Lesser Evils (Pence)

Lesser Evils

There has been some talk of impeaching Donald in response to all the drivel we have had to endure from him. Heck, they were talking about it before he even won the presidency. More recently, five months in, those calls have been growing more numerous. While it might seem like it would be satisfying to have Donnie be our next impeachment victim, it could possibly turn out to be far worse.

If Donald steps down we will have Mike Pence eagerly awaiting to replace him. The two barely got on during the campaign and were found contradicting one another several times. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the next administration might be more competent at taking away our rights. Mike Pence is known for his discriminating policies against the LGBT community, his ban on abortions, and general dislike of immigrants and refugees. Donald may have used Pence to get better footing in the religious right demographic because we never really think of Donald as religious. Donald’s god is greed. Pence’s god may be something similar but it also comes with all that baggage from trying to press religion on state politics. This is something that since the beginning America has tried to avoid with the separation of church and state.

The anti-women’s choice movement, be it over their jobs or reproductive rights, has gained positions in places of power. There is some truth to the saying that ‘this is a Christian nation’. Let’s say instead though, that our country has a Christian nation, as well as a Jewish nation, and Muslim, and every other denomination you could possibly think of. However, it is a certain segment of Christians that seem more apt to bring their religion into public and state law, while passing their blatant discrimination off as religious freedom. This hurts not only women but also other disenfranchised minorities in the country.

Recently, Civia Tamarkin and Luchina Fisher released their documentary Birthright: A War Story. It revolves around the increasing restrictions on abortions in America. Even the current administration is trying to get rid of access to contraceptives as well as other important civil liberties. With Pence in the office the road toward Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale only gets shorter.

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The Distracted

 

After the political dust settled and Donald was put in the Oval Office, Mark Zuckerberg came out to downplay the idea that Facebook had any hand in the spreading of misinformation which may have caused people to vote a certain way during the election. Mark called it crazy (Romm, Wagner, 2017). Then in the end of April the Facebook security team released a pdf report admitting that political debate online suffered due to “information operations”.

So, even though we have this amazing new tool to research and check facts, a lot of people are using it to do the exact opposite with cruel intention. What makes this scenario even more difficult is that over the years a certain portion of the GOP’s supporters have not only been fed misinformation, they actively explain away blatant signs of collusion and corruption (Dale, 2017.) If Ronald was the 20th century’s bizarre form of media demagoguery, then Donald is the 21st century’s.  Their expectations of what they have been led to believe becomes a one-way track to what they perceive as the truth. In this bizarre case of the political nocebo effect, they have been told the media are the enemy and so in every case will expect them to be liars.

A good portion of the public has created their own self-fulfilling narrative and reality. Matt Taibbi talks heavily on this subject in his 2008 book “The Great Derangement”. He explains how it isn’t just politicians that have lost touch with Americans, it is also the other way around. Many Americans have lost faith in authority and they have become addicted to being told exactly what they want to hear. He also points out that not much has changed from Nixon in 1972, to Ronald, to Donald today (Potter, 2017).

Neuroscientist Bobby Azarian has pointed out that even though the truth may be out there and Donald’s supporters may have even heard it from a respectable source they will ignore it. Some though, are unaware they are misinformed at all. He explains the Dunning-Kruger effect as this ignorance of ignorance, a hyper-sensitivity to threat, being reminded of one’s own mortality (terror management theory), and high attentional engagement (Azarian, 2016). With high attentional engagement, we see people tuning out to Hillary’s snore fest and we see people loving the sensationalism of Donald’s charisma. But obviously, the entire country doesn’t fit this mold.

Let us not forget about our non-voters and anti-trump Americans. For many of them politics is so nonsensical there is no point in trying to fix it or change it. However, for many more still, it is not that they think that fixing the system would be a waste of time, it is that they don’t have the time to fix it. One doesn’t have to look far to see the economic disparity we have in the greatest nation on earth. The gap between the rich and the poor has only increased. The American public doesn’t have the time of day or the human energy needed to continue to protest day in and day out for a better system, especially when they have to put bread on the table. It has gotten to the point where most are content just to survive. “Please at least leave us alone in our living rooms, let me have my toaster and my TV and just leave me alone.”

