubt the idea of keeping up with the joneses is not new, but never before have we had such editorial control over how we are perceived by others. This in turn has led to a common understanding that our social media profiles do not accurately represent or reflect reality.  

This has naturally led to questions of how much dishonesty is socially permissible on our online profiles. Or if one is to consider even more fundamental philosophical questions – what even is the truth? If you are having an awful day, but post a picture of yourself with a beaming smile from ear to ear – should this be considered untruthful? After all, whether authentic or not, the smile did take place. If you caption said picture with: “The sun is shining and life is good!” Should this also be considered a lie? After all, one can consider life to be good even if one is having a bad day. This example does represent quite a mild form of dishonesty. The reality is that social media is riddled with edited pictures, where both the backgrounds are edited as well as the people in the foreground. Influencers have been able to fake trips abroad through editing their photos,(4) and the industry in itself does not just have a problem with inauthenticity – it seems to be inherently inauthentic. This is also the case for reality tv that has become massively popular over the past decade – it is heavily criticised for being very far removed from reality. Still, we consume these things as if they were, whilst knowing that they are not. 

It is important to remember that deception and inauthenticity are common also in our daily social interactions, and always have been. We might put on our best smile at work when in truth we are actually having a miserable day. To a certain extent we are even expected to shield others from some of our emotions. It might not always be appropriate to convey what one is thinking or feeling at all times. Usually we don’t judge people for being inauthentic for trying to make others feel more comfortable in social interactions. Perhaps a difference here lies within the difference between softening a social interaction, and actively pursuing attention with a message that will usually be permanently available to see. There may be a difference between active and passive deception that might cause different reactions to these situations. 

As mentioned earlier, it is not only social media that seems to be dishonest and inauthentic. Another big phenomenon of the previous decade, gaining popularity alongside the rise in social media, is Reality-tv. This genre tends to follow supposedly real characters that act their normal lives on camera, or ‘their authentic selves’ with added commentary. This has also proven to not be the case at all.(5)

There is a group that can be perceived as reality tv royalty and that is the Kardashian family. Their reality tv show Keeping up with the Kardashians has gradually grown to become one of the most popular reality shows of all time. The family also were one of the first people to earn money on social media platforms, and paved the way for most influencers today. For those who may not already be familiar with the Kardashians, it is also quite difficult to explain who they are, and what they are famous for. The family gained fame through their reality tv-show, but have since their very start been criticized for having ‘no talent’.(6) Still they have managed to attain massive amounts of wealth and fame on the backbone of the influencer marketing model. In this reality tv-show, we see a family of women that do little else than talk about each other and their personal problems at lunch. The viewer is given an insight into a lavish lifestyle that is unobtainable for most, whilst also presenting the viewer to characters that seem to be incredibly spoilt. Knowing what we know about the lack of reality in reality television, this may not necessarily be the case – but this is what the viewer is being served, and it’s all labelled as reality. 

Kilde: Promoteringsbilde fra Keeping up with the Kardashians, sesong 20. 

Given that the show was presented as reality, the Kardashian family gained a lot of criticism for their lack of work ethic and what the audience perceived as entitlement. This was a criticism that the family completely refused to acknowledge as truthful. They claimed that a lot was going on behind the scenes, that the viewers did not know about. Naturally this lead to the viewers in turn criticising the reality of the tv-show. The Kardashians proceeded to maintain that the television show was reality, whilst simultaneously claiming that it did not reflect reality. 

This model of claiming that something is real and authentic, whilst simultaneously claiming that it isn’t, is a model that has been adopted by many social media influencers. This model also demands a lot from its audience, and also seems to mimic the concept of ‘double-think’ from George Orwell’s famous novel 1984. We as an audience are asked to accept two truths at the same time. This tends to become a problem when a person makes their identity, or the documentation and sharing of their lives, into a product. It becomes incredibly difficult to separate the person from the product. This in turn leads to it being incredibly to hold these individuals accountable for any of their actions or statements. They can just switch between being a person and being a product for whichever fits best for the different situation. As a sort of trickle down effect, this has also become a reality for most regular people as well – particularly among the younger generation. We know that what we see on social media is not an authentic representation of reality, but we also respond to it as if it is.(7,8)

