Subtitle: The Inevitable Collapse of the US and Americanism
Alternative subtitle: The Inevitable Conclusion of the Imperial United States
Trigger Warning: I’ll be talking about Donald Trump and probably other such unpleasant things.
Length Warning: Yeah. Over 6,000 words.
This is something I’ve been thinking about for weeks and especially while I was driving all over Michigan. And then I read this great essay by Chris Hedges, who’s always worth reading. I don’t agree with everything he says there and I think he’s overstating certain elements, but it’s still worth reading and considering. But I want to talk about something related, though different.
There’s also this tremendously funny and informative article by Matt Taibbi about Donald Trump. Also this one.
There’s also an interesting essay at The Nation about why Trump has become so popular with so many people and how the Democratic Party is refusing to engage with voters.
But these essays have more to do with the current brand of american fascism sweeping the nation under the Luminous Grand Vizier Trump.
In some ways, Taibbi’s humorous disgust with the idiotic public is part of the problem I’ll be discussing here. Be that as it may, they’re still worth reading.
Before I really get into the point of all this, I want to reiterate that the US is a very conservative country. This isn’t new. We’ve always been very conservative. Now, even our progressives would be considered conservative in most other developed nations.
To put it another way, if Clinton and Sanders are the most progressive candidates we have to offer, then we’re proving just how conservative our country is. Clinton would be a conservative in most Western nations and Sanders would be a centrist leaning towards conservative values. I think this is important to understand as you read this very long post.
Anyrate, the matter at hand.
This is an old argument that seems to be sprouting up all over again. I mean, it’s an argument that happens everywhere in every era, but I see it all over social media, especially with regard to the rise of Donald Trump.
Idiots are ruining the US.
It really is that simple. That’s the whole of the argument.
Some people even point to a movie called Idiocracy and talk about it as being prophetic or at least meaningful satire/critique.
So let’s unpack this and talk about why it’s recklessly and absolutely false.
What We Mean When We Say Idiot
Oddly, I think this is one of the more complex elements of this whole thing, because people mean various things to varying degrees when they talk about dumb/stupid/idiotic americans (from now on I’ll just use dumb/idiot/stupid interchangeably, so pretend they mean the same thing, even as I pick apart how their umbrella meaning is inconsistent). Language is fluid and everchanging and we’re in a time of incomprehensible imprecision, when it comes to language, which is a problem of the press–something at the heart of this whole essay.
But, for the most part, what people mean when they call someone or a group of people idiots is that those people hold opposing ideals.
This is not unique to liberals or conservatives, to Republicans or Democrats.
We call George W Bush an idiot because it’s easier to handle.
We call Barack Obama an idiot for the same reason.
It’s much more difficult for us as a nation and as individuals if we believe that these men have intentionally done what they’ve done.
But, to quote Marco Rubio–something I’m loathe to do–They know exactly what they’re doing.
But I’ll return to that point later.
Calling people we disagree with idiots is the simplest and most basic use of the term. Those Duck Dynasty guys? Idiots. Those Black Lives Matter activists? Idiots. North Koreans? Idiots. The Dalai Lama? Idiot.
It rolls effortlessly off our tongues and it’s a mix of “I disagree with you” and “Only an idiot could believe that what you’re saying is true.”
Again, this is not an issue of conservative or progressive. It’s just how humans are and what we’ve done to our language.
(Which, since we’re on the topic–people blame the imprecision of the way language is used on idiots as well, and this may as well be a metaphor for the entire essay. We blame idiots for dumbing down the language because it’s easy to blame this amorphous and abstract Other that is too stupid to understand why they’re evil–or whatever. Really, the blame should be placed on media and the press. They’ve dramatically changed the language more than anyone or anything else. And it would be easy to say the media is full of idiots and that’s why this has happened, but that would be–well–an idiotic stance to take. Very smart people can choose to do very bad things on purpose, even knowing how bad those actions are, and it does not make them an idiot. So, if we want to decry the imprecision and reduction of our language, put blame on those who frame public thought. Because those people are smart and they’ve done what they’ve done on purpose. [Quick aside: the changing of language isn’t bad and you all need to get over yourselves and your dictionaries. The world changes. Language changes. People change. The way we talk about the world is different because the world has not remained fixed since the first dictionary was printed. So get over yourself.])