First, they pander to you, then they offer you the American Dream, then you work until you die, then they win.

Check out Vox’s video on Fact-checking:

 

 

The Distractors

 

It was both Republicans and Democrats that fueled the fear-mongering and distractions during the Cold War. This policy was a huge step away from American isolationism before the World Wars. Suddenly the public was perfectly content with waging proxy wars through Muslim fanatics and in countries all around the world that had no interest in ever actually invading us. These surges in fear play a familiar tune. Their dreadful pessimistic language spreads like wild and when it reaches ideas like border walls and deportations, they burn like an underground coal fire. Sensationalism.

Incumbents on both sides of the aisle have cemented their respective parties and positions in an institution meant to be open and representing of us. Then they turn the blind eye and start to work on vanity projects while scratching the backs of those that donated to their campaign. They allow amendments to bend to keep the distraction game going and loop around into every hole worth its capital. The public just keeps voting for them. We live in an age of transparent corruption; which is not exactly the type of transparency that encourages participation. What system is it then that we are a part of, when almost half of the country doesn’t turn out to vote and our representatives have perverted the basic concept of their job description?

The gap between our representatives and their constituency leads to weird politics. Plato’s philosopher kings are nowhere to be found, what we have is a collection of wanna-be do-gooders, vanity clients and self-professed messiahs. All of them are spending more time trying to get reelected instead of making good policy for a successful 21st century transition. They point to bathrooms and borders as if they were an election issue. We have real issues to work on that involve helping all of us and not attacking a minority of American citizens for no reason. We stopped having real conversations too long ago. Bigotry disguised itself too easily as the defender of freedom.

If America itself doesn’t itself become an unfortunate footnote in history, then surely the past 60 years will be. The major news networks have cemented for themselves an audience and abandoned any idea of journalistic responsibility. The FCC may soon do the same for the internet and sell us all out for a forcibly mutated version of justice. Unfortunately, most of the voting population has landed itself in some self-fulfilling egotistically illogical loop. So, they elected a two-bit crook and an absolute bellend.

The jump from radio, to television, and then quickly onto the worldwide web could not be properly regulated in a political atmosphere of dread, anxiety, and empty election promises. We are now exercising a 200-year-old constitution in the 21st century all on 10,000-year-old processors, unanticipated problems are bound to come up. Both a representative congress and an informative media were tools and processes our ancestors implemented to avoid tyranny and misinformation. However, these problems don’t simply go away. There is truth to the saying; there ain’t no rest for the wicked. Democracy is a tyrant incubator and if one is to defend the ideals of transparency, equality, and justice, one must be willing to fight for it at all times. There are no time outs and as technology progresses the rules keep getting more complex. It is in this complex of gerrymandering, lobbying, Super PACs, and concealed contributions that we lose sight of ourselves, our community and our democracy.

At the end of the day it may be their game. They set the board, draw up the lines and make the rules. It took George Watson a decade to get the 27th Amendment ratified. Before that, congress would raise their own pay and give themselves special tax breaks. The amount of work that had to be done just to add a smidge of financial oversight to our representatives is quite silly. Watson stated that he further supports amendments to establish “term limits and fiscal discipline.” However, he says, “because the partisan gridlock is so strong in today’s politics at both the state and national levels, it may very well be a long, long time before the Constitution sees its 28th Amendment (Heltman, 2012).

Americans now have the opportunity to decide, yet again, is this how it is going to be? Is this what we want in our government? Could the alternative really be worse? How long can we abide by perceived necessary evils and corruption? Hopefully not too much longer. You can blame the distractors, you can blame the distracted and you can blame the system. It is a shared responsibility. Unfortunately, we can point fingers all day but it will accomplish nothing. Talk is cheap and we still hold the power to vote them in and out. We hold the power of the internet to search, and question, and come to our own conclusions. The problem here is that a good portion of people are not inclined to seek out perspective, certainty or justice or any of those ‘elitist’ ideals longer than two syllables. They just want to be in the right and they are perfectly content to explain away anything that doesn’t match up with what they have been told is normal. And perhaps they are right to stick their collective heads in the sand, perhaps this is normal and the only way to get by in America today, but it doesn’t have to be. The powers that be love a good status quo but it is the public’s decision to give it to them. Even the most vicious of circles can be broken.

