The Roman poet Juvenal coined this phrase, to describe a type of populist politics.
The lesson through the ages is that nobody cares about what politicians do, so long as people are well fed and entertained.
Indeed I would not mind too much myself, except that all we got was the bloody circus.
We'd like some bread now, please.
Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have
abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out
military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains
itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.
The Satires, Juvenal