We also call people idiots for making poor choices.
This is an acceptable use of the term. I don’t have a lot to add here.
The most troubling usage has to do with education level.
A poll went all over social media relatively recently that showed a high percentage of Trump supporters were not college educated. The implication you were meant to make is that idiots are voting for Donald Trump.
Ignoring the scam that is the price of college and the crushing nature of student loans, let’s just look at what people are really saying.
It’s worth remembering that university in the US costs money. Often times it costs a lot of money. Sometimes it costs so much money that people remain in debt for decades or never even manage to get out of debt.
So the price of admission isn’t necessarily even tied to intelligence. It’s tied to your bank account.
What we say when we internalise the idea that not going to college makes you an idiot is that poor people are dumb. They’re idiots.
And these idiots are ruining the country.
So the blame for the US goes to the poor. They ruined it all!
We’re also saying that People of Color are ruining the nation, since they generally go to university in lower numbers than white people. They’re also less likely to graduate.
So your blame for the country goes onto the least privileged: the poor, the dispossessed, who are often people of color.
Let’s look at how we judge intelligence as well.
The IQ Test that people think of when you say IQ Test is an archaic test rooted in racism, classism, and eugenics. So the next time you use that as an indicator of a person’s worth, be aware of what you’re really saying.
You’re buying into the idea that people of non-European descent are inferior. That the cobbler’s son deserves to work in the mine because he doesn’t have the intelligence to find his way out of it.
This is not what we want to say when we call people idiots.
At least I hope not.
See, words change and they become politicized. This is just part of life, unfortunately. And when you blame the idiots, you are, in general, telling people of color and poor people of all ethnic groups that they are inferior to the aristocratic and merchant class.
This is an ancient idea and it’s shocking and repulsive to see how accepted it still is.
And, okay, let’s just accept that all these people actually are inferior and pretend like that makes sense and isn’t the most heinous kind of classic, racist nonsense.
If they are inferior, too stupid to even know what’s good for them, how are they to blame for their misfortune?
If this is genetic or predetermined by culture/context/class/whathaveyou, how can we reasonably say that it’s their fault?
If Not the Idiots, then Who?
I touched on this briefly, but I’ll unpack it.
Media consensus is that George W Bush is an idiot. He bumbled his way through 8 years in office, while changing the entire shape of political discourse and US foreign policy by beginning our first endless war, putting us in a constant state of militarism.
Does that sound accidental?
Well, of course not. At least not the way I phrased it.
But I find it incredibly unlikely that George W Bush was an idiot who just happened to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.
And, fine, let’s say that Cheney was the real mastermind here. I mean, even that shows a level of intelligence.
The people you surround yourself with says a lot about you. If you put a strong, capable, and intelligent person in a position of power, you’re probably not doing it on accident. To put this clearer: George W Bush may have been unfit to lead the country and incapable of making all the changes he wanted to make by himself, so he placed people he knew were capable and fit to enact change into positions where they would be most effective.
That’s not something an idiot does.
But I don’t buy the idiot Bush narrative. I think it excuses him of his war crimes and crimes against humanity and disastrous economic policies.
No, more likely, George W Bush is a highly intelligent man who knew what he was doing.
Sure, he may not be intelligent in the ways we tend to value them (as dictated by racist, classist IQ Tests), but there are many other forms of intelligence. And social intelligence (something we don’t measure or explicitly value) is probably the one most relevant to being a politician.
George W Bush knew what he was doing and he did it on purpose.
Ruper Murdoch and the Koch brothers know what they’re doing and are doing it on purpose. They’re effective because they’re brilliant dudes with essentially unlimited resources.
And, okay, I’m showing my own political bias here, which I was hoping to avoid, but whatever–if you read this blog at all you know where I stand.
See, these people who are, in my opinion, actively making the world and our country a worse place–the worst place–are highly intelligent.
