Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Way We Were(n't)

It looks like as a result of Tuesday's US Presidential elections that the "good old days" have returned. For whom and which days those are exactly are still being discussed but we are, to re-coin a phrase, going to make America great again if it kills us, or someone else (preferably).

A lot of things may change, a lot of others not so much. I saw a note in the immediate post-mortem on Wednesday from someone who worked for a daily newspaper wondering if Tuesday's results marked the end of the "newspaper endorsement" era. Good question but, I'm thinking probably not large enough in scale or scope.

I would suggest the way we conduct Presidential campaigns, both as candidates and as the audience for the campaigns themselves, has now been changed forever. Just as broadcast television gave us John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon, our grandparents had gathered around the radio to listen to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the depths of the depression tell us how the only thing we had to fear was fear itself.

A generation after the Kennedys, a different Kennedy this time on Music Television, MTV, gave us Bill Clinton playing saxophone and choosing boxers instead of briefs over George Herbert Bush to the delight of the youngest of voters and chagrin of their elders. (Actually, it was Tabitha Soren, who looked for 'the loneliest monk.')

The mandala continues to turn, with our desire for information and diversion driving the technology which, in turn, whets and fuels our appetite for enhanced and enlarged information and amusement. Untold numbers of us relied on Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and God knows what else for news about the 2016 campaign that more often than not wasn't actually news in the way that those who manage broadcast and print platforms define news. No matter, at least for most of us.

We live in a world of self-licking ice cream cones with new technologies that change how we get information and what we regard as information. That 140 character tweet means at three oh bright early I get to type things like: 'Person X is Evil! Posse Y is good! RT!' without contradiction or rebuttal.

In conventional media, NO ONE would let an assertion like that go unchallenged but here beyond the Brave New World in the tweetosphere, you only have 140 characters. Everything is reduced to a bumper sticker. Reasoned and reasonable discussion based on impartial research and sincere difference of opinion are now obsolete.

This past election we had traditional media outlets, CNN, Fox, the Washington Post and the New York Times writing stories based on what was primarily fecal matter flung up against a Facebook page usually with some kind of a hashtag (which is shorthand for the aliterate) and we all treated those reports as if they were real...instead of real crap, which is what they were.

As a sideshow, but underscoring the scariness when the surreal meets the cereal ,we have $hitshow merchants like Gawker trying to wrap themselves in the Freedom of the Press to protect against the assaults of a cartoon character made flesh, Hulk Hogan. If Peter Zenger were still alive to see that cat rodeo he would have killed himself, and TMZ would have had the exclusive.

New media and methods of its delivery have allowed us to create echo chambers within hothouses instead of exposing us to a diversity of opinions through a variety of news sources and feeds. I can now pick where I get my information from and that window to the world reflects me and my choices more so than the world into which it purports to open.

I NEVER choose a source like Fox News or Breitbart or Infowars or World News Daily because I think they are to varying degrees diseased (and was gobsmacked to discover Breitbarters see Fox as 'mainstream media,' (MSM) derisive shorthand for sell-outs).

But for many others, that cabal, and The Blaze and The Red State and so much more are just as valid as my choices of the Washington Post or the New York Times. Quite frankly, had you told me a fish wrapper like The Enquirer and its editorial endorsement of a Trump candidacy would prove to have more impact than The New Yorker, I wouldn't have believed you which is partially why I was so rudely awakened by the barbarians at the gates on Wednesday morning.

Since I can now pick and choose my truth, meaning I no longer need to be rational because I have a bubble in which I function and the only time there's friction is when our respective individual bubbles overlap with contradictory realities (and then Houston, we have a problem), we live in a different worlds.

We're never going to return to the "I Like Ike" era in this country, try as hard as we may, and I have been told some days I can be very trying, but it doesn't mean we won't kept calling it up as some kind of a sacred and shared mystery and memory.

Except, (of course) if you're black. Or brown. Or a woman. Or a person who is not a heterosexual. Or not considered a Christian (a burning issue in Nixon vs. Kennedy in 1960 was Kennedy's Catholicism; how quaint, eh?). I suspect the list of exclusions is still being compiled.

For just about sixty percent of all of us, the 'good old days' almost certainly weren't, but it's not going to keep us from trying to return to someplace we've never been before. Or ever. We've got four years, at least, to get there. Better start walking in circles now.
-bill kenny

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