In my blogging-free decade before recently resuming, news consumption continued to evolve. Though Facebook was nascent and Twitter had yet to launch ten years ago, the trend leading down to 140 characters was well established. Television’s ascendancy had already entrenched “sound bite” in our vocabulary. I blogged about how the new manufactured reality insulates media consumers from real experience and knowledge. Indeed, it appears that as the newspapers get ever thinner and the paywalls get more robust, actual content is attaining heirloom status.
The tragedy of pervasive media induced ADD is that important subjects are rarely discussed in depth. Unless one is part of the functionally literate cadre, like Disenfranchised Curmudgeon readers, your social media news diet consists more of headlines about the reaction of politicians to important events than it does the events themselves. Nothing illustrates this better than the coverage of the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels.
It is most unsurprising that the Bloviating Billionaire sees this as more evidence that we need to ban Muslims, ramp up torture and compare wall sizes. In another more literate epoch, one might reasonably expect a more substantive treatment from other political gladiators.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for that this year.
Our political discourse is sadly obsessed with the offensive and inane—substance has no chance. Cruz managed to vault the lofty offensiveness of even Trump by suggesting that we lock down Muslim neighborhoods lest they become radicalized. Kasich effectively dodged offensiveness by managing a press release of 185 words that said absolutely nothing.
Since the GOP has famously bought the crazy franchise this election cycle, it might be reasonable to expect more from the Democrats, but they too disappoint. President-almost-elect Clinton did little better, in spite of her alleged policy wonk cred, choosing to highlight the GOP candidate stupidity while reminding us of her dubious claim to “experience”. Proving his suitability for the content free milieu that the candidates thrive in this year, Bernie was predictably more articulate and platitude laden yet ultimately gave us no more insight into his view on foreign policy than any of the other candidates.
This candidate reaction checklist makes one thing clear: these somnolent weasels use their 140 characters to say nothing.
Well, it would be “nothing” except that the English words are coming out of their mouths or off the fingers of their tweet managers seem to effectively rile up the masses. Or at least the portion failing to recognize that tuning in to this media based conversation is one of those rare human activities that will leave you less intelligent than when you began.
This is a time when we badly need intelligence. The Brussels attacks raise many of the most important issues that face the United States and the World. The media talking heads continually tell me how smart the President-almost-elect is and as much as her political cronyism quashes any voting impulse, I would relish a policy throw-down. That of course will not happen either as she walks the tightrope of leveraging the President’s voter base without sharing the blame for his administration’s foreign policy missteps.
For two administrations spanning almost 15 years and both major political parties, we have waged a “war” on “terror” that has primarily produced a new generation of alienated radicals. We are in desperate need of a new approach. The candidates deny you the transparency of advancing a substantive vision because they deem occupying the Oval Office to be more valuable than articulating a coherent policy agenda for voters to judge.
They are not open because We the People vote our guts, not our brains.
They know sound bites produce votes.
Substance produces Unfollow button presses.
So, as we forge ahead into a future without a map, are you going to be surprised by the next big terrorist event? Are you going to vote for one of these candidates that treat you no different than the functionally illiterate citizens that have, due to your acquiescence, become the only voters that matter? Are you going to vote for the lesser of the evils though that too is an evil choice?
Of course you will. Why waste a vote?