 

 

 

 

The Distraction Game

The Distraction Game

New technology and arrogance continue to be a dangerous mix. Particularly when it comes to new communication technology and the spreading and sharing of information. In the 20th century the metaphorical double-edged sword was taken up and blindly swung around. The radio was utilized by not only the Nazi regime but the United States and Great Britain as well. While it was a great tool for citizens to gain information, it was also a superb tool for governments to abuse information and create a specific narrative. The great powers of World War II all used this technology to further their missions. Moving into the Cold War, America was spreading the good capitalist word in Eastern Europe with Radio Free Europe.  The youth of many western nations began tuning into off-shore radios, similar to the one depicted in the movie Pirate Radio, to listen not just to new music but to the new ideas that were purposefully being kept from them. Even leaders of the western free world at the time were trying to down play and stop such ideas from spreading. Even with the radio, the spreading, sharing, and management of information and entertainment was complicated. Denmark had the first radio station from international waters in 1958. However, before anyone even had a chance to distinguish the bullshit radio waves and talk shows from the plausible ones, the 50s came and brought with it the next wave in communicating technology; the television.

In the West, networks took off running. Each of them trying to get the most viewers for their advertisers so they could stay profitable and afloat. Video killed the radio star and didn’t stop there. Television went on to slowly bludgeon the truth to death in the name of profit. The actual information stopped being important. “An entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube!”, says Howard Beale from the 1976 movie The Network. After this generation stepped up in the world we saw, what was in the 50s, the unthinkable. The fear of atomic war landed us with the cutest rosy-cheeked President we have ever had. Reaganomics took ahold of the nation and we grew further and further away from the ideas of the New Deal. Greed is, of course, good. And insane amounts of concentrated capital are a water basin of wealth just waiting to be distributed to the work-willing masses, or so that old story goes. This story coupled with the fear of the Cold War was distracting people from certain realities. Since 1980, homes, rent, healthcare, education, insurance, and don’t forget petrol, all increased in pricing while wages stagnated and have remained the same. Economics became cruel, workers became disposable and social programs were now looked at in the same disdain as a swastika. While people were watching Dallas, Cheers, and the NFL, the future of America was being outsourced and indexed. The country that held up a banner of freedom for the world was slowly but surely leaving most of their own minorities in the dirt and no one at the networks blinked an eye.

The networks of the 1970s played on their viewers fears, Vietnam was on the television, nuclear war an ever-present danger and before they knew it Ronald McReagan was being sworn into office. An American TV and Movie personality. At the time of the election he was accused of delaying the release of American hostages in Iran with the help of Ayatollah Khomeini to make sure Carter lost. These scandalous events happening right before Presidential elections are not uncommon in the second half of the century. So much so that they have come to be known as October surprises. Clinton and Donald were both hit by these. Perhaps what is more unsettling though is the surprises that don’t make the list. Regardless, it seems that the ambition to use new technologies like the radio in the World Wars, the television during the Cold War, and the internet during the War on Terror, is always used to mislead and misrepresent rather than what it could be used for; creating an informed public debate. It was through these terrifying and desperate times that people lost the energy and power to think for themselves. The motivation was always there, but something was distracting them.

Today, the internet and personal computers are the greatest distraction machine ever conceived. It may have the ability to better connect and understand the world, but a tool is only as good as its master. During the past election, Hillary unfortunately offered no real amount of change for most Americans and her understanding of our newest technology bit her on the ass. On the other hand, Donald and his twitter account, well he offered us the greatest reality TV show of all time. This cringe worthy train-wreck entertainment is an insult to 20th century activist movements. However, insulting it is, it doesn’t make it any less effective for manipulating a generation of people who grew up on the tube and then shuffled over to YouTube. For every step taken forward in advancing a decent, fair, and just America, our new president will take us leaps and bounds backwards. Or perhaps his ineptitude will just bring us to a screeching halt, if we are lucky.

