Trump’s Desperation Is Starting to Look Like a Viral Karen MeltdownVideos of unhinged rants are now the news

Melissa Carone, who was working for Dominion Voting Services, speaks in front of the Michigan House Oversight Committee in Lansing, Michigan.. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/Getty Images

Every universally shared collective trauma — and what has been more universally shared than the pandemic? — needs some comic relief to take the edge off. If we cannot find something to laugh and shake our heads in disbelief at, we will go mad. This does not always showcase our better natures: We should all strive to rise above the instinct to mock and point. But it’s hard out there. Sometimes there is relief, even gratitude, in seeing someone freaking out even more than you are. It’s not right. But people do it.

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We have seen this with the Target mask-display destroyer, and the lady throwing food on the floor of the grocery store because she had to wear a mask, and the guy who had to carry his dad out of an Arizona bakery because he was screaming at the staff. The correct way to respond to these people is with empathy and human understanding, with genuine hope that they get the help they so clearly need. But it is perhaps fair if you forgive yourself for not always having that immediate reaction. It’s amusing. It’s sad, but it’s amusing. Particularly because, in the middle of this, we’re all teetering a bit ourselves. The example I always use is the woman a few years ago who started screaming in an Apple Store.

As someone who remembers the exhaustion and mania that comes with having a small child — and also having to deal with tech snafus involving massive corporations — I can laugh at that because I know how she feels. I’ve never done anything like that, but I can see how someone would feel pushed just far enough. That’s what a viral video like this one does: It exposes the emotions that burble around just below the surface of us all.

I will submit, however, that it is perhaps not the best thing that these viral videos are now happening in courtrooms involving lawyers representing the president of the United States.

The woman’s name is Melissa Carone, and she was Rudy Giuliani’s “star” witness at one of the heaving, sweating, agonizingly desperate hearings President Trump and his (dwindling and increasingly erratic) lawyers keep having in an attempt to stave off the punishing constraints of reality just a little bit longer. Her appearance was so perfectly calibrated to whipsaw around the internet instantaneously that many wondered if she wasn’t doing some sort of Improv Everywhere gag.

This video isn’t that much crazier than the average loon-in-a-Publix video we’ve seen constantly since the pandemic began. It’s about exactly as crazy: It’s average crazy, as far as these videos go.

But what has changed is that this video is happening, uh, right next to Rudy Giuliani, who as the lawyer for the president of the United States is actively trying to overturn the results of an election his client lost. This video is not just a funny viral video that you send around to your friends. This video is the news.

I know the rush of information and madness that has flickered past us every minute of every day as we’ve been trapped in our homes with no choice to consume it — I know it’s overwhelming. I know it can be tough to make sense of it. But this really shouldn’t be overlooked: The viral Target mask videos are now happening as part of normal government business. If you want to see someone do something unhinged, all you have to do is turn on C-SPAN and wait. Someone clearly impaired saying nonsensical things and making a public embarrassment of themselves — and this person is right at the very center of one of the most important, perilous moments in American history. What a way for 2020 to finish itself. You just have to laugh and shake your head. Because the alternative is absolutely terrifying.

Will Leitch writes multiple pieces a week for Medium. Make sure to follow him right here. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel How Lucky, released by Harper next May. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.