If one politician made a very intellectual speech about world peace and another fell off the stage, which one do you think would get most of your attention on the evening news?

I’m guessing the latter.

Our human nature explains why our eyes and ears are immediately drawn to our screens when Trump is on spouting his nauseating narcissism, even if he is pumping out dangerous lies and misinformation. We may despise former British Minister, Matt Hancock but his participation in 'I’m a Celebrity' made him the centre of attention last week.

Perhaps the old journalism saying is true, the people get the press they deserve because they’re being given what they want to see, hear and read. Indeed, furthermore maybe we get the politicians we deserve because we vote for them.

I suppose it was always like this, that we viewed politics, the media and indeed other institutions with a certain degree of scepticism; but for all their faults we accepted that they were by and large important and necessary in maintaining a democratic system.

However, as we watched the coverage of the mid-term elections in the United States this week, the re-emergence of Trump into the limelight sent a shiver down the spine.

Watching him stirring it up with his vitriol on all and sundry, including people in his own party, was a stark reminder of the horribly divisive nature of American politics. This isn’t just a nasty politician spouting off for personal gain; the sinister Trumpian tactics are undermining democracy.

Is it hyperbolic to suggest that the very basis of western democracy is under threat? Well, the Democrats in the US are suggesting this week that democracy itself was on the ballot paper in the mid-terms, and who could argue that trust in democratic institutions is at an all-time low.

And, indeed, if the old saying is true that “when America catches a cold, the world sneezes” then many of the factors which held our own society together on this side of the Atlantic are coming apart too.

Britain is now on its third Prime Minister since the last election, the last two selected by a small group of the Tory party and even here in Northern Ireland public discourse has reached a point where reasonable people are targeted for even having a point of view.

There was something of a change in mood in the American media in the 1990s with the introduction of the right-wing Fox News, once described as having “transformed politics in the US into a reality show spectacle".

By the turn of the century, social media sites proliferated and Facebook and Twitter were examples of the good side of connecting people and sharing experiences. But as time went on (Facebook now has three billion users) changes to their system saw the seedier side of social media with abuse and misinformation so commonplace it is fracturing society.

Fox founder, Roger Ailes once said “Truth is whatever people believe” and people like Trump are manipulating their messages to an incredible degree. Again this week, he’s been trotting out the mantra that the 2020 election was “rigged and stolen”. Lies.

This is nothing new. Back in 2020 (even before the election result) he was pumping this out and he says it so often that many people now believe it.

According to the New York Times in 2020, over the course of two months, Trump lied that the election was rigged at least 68 times and that it was stolen (before the result he began saying it was in the process of being stolen) at least 35 times.

He made claims of voter fraud and ballot-counting irregularities more than 250 times, specifically making baseless claims that voting machines tossed or changed votes at least 45 times.

The thing is, it’s not just the cranks who are now swallowing this election denier rubbish; intelligent people and many in positions of authority are falling in behind it.

It’s a danger to democracy. Basically, if these people win, they say it’s the greatest win ever. If they lose, it was rigged, so you can understand the uncertainty in people’s minds.

Recently you may have read of the attack on the husband of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 82-year-old Paul Pelosi, who was hospitalised by a hammer-wielding intruder. Rather than show any solidarity, the Twitterati began its work.

More than 20 leading Republicans, including election candidates and Senators and even Trump himself started posting messages casting doubts on the police account, up to and including vague and untrue claims that the attacker may have been involved in a gay relationship with the intruder.

The new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk himself posted a link to a right-wing misleading website to his 112 million followers with the message that “there is a tiny possibility that there is more to this story than meets the eye".

If you’re hoping that the new owner of Twitter will make it a less nasty place anytime soon, don’t hold your breath.

In addition to attacking their so-called enemies, the extremes of both sides in America turn their ire on their own side.

Trump, for example, called fellow-Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, Ron DeSanctimonious simply for having the audacity to be a possible candidate for the party at the next election for President, the power of which office the megalomaniac Trump craves.

A friend sent me an article recently from The Atlantic, written by Jonathan Haidt, examining the impact of social media on the fracturing of the country, where both sides have moved to the extremes and might as well be living in a different country.

On Twitter, on each side of the American red-blue divide, only about 10 per cent of their people post very high percentages of the angry messages.

Haidt points out that, as a result, citizens lose trust in elected leaders, health authorities, the courts, the police, universities, and the integrity of elections.

“Then every decision becomes contested; every election becomes a life-and-death struggle to save the country from the other side."

He says that “recent academic studies suggest that social media is indeed corrosive to trust in governments, news media, and people and institutions in general".

Let’s not imagine it’s any different on this side of the world. It would seem in Britain that politicians such as Braverman and Williamson are symptomatic of the disregard that this Government has for the people they are supposed to serve.

In Northern Ireland, day and daily we see people being viciously treated in the public space for their legitimate views. In fact, many people now believe that if social media had existed in 1998, there would never have been a Good Friday Agreement.

So it’s no coincidence to see the opponents of it using social media Trump dirty tactics to undermine it.

It does, of course, take courage for people to stand up to all of this. But at what point do the powers that be realise that, while there are still many advantages to social media, serious reform is needed to stop its excess which really is a danger to democracy?