They’re only idiots when you use it to mean “I disagree with you.” Which you might, but it’s not a precise way to speak, and so it muddles how we think about these things.
The Koch brothers have pushed through a conservative attack plan that has given them control of most of the country’s state legislatures, which effectively grants them control over a large portion of the country.
This was not accidental and the damage they’re doing is enormous. I don’t even mean simply that I disagree with conservative policies. I mean they’re undermining what our democracy is and can be (limited as it already was).
So the country is not in peril because idiots have ruined everything.
No, we’re where we are because very intelligent people have pushed the country in a very specific direction and undermined what it means to have a democracy.
And alleged progressives aren’t off the hook either. Barack Obama has done a great deal of damage as well. So have the Clintons. I mean, you can throw out a well known politician’s name and they’re probably partly to blame, regardless of their party or ideological leanings.
Even Bernie Sanders, current Patron Saint of US Progressives, is not clean of such things, though he looks pristine when compared to the gaggle of monsters he rubs shoulders with.
But we’re only talking about politicals right now. And that’s not where the blame ends.
The Failure of Expertise
Progressive discourse has alienated huge portions of the country. Not simply because those people are idiots, but because progressive intellectuals have failed to engage people, failed to communicate what their ideas really mean. But most of all, they’ve failed the people who needed them the most.
They’ve also simply failed to not be imperialists, as I discussed a few days ago.
I’m going to use an example that will have to include a lot of caveats, so bear with me.
Among progressive circles, it’s generally agreed that straight white cis men have done a lot of damage to just about every possible group of people you can think of, including straight white cis women.
It’s not uncommon to see this group of people treated as a cohesive whole, especially in discussion of privilege.
There are very valid reasons for this. I don’t want to dispute this. I think that this is absolutely true. People who look like me have done tremendous damage to the earth throughout history and we are, currently, the dominant culture and hold status above all else. That’s just true.
But ideology is one thing and people are quite another.
Imagine you live in Appalachia, one of–if not the–poorest areas in the US. This probably means you’re white. This probably also means that you’re undereducated and underemployed.
Imagine going on twitter or tumblr or facebook and seeing thinkpiece after thinkpiece about the privilege of white men. Imagine you post a comment disagreeing with this assumption in a public forum and then you get berated by other people.
Someone will probably say that this is an extreme example, but it is worth remembering that the internet is where the monsters come out to feed on pain and misery and groupthink. While thousands upon thousands of these people responding to the white kid from Appalachia may be civil and kind and even informative, there will be a handful who will act like people on the internet act: monstrously.
Unfortunately, this Appalachian kid isn’t going to remember all the kind and thoughtful responses, because those didn’t get a visceral reaction out of her. She’ll remember the bile spewing anonymous person who filled them with rage and hate and pain.
So we have a white girl from the poorest part of the country who is told that she has insane amounts of privilege, but when she looks around she sees nothing. No jobs. No infrastructure. No universities. No schools. No opportunities.
This builds resentment. This is when people dig trenches.
They probably won’t consider themselves especially privileged, largely because they’re not.
I mean, yes–if a person of color were in that same position, it would be even worse. That’s true.
But that’s not what she’s thinking when she reads these thinkpieces and the arguments in the comment section. She doesn’t take a step back from her own hopelessness, her own impoverished, small world. She sees people telling her she has every opportunity because she’s white, and she laughs with rage, because she sees how this is absurd. She lives without opportunity every day.
End of example.
I know I used an extreme case, but it was to make an extreme point.
Which is: How do we reach these people?
How has progressive ideology so failed these people?
And it’s not just poor white people. That’s incorrect to believe. It’s just an easy example to pick up.
On reddit there’s a discussion of why Bernie Sanders is failing to get the black vote (I find it troubling that we treat any ethnic group as a bulk whole, but I guess that’s what we do in america). Many progressives believe that black voters are voting against their interests.
The top comment is instructive on why black voters aren’t convinced by Sanders.
What this shows is that progressives are failing to communicate and educate the public that we so readily describe as stupid.
One thing that’s happened is that the progressives have cloistered themselves, I think. They tend to paint poor white people who rage against affirmative action or rally round Trump as racists, for example.