A great example of this doublethink is a somewhat trivial, but also quite telling incident from the reality tv-show Keeping up with the Kardashians. One of the sisters in the family, Kim Kardashian, is filmed as she attempts to make a milkshake that supposedly had health benefits and boosts weight-loss. The scene is meant to be humorous as she and her friend attempt to make this milkshake for the first time, and testing it out for the first time. After the milkshake is made, a picture is taken of her with the milkshake and is posted to instagram – in which she talks about all the benefits of the milkshake and how much she adores it. Now, as this scene is aired on television, it is naturally presented to the viewers quite some time after this advert is posted to instagram. The scene is very revealing, as she has clearly been deceptive in the instagram advertisement. However, it does not seem to be a problem to the viewers and followers. This demonstrates an acceptance that what one posts on social media is not necessarily an accurate depiction of the truth. Whilst the popularity is also founded in its accurate representation of the truth.This in turn indicates a sort of doublethink taking place. 

Perhaps the reason we accept and forgive inauthenticity among those who make their careers on sharing their unedited and unfiltered lives, is because we know that we do the very same thing ourselves. Perhaps as you are reading this, you may not identify with this inauthenticity, but studies show that the majority of social media users are deceptive on their social media platforms.(9) 

So how is it possible that we accept this double think – and is that really what we are doing? 

In many ways it would seem as if what we are really doing is accepting the existence of different identities, where there is a varying degree of honesty and authenticity expected from our real lives and our online lives. One thing there can be no doubt about, is that in our usage of social media, we have blurred the lines for what we perceive to be true, and what it really means to be authentic. In doing so, we also opened up for the opportunity for fake news to sneak its way into our lives. 

Donald Trump did not arise in a vacuum, and neither did fake news. Our conception of truth had already been tainted, leading to unforeseen consequences that we now have to live with today. As we saw earlier, Trump’s rhetoric is heavily plagued by bullshit. In fact, it is mostly bullshit. Trump has no respect for truth, and doesn’t really have a relationship to it. One could argue that the same thing is happening now in social media. We all – in greatly varying degrees – deceive on our social media platforms, but it seems now that we do not even really care about this anymore anyway. When it comes to social media, our relationship with the truth seems to be disappearing, mimicking the bullshit we see in Trump. 

I should clarify, there are of course a multitude of reasons that Trump was elected for president. And the Kardashian family cannot be blamed for this. There are many different political factors that come into play here, as well as interference in the election from foreign states. However, we cannot underestimate the effects that social media has had on our social interactions as well as in our individual lives. The consumption of reality television has also undoubtedly had an effect on our perception of the truth. We must reevaluate the understanding we have of truth and authenticity in order to secure our future individual, collective and political futures.


(1) Turner, Camilla (2018): «Revealed: Top career aspirations for today’s primary school children». The Telegraph, 19. januar (Lest: 07.12.2019, 10:00): 07.12.2019, 10:00 

(2) Bergengruen, Vera; Hennigan, W. J. (2019): «’We Are Being Eaten From Within.’ Why America Is Losing the Battle Against White Nationalist Terrorism.» Time, 8. august 2019 (Lest: 07.12.2019, 09:34): 

(3) Frankfurt, Harry G (2005):. On Bullshit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

(4) News Corp Australia Network (2019): «Attention-hungry people are faking holidays on Instagram», 21. april. (Lest: 07.12.2019, 09:51):

(5) Crouch, Michelle (2018): «13 secrets reality TV producers won’t tell you». Business Insider, 16. februar 2019 (Lest: 07.12.2019, 09:55) 

(6) (2012): «Kim Kardashian told she has no talent during Barbara Walters interview». Mirror, 15. mars 2012. (Lest: 07.12.2019, kl. 10:14)

(7) Donnelly, Laura (2019):  «Social media linked to increased risk of mental health problems». The Telegraph, 11. september 2019. (Lest: 06.12.2019, 15:10)

(8) Barr, Sabrina (2019): «Six ways social media negatively affects your mental health». Independent10. oktober 2019. (Lest: 06.12.2019, 15:15) ttps://

(9) Warren, Courtney S. (2018): «How Honest Are People On Social Media?» Psychology Today, 30. juli 2018. (Lest: 07.12.2019, 10:11) 

Sofie Lekve har en mastergrad i filosofi fra Universitetet i Bergen med spesialisering i Etikk. Hun er særlig interessert i spørsmål som angår filosofi i møte med andre fag, og har en sterk interesse for formidling av filosofi og kritisk tenkning. Hun har tidligere jobbet som universitetslektor i Ex.Phil, og jobber nå som studiekonsulent på Universitetet i Bergen.



Scroll to Top