With every new wave in technological advancement brings both new hope and new concerns. The information age has already proven to be the ultimate Panem et Circenses. This is the idea of superficial appeasement for luring the general public into service that dates all the way back to the Roman empire. With public access to the world’s well of information how is it that people are being distracted so easily? How can we take a stand against the age-old excuse of ‘fake news’? And perhaps most importantly, what are we specifically being distracted from?

Perhaps, we may never know what it is that we are being distracted from. Maybe it is the downgrading of regulations on banks even after, yet another, economic down turn. This would entrench private interests in our political and economic system even further. Then again it could be a resurgence of the failed drug war that they are going after, as Sessions recently moved to lengthen sentences. It isn’t insane that the Russia scandal itself might be a distraction from taking away millions of Americans healthcare. With Planned Parenthood and the EPA being targeted; women are losing their right to choose and we are all losing our right to clean air and not being slowly poisoned without consent. Still, while all this is happening and our president is tweeting out either hateful rhetoric or complete gibberish, he is simultaneously destroying the future of America’s environment by opting out of the Paris Climate Agreements.

If this is the America we deserve, we will soon find out. If there is to be any chance for the next generation to have any semblance of a good life three things should happen:

A continued focus on real issues

Investigate Donald’s campaign for ties to Russia

Don’t give them an inch; write, call, protest

Other than that, well, just sit back and enjoy the show. Get the laughs in now. There might not be too many left to go around.

 

 

Net Neutral 2

Net Neutrality

Back in 2016 the FCC made the decision to keep the internet equal, open and free. As soon as the decision was made several Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like AT&T, came out and stated they would not give up this fight so easily. Luckily enough for them, they don’t really have to. President Donald has placed Ajit Pai as Federal Communications Commission chairman. Ajit has stated that he is fully against Net Neutrality and just happens to be a former lawyer for Verizon.

ISPs, like Verizon and Comcast, have been scrambling the propaganda machine to further misconstrue their actual intentions with changing the ruling. They call it “different legal footing”, they say it will benefit the poor, but in the end, it can really only be described as one thing; cable company fuckery. John Oliver has managed to find the best way to describe what is going on in this extremely boring and beyond important fiasco. There is really no other way to explain this phenomenon to the average citizen. There are enough examples of cable companies or ISPs taking advantage of consumers and markets to merit real concern. However, perhaps more showing of their misdirection are the 128,000-identical fake anti-net neutrality emails that have been sent to FCC. Some people’s names and identities may have even been stolen to speak out against Net Neutrality. Many pro-net neutrality emails also had fake names and addresses, but were at least not blatantly identical.

Even though cable companies and late show hosts are attempting to garner our support the urgency that this issue deserves is still not there. This right now is a battle for the future of not only the nation but the world. We are talking about the internet; a world spanning system of connectivity with blazing complexity. The people have so far lost out and now corporations make the real decisions for us. A handful of companies against millions of citizens and they still don’t stand a chance.

The real question, for the individual, may be; is accumulated capital the only merit we are looking for to decide who governs the internet? If so, then let the ISPs do whatever they want. Let them charge their premiums for faster internet. We still have books, right?

The question I have for myself; if Ajit and Donald get their way, is this to be the last real battle? Is this the Gettysburg of Net Neutrality or the Fort Sumter? The beginning of our long fight, or the beginning of the end? Either way, we have a few options against Donald and Ajit, including emails to the FCC, voting for a better Congressman in 2018, insulting and belittling rhetoric (that he is clearly immune to), and voting with your feet, just to name a few. Although some companies are anti-Net Neutrality many are actually for it. Amazon, Etsy, Kickstarter, Mozilla and Vimeo are holding a day of protest on July 12th. We can show them some love and support for their action. In the meantime