This is the simple and ill-fitting response to a complex question.
Why are people voting for Trump?
Racism may certainly be an aspect of this. For some it may even be the primary one, but that’s not true for everyone. It’s not true for all conservatives either. Being conservative does not make you a bible thumping racist. It simply doesn’t. The same goes for independents.
It’s easy to just say they’re racist idiots and move on, but this causes them to dig trenches and alienates people even further.
Because what does racism come from?
It’s not a natural state.
We learn it. We learn it from other people or from our own experiences.
This is a simplification:
There are people who are afraid of dogs because they were attacked by one when they were a child.
This same logic can apply to racism, especially if a person almost never encounters people outside of their own ethnicity.
Like I said: a simplification.
But so what’s the answer?
If racism is learned, it can be unlearned. You can teach and show people that this is a harmful and simply incorrect way to think about other humans.
It’s not to attack them for being stupid. That’s the worst thing you can do.
You need to engage them, educate them. And education isn’t only academic.
That’s actually one of the least effective ways to teach someone.
It takes kindness and trust for education to occur.
This is, I think, partly why people of color from poor neighborhoods are often undereducated: they don’t trust their authority figures. And why should they? They’re more harshly disciplined than their white counterparts. They’re more likely to be harassed by authority figures.
How can you teach someone meaningfully when you also abuse them as a person and as an ethnic group and as an inheritor of a specific culture?
This is, I think, one of the biggest failures of progressives.
They don’t try to teach the idiots. They try to blame them.
You know why facts and figures don’t convince people?
Because they don’t trust you. They may not even like you.
Part of that is because you represent a class of people who treat them as inferiors.
This is the problem I see most often online. There’s no attempt to engage or find a middle ground or even find a common place to begin discussion.
The Strange Case of Failed Expertise
Let’s talk briefly about Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.
Probably the two most recognized–or at least loudest–atheists you’ll find still living. They’re the perfect example for how expertise fails most people and why so many people don’t trust it.
Dawkins and Harris are both scientists, and they’re good ones. They have serious expertise there. Of course, their current careers have very little to do with science or even their own fields.
Largely, they’re in the business of atheism, which absolutely is an industry. An industry with a small but devoted following.
They’re also part of the anti-muslim industry, which absolutely is a thing in the west. If you write about Islam, especially critically, you’re sure to reach millions of readers and be invited on television to talk about why Islam is dangerous and Muslims should be fundamentally treated different.
This is something both Harris and Dawkins advocate. Harris goes as far as defending torture.
These guys have huge followings and their followers are loud and obnoxious and begging for fights, especially online. There are, of course, more civil ones who take on these views.
I even know a number of them.
I’m really not interested in the defense of these men and their racist ideology of Manifest Destiny, so you can save it. I’ve heard it all and I’ve listened to enough by both men to be thoroughly unconvinced by the various defenses for them.
Oddly, these guys are advocating for the same thing as Trump.
While most atheists would fall on the progressive side of things, Islam becomes a sticking point. Both Dawkins and Harris are for the annihilation of the Middle East. They’d use different vocabulary than that, of course, but they really really really hate Muslims.
They hate christians too, but there’s more money and attention in hating Muslims. And maybe they really just do hate Muslims this much. That’s all very possible. I mean, I don’t think they’re faking racism–I think they’re just racists.
These scientists have leveraged one expertise into another field where they’re kind of hopelessly helpless, but they’ve probably never been more popular.
But even setting aside their hatred of Muslims around the world, they would define themselves, at times, as anti-theists, which is about the most uselessly silly thing to be.
You don’t believe in god? Fine, good for you. Carry on and live well.
But that’s not what these guys do.
Dawkins advocates militant atheism, which sounds a lot like fundamentalism, except good progressive thinkers are more often atheists than they are religious zealots.
But they use the same tactics and the same language.
All those arguments and tactics that drove them away from the religions of their youth, all that language has been repackaged to form this secular extremism, which is generally racist, and always aggressive.
You know how you hate having religion shoved in your face?
Turns out most people hate that.
