But Don’t Let That Lull You into Passivity!
That little photo inset in the above picture are of Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). You remember that picture: It’s where pods from Outer Space are replacing the citizens of a sleepy Northern California town. How appropriate! It seems that the invasion is coming from the Evil Forces of Trumpfism and his Alt-Right followers.
The news cycle has become overcrowded with Tweets, Executive Orders, and the usual run of Republican Follies (such as the new unlamented American Health Care Act (AHCA). Where the presidency used to generate only two or three news stories each day, now we are confronted with a whole slew of attempts to deprive the citizens of this country of what they want and what they need. Our formerly good government is being replaced by an invasion of Right Wing Pod People with their alternative facts (lies), economic nationalism (isolationism), enemy of the people (friend of the people), fake news (truth), and America first (corporations and billionaires first).
There’s Always Plenty to Go Around!
There is an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times!” It’s so easy to become dispirited and just give up. Even if you feel as if you’re being attacked by a hydra, I suggest you stay awake and defend your liberties. Get used to letting your two state senators and your congressman know what you want. Call or e-mail them on a regular basis. Let them know they can be replaced in 2018—and you know that’s just around the corner.
A Warning to Protect Your Sanity
Newscasters are in the business of delivering the news that is approved by their corporate masters for your delectation. Please note that the news being delivered is, as often as not, false. A news anchor could say anything with a straight face. If there are two takes on a news story, regardless if one of them is flat out wrong and stupid, both will be given equal weight. Some examples:
- 2016 has been the hottest year on record vs. There is no global warming.
- A small minority of Arabs are jihadists vs. All Arabs are terrorists.
- Coal is a major pollutant vs. We need to put more coal miners to work.
- We don’t need to import more oil if we develop wind and solar power sources vs. We need to drill, Baby, drill!
This elevation to respectability of crackpot points of view is usually referred to as Fair and Balanced Reporting. I prefer to think of it as abrogation of responsibility to discriminate between what is true and what is considered desirable by the lunatic fringe.
I have posted many blogs recommending that people do not watch or listen to news programing, especially if they are easily influenced by what appears to be blatant attempts to influence your thinking. During the upcoming Trump presidency, Americans will be told blatant lies, frequently self-contradictory. The strategy is known as gaslighting, in which an alternative reality is created to neutralize potential opposition.
Most at risk are people who tune in on the same news program every night.
Any Sort of Tragedy Brings These Termites Out of the Woodwork
Maybe it’s because I was raised a Catholic, but most public displays of prayer leave me cold. What is this thing about holding your arms out while emoting excessively? Is it to prove conclusively to God and to your fellow man that you do not have round-the-clock protection? And what’s all this mummery with candles and flowers and cutesy stuffed animals?
Perhaps I am disturbed by the similarity of that holding-out-one’s-arms prayer gesture to a fervent “Heil Hitler!”
Am I knocking prayer? Not at all. I believe in God, though in a somewhat heterodox manner; and I have even been known to pray. But my prayer is a private matter between the Creator and myself. I eschew all mummery, and I have no desire to prove myself holier than anyone else. (Which I certainly am not.) Demonstrative public prayer is just … well … a form of showboating.
Whenever there is a terrorist act or a mass shooting or some horrendous accident, you will see them making some sort of pseudo-Evangelical religious demonstration. Our awful news media even likes to interview them—even though they have never had anything to say. It’s kind of like hiring an official mourner to keen for your loved ones. Can you wonder why I can’t stand to see how television reports “tragedies.”
Why Can’t Our News Media Do Such a Good Job?
At regular intervals I read the Ecuador Times website for news of my next vacation destination. Their English is execrable (“Weekly addresses will continue to be broadcast despite President Correa’s offering”), but they have access to some graphic genius who can, in a small space, explain something as complicated as the 7.8 earthquake that hit the Manabi region of that country.
Even though the above illustration is in Spanish, it is 99% clear to me. It even describes a family earthquake kit and what measures to take when the earth begins to shake.
I could only wish the Los Angeles Times would hire their graphic artist so that maybe I will be able to understand why people would vote for Donald Trump and why the culprits of the 2008 Recession are not in prison.
It’s All a Matter of Timing
I first discovered this during the Iraq war starting around 8-10 years ago. The forerunner of ISIS, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaida in Iraq, never had to go all out against their American enemies: One attack every few days would keep the news cycle forever buzzing. By the time the story was ready to go to an inner page, there would be a new improvised explosive device (IED) that caused American casualties, and the fearmongering would start up again at full volume.
The bombing in Jakarta was, I really believe, such an incident. Of the seven deaths, five were up the suicide bombers themselves, so the butcher’s bill was negligible. Or it could be as little as the guy in France who attacked a police station with a meat cleaver, only to be met by a hail of bullets from the flics.
Key to this strategy is (1) maintaining a high level of fear (and ISIS knows that Americans are a bunch of scaredy cats) and (2) repeat every couple of days, preferably in a new part of the world. Next time, maybe Iceland or Paraguay or Bermuda. Make people think the ISIS baddies are everywhere and all-powerful. That serves as a potent recruiting aid to bring in new fighters and their molls, especially since there are so many millions of young suburbanites around the world who have little or no moral compass.
I think the best way to combat this strategy is to steer clear of the news: Don’t let it control your life. And feel free to sneer.
None of These Bozos Will Make It to the White House
There are currently so many GOP candidates for the Presidency that they could not fit into any vehicle smaller than the trailer of an eighteen-wheeler. Frankly, I don’t think I can name them all from memory. All I know about them is that they tend to say a lot of stupid things, which the echo chamber of the press magnifies until it seems that there is only one political party: The Tea Party.
As for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, no one really likes her. I don’t like her. Martine despises her. She is probably more competent to run our country than any of the Klown Kar Republicans. But she knows that everything she says will be drowned out by cries of Benghazi! E-mail! Foundation money! Why, I wouldn’t even be surprised if Faux News reveals that she had a torrid affair with Monica Lewinsky, and they probably have the dress to prove it!
Our political process has become so toxic that the only reason I vote is that I know that, if I didn’t, some Evangelical Jesus child molester will win. Gone is any Roman sense of duty. I will trudge down to the polling precinct by myself, thinking dark thoughts, while crowded church buses full of rednecks vote en masse.
It Seems That Most Politics Is Driven by Hate
The phrase is from the late Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, referring to the news media. I think, however, in today’s poisonous climate, it refers to most populist politics. According to an article in the current edition of The New Scientist entitled “We Are What We Vote,” we find the following paragraph:
Research in the past few years using information on brain structure and function from MRI scans, psychological responses, eye-trackers and behavioural genetics, shows that individual political orientations are deeply connected to biological forces that are usually beyond personal control…. Despite initial incredulity—people like to believe political opinions are rational responses to salient events—the evidence that political preferences are linked to systems that often involve subconscious is growing. An admittedly simplistic but useful summary of this research is that human emotions are grounded in biology, and politics is grounded in emotions.
If you are left-leaning, a look at Raw Story or Salon.Com will send your blood boiling based on what such fear totems as Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh are saying. If, on the other hand, your news source of preference is The Drudge Report or RedState.Com, you will find articles bemoaning attacks on liberty, gun ownership, and fundamentalist religion. The intention is generally to make you feel outrage and hatred.
For each article by a reasonable commentator, there are typically half a dozen or more pieces excoriating “the enemy.” If it is hard to get away from knee-jerk reactions, it is partly because, amid all the clickbaiting, there are all too many examples in the mainstream media.
There is even an entire news network dedicated to fear and outrage. Do I have to name it, or can you guess?