They hate it, not because it’s religion, but because it’s obnoxious.
You know who hates having atheism shoved in their face?
Everyone, but especially theists of various denominations.
When you go on the attack and tell people that they’re wrong and/or evil for believing something, people don’t like it. And they don’t react positively to it.
When you go on the attack, people go on the defensive and stop listening to you.
No matter how brilliant your argument might be, when you scream it at someone, they don’t hear the words. They feel the attack, and they dig a trench to keep you at bay. When you threaten someone, they’re disinclined to roll over and let you have your way.
Or, many will let you have your way, but only to avoid confrontation. You haven’t changed their mind, you’ve just made them stop talking. But while you’re shouting your ideology and blaming them for the world’s problems, they’re building a wall inside. They’re thinking of ways to stop you from spreading this diseased message.
When you go into an argument to prove that you’re correct, you’ve already failed.
Really. If that’s your goal, just stop.
It’s better if you say nothing.
Dawkins and Harris are the worst examples of the failure of expertise. Mostly because they’re third rate political thinkers. But also because they are convinced that anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot and they needn’t waste time sharing air with a bunch of intellectual peasants.
They’re extreme examples, sure, but this is why many people don’t trust scientists.
Propaganda is a huge issue, of course. And we can blame the aristocratic class for that. They push an anti-science agenda and disseminate it through the million tentacles of the media.
But then the scientific community is failing to read people, because, for better or worse, people like Harris and Dawkins are the ones on the frontlines, giving atheists and scientists a bad name.
The reason Neil DeGrasse Tyson is so effective is because he’s a compassionate speaker. He strives to inspire you. It’s the same thing Carl Sagan did. When he remains inspirational and compassionate, he thrives.
This is effective because science really defends itself. If you introduce an inquisitive person to scientific inquiry, their whole life is transformed.
But if you take that same inquisitive person and tell her that first she needs to stop believing in her god–you may have just stopped a potential scientist from ever picking up her chemistry textbook.
When Tyson fails, it’s when he goes on the attack.
No one needs their religion attacked.
I mean, you may think that’s necessary. You may even think that it’s the most important thing in the world to do. But when you do that, you alienate people. Even other atheists and agnostics.
They look at your anger and think to themselves, I don’t want to be part of that.
But this is something that’s happening. We have geniuses get in shouting matches with creationists, which is the least effective thing in the world to do.
A debate like that doesn’t change anyone’s mind, because the audience is already split.
No one watches Dawkins debate a MegaChurch Preacher without their decision already made.
If you are on the fence at this moment, I encourage you to avoid watching or reading such debates.
They’re incredibly fruitless.
Rather, investigate both sides. Look at what science has to offer and what religion has to offer. And know that this does not have to be a choice.
It’s not religion on one side and science on the other.
You can believe in god and be a physicist. You can be a priest and an evolutionary biologists.
Such things are rare but not impossible or even incompatible.
Here’s even a link to an essay I wrote years ago about this very topic.
So we have the intellectual class failing people. Failing to build trust. Failing to engage with them in meaningful ways. Let’s look at another way the progressives have failed the so called idiots ruining the nation.
To bring this back to politics, there are a lot of good reasons people don’t trust the government. This goes across ethnic lines and even economic classes.
Let’s look at labor.
The Abuse of Labor by the Democratic Party
Labor was a 200 year fight in the US. Progressives and conservatives in government were against it. This goes all the way back to the founding fathers. They squashed labor riots quite violently, in fact.
The moment labor passed, we had a party trying to dismantle it. This was unfortunately effective, but the reason labor is essentially nonexistent is because of the failure of the progressives, who were meant to be advocates for labor.
The Democratic Party, which is the labor party, has undermined and sold out unions over and over and over again.
But, because we have a two party system, they’re the only pony to bet on in the race, so unions keep funding candidates who chop off their legs while smiling and telling them that this will make everything better.
Even labor stopped trusting progressives. Sure, the unions will still vote blue this election, but a surprising number of individual union workers won’t.
And that has more to do with trust than anything else.
NAFTA and the TPP are serious threats to unioned and non-unioned workers, and this can help explain why Trump is so appealing to so many voters.
Yes, it’s easy to say they’re all dumb racists, but that’s not what brings these people together most. It’s labor. And that’s worth thinking about.
I mean, yeah, Trump is rallying up racists, of which there are a lot, and, as Hedges says in his essay, he’s cruising on a course every fascist has rode to power.
So why is Trump so successful?
Because, like Taibbi says in his article, Trump knows how to con this game. He’s a genius at it.
He basically spent his whole life preparing for this campaign and didn’t even know it.
So while it’s easy to just wave your hands and waive all of this away by calling them idiots, by calling them racists, but when you do that, you make it worse. And Trump picks them up, tells them they’re beautiful, that they’re the true americans, and they find value in themselves and in this man who tells them the truth they want to hear.
You fail to educate and engage.
You make them dig their trenches deeper.
Every time you get into an argument with them, they dig a little deeper and resist you even more.
Because you’re part of the lying class. The class of people who promise but don’t really care. The intellectual aristocracy.
You can use phrases like cognitive dissonance and call them hypocrites, but those things are only convincing if the person hearing them cares what you have to say, and because they have no reason to trust you and because you’re not trying to understand their position, they simply won’t listen.
Would you listen if someone started shouting at you about why whites are the superior race?
I certainly hope not.
And I’m not really trying to be prescriptive here.
But this is the problem I see.
Progressives are not engaging conservative people. They’re not even trying to. Instead, they’re cloistering themselves within groups of agreement and labelling the Other in disparaging ways so they don’t have to take responsibility.
You know what’s brave?
Being a Mormon.
They have to go out into the world knowing that most people don’t agree with them and they have to try to convince you of two things:
- They’re not crazy
- That being Mormon is better than what you’re doing now
You know how they do that?
Kindness. Graciousness. Openness.
They literally knock on your door and politely ask you if they can discuss their faith with you.
You know how uncomfortable that must be?
Can you imagine how many people say no?
Can you imagine how many people are really rude when they say no?
To give a quick example, my dad saw some Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses walking to our house while he was pulling out of our garage, and he shouted out his window at them, demanding they leave.
Those kids didn’t get upset. They didn’t fight back.
They just moved on.
Some battles aren’t worth fighting.
Which like, yeah, if you see a dude with a swastika tattoo, that’s probably someone you don’t need to try to engage. I mean, you could certainly try.
But their decision is already seven layers deep on their skin and they may not be receptive to some stranger telling them they’re wrong.
Blame is not Useful
What this really comes down to is that we’re all to blame.
All of us.
Every US citizen.
We made Donald Trump happen.
We’ve fractured out nation so deeply that it may never heal.
I was talking to my wife the other day about how I’ve been convinced since I was fourteen that I would see the end of the US Empire in my lifetime. And while I did believe that then (I even said it would be within fifty years, which was maybe a conservative estimation, rather than the aggressive one I meant it to be) I never thought it would turn out like this.
I believe we’re at the brink of a potential civil war. We are a nation divided, with such little faith or trust in our own government. And this divide is much more even then people think.
It’s worth remembering what happened in the 2012 election.
Sure, Barack Obama decimated Mitt Romney electorally. But he only lost the popular vote by 5 million votes.
Sadly, less than half the nation voted (which is perhaps a deeper sign of how significant this divide is) but Romney only lost by 4%.
At the time, that was the most divided our nation had felt in decades upon decades. But things are even worse now.
We’re seeing the results of ideology spilling everywhere and it makes it easy to understand why people don’t trust the government.
Our government spies on us.
Our government wages illegal wars across the globe.
Our government tortures and indefinitely detains humans.
Our government commits war crimes at an alarming rate.
Our government attacks whistleblowers.
Our government is run by lobbyists and corporations.
Our government actively murders civilians, especially when they’re people of color.
Our government is doing nothing meaningful about climate change, a truly existential threat to the species.
Our government is failing us.
Many people, across the political spectrum, believe our government has failed us.
They believe we need a revolution.
Unfortunately, to most people, revolution seems to mean loudly voicing your opinion about you’re going to peacefully vote for.
But for other people this means armed occupation, murdering other civilians, and setting off bombs.
I think we’re on the brink of a civil war. It may be a violent one but it may just be a silent and gradual dissolution of our nation.
I think the dissolution of the United States would be positive in the long term, not only for us as a people, but for the world.
Unfortunately, if this does occur, it will make for a long arduous road.
It’s a scary time to be alive in this nation. I keep thinking of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and other Eastern Block works of art. We live in the most sophisticated surveillance state to ever exist. Our nation is a fascist nation and has been for decades.
But now we have a man who may launch us into something like the Third Reich.
Donald Trump may win this election and it won’t be because idiots have ruined the country.
It’ll be because very intelligent people have worked very hard to make the nation a certain way, and Trump has managed to exploit it in order to take control.
At the same time, very intelligent people who oppose these changes have failed to connect with the bulk of the population. They’ve watched as the undereducated, the poor, and the dispossessed have been manipulated by those other intelligent folks.
Which brings me to the media.
The Death of US Journalism
I wasn’t alive when it began but I’m here at its conclusion.
Because of the aggressive stance the government has towards journalists, real journalism has become increasingly dangerous, and, therefore, rare.
Whistleblowers are imprisoned or harassed and silenced. The government harasses journalists to discover the names of their sources. Legislation has been put forward that could seriously threaten a journalist’s ability to do her work in the US.
At the same time, we have people like Wolf Blitzer on television.
That’s who people associate journalism with now.
The pundit class.
I wish I had the patience and stamina to talk about the ways they’ve failed and betrayed the public, but I simply don’t.
But journalism has become so devalued, so meaningless, that most people don’t even bother watching.
See, we traded journalism for views.
When news on television became about ratings, we began to lose meaningful journalism
When the internet became about clicks and page views, we lost what it meant for the internet to have meaningful journalism.
You know how depressing it’s been following Mother Jones for the last six years?
They used to do real journalism, but now everything is opinion, and most of it’s simply clickbait.
This is what our national discussion has come to: clickbait and ratings.
Which is to say, US journalism is dying and we’re watching its collapse. And with it goes the whole of the empire.
This is a long post, yeah? My stamina’s running out.
There was more I wanted to say but I just feel depressed.
But what I meant to say here, with all of this, is that we are all failing. We have all been failing for decades.
Whether you’re a conservative or progressive, you’ve failed to meaningfully engage with the other side.
Instead you’ve labelled the other side an enemy and ended all contact, built an ideological wall, and are back there, sharpening your spears and your knives, waiting for the real war to begin.
We’re in a sort of ideological Cold War, which is leaning into a civil war.
We’ve failed the world, our nation, and each other.
We’ve given into hate and propaganda and separation and alienation and indifference.
Half the country doesn’t vote. The half that does is divided so equally and so powerfully that nothing even happens. Neither side is getting what they say they want.
But the war drum keeps beating and people abroad keep dying. Our own young men and women are dying or coming back so physically and emotionally crippled that they soon take their own lives.
This all used to be just disagreement. Conservatives and progressives found things to work together on, but now there’s only hate and separation.
Real hate. The kind that burns and erupts and incites violence.
Interestingly, the only thing our government officials unanimously agree on is war and the disintegration of the Bill of Rights.
I’ve talked a lot about my disdain for war in the past so I won’t repeat myself here, but I find the whole thing so heavy.
But I want to try to leave you with some hope, such as it is.
What Should We Do?
The only thing to do is vote locally. Vote for your state representatives and senators. Give up on the 24 hour news cycle. Stop watching the presidential debacle and find out who’s running in your state, in your district, in your town. Find out what they believe in and understand what those things mean for you as a person and for us as a nation.
Because all politics is local.
And the only way to fix this mess we’ve made is to educate yourself. The media won’t do it. The government doesn’t seem to care if you know what’s going on, which is why you can see politicians lie wildly on television without consequence.
So please, just vote. Vote for who you believe in locally, because those people will change the shape of your town, your county, your city, and your state. In doing so, they’ll change the nation.