Monday, October 10, 2016

Political Theater

Abraham Lincoln Photo next to stephen Douglas photo

Political Theater

10/1/2016 Justin Arn

It has been said that, in that order to understand the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, one would need the reading comprehension level of a 12th grader.

One hundred years later Kennedy and Nixon apparently sparred off at an8th grade level.  

By the time George W Bush and Al Gore went toe to toe, a sixth grader could comprehend all of the dialogue. 

The verdict is not yet out on what level of education would be necessary to fully grasp the Clinton-Trump debates of 2016. But I don't think I am going out on a limb to say that we've reached a fresh new low...

A Facebook friend of mine made the following observation:

"These debates are theater, only. Nothing of substance is covered because the American electorate has been conditioned to accept sensationalism over substance. Bombasticism is the name of the game and the issues have been sidelined. I know I've been quite open in my dislike of Hillary Clinton, as anyone contemptuous of the political ruling class should be, but I should also say that I find it distressing that our country has degenerated to the point where a figure such as Trump may receive such a high level of support.

It's time to seriously reconsider our electoral system and to point out the obvious flaws created by popular elections. Democracy inevitably fails when elected officials can change the rules to their favor. That failure becomes a catastrophe when an unelected, clandestine minority is given control of those elected officials.

I'd like to think that our system of government will get better, but I don't believe it's possible anymore. Our country has been riding a political seesaw since George H. W. Bush took office, becoming increasingly polarized on the surface. In truth, though, each side has been utilizing the increased central control to further the agenda of a very few, who care little who's actually elected into office.

That all said, Clinton is emblematic of the corrupt, bought, elite political class and I'd like to echo the sentiments of Barack Obama Presidential Campaign when he was running against her in 2008 in saying she's not qualified to be president
- CB

I cannot help but agree and if you've read my earlier post regarding voting as an act of complicity, then you know where I stand on the matter.

Interestingly the very first question of the last debate asked whether or not the candidates thought that they presented a good example to the students who would be asked by educators to watch the debates, a quite normal civics-minded homework assignment in this day and age.

Photographs of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
I'm guessing 4th grade... ?

The question focused on the 'parental guidance,' aspect of the debates and how the candidates related to one another.  Another pertinent question might be, "Why should any high school student understand much of what is being debated in the first place." Why are our policies and politics so infantile that any school-child should be expected to understand them?

The answer, I think, was summed up in my friend's very first sentence.

These Debates are Theater, only.


Friday, October 07, 2016

I am not voting and you shouldn't either.

10/1/2016 Justin Arn

Dejected Jesus must choose between Satan and Cthulu
I have voted in every election since I turned 18 years old.

I even have a little ritual where I take the "I voted" sticker and place it on the back of my Drivers License. The collection of filthy stickers has bunched up and now looks somewhat sad, actually.

When a majority of my generation was MIA, I was at the polling booth 'rocking the vote' for Al Gore in 2000.  A few years later, horrified at the missing WMDs in Iraq and a little concerned at what I saw as a growing militancy in this country, I proudly voted for John Kerry in 2004.

By 2008 my faith was waning.  The financial crisis, the roots of which were systemic and the result of decisions made on both sides of the aisle, had no end in sight.  Funny enough, reformers could be found on both sides as well. Ron Paul on the far right and Bernie Sanders on the far left represented the only politicians of national stature that displayed the outrage I felt about the whole system. It's funny how the two politicians I most agreed with stood at completely opposite ends of the American political spectrum.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Donald Trump and American Anger

Donald Trump gives a peace sign at CPAC 2013 conference.
Donald Trump at CPAC 2013. (image courtesy of Gage Skimore)

8/27/2016 Justin Arn

While the national press continues to dog on both the electorate-at-large and Donald Trump for believing in "unfounded conspiracy theories," I have generally held my tongue.  But this morning I had the misfortune of reading an article regarding fact-checking on Facebook. The jist of it was that a concerted effort was going to be made to thwart hoax news and disinformation that is frankly, pervasive on the social media giant.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, I found the piece extraordinarily condescending to the public-at-large. The implication made by the article and by most national news outlets is that the public does no research whatsoever, and simply accepts everything it reads. This piece, written by and for professional 'fact-checkers,' hurrahs the profession, extolling the desperate need for fact-checking and research in a age when outright lies assail the American consciousness at every turn. I agree with that view to a certain extent, but feel that the origins of the current milieu of disinformation must be accounted for as well, and that this society of fact-checkers bears some responsibility, and that the national press corps bears most of it.

The national news media has no ground to stand upon in judging Americans' penchant for believing in, what the press may feel, are unfounded allegations. Time and again it has proven itself unworthy of the task it so boldly claims of holding government and power structure accountable. On the contrary, the mass media seem more complicit in disinformation dissemination, than integral to its abolition.

Below is my response to the article I read this morning.
It is an admonition of journalism for wrapping itself in the righteousness of truth, while at the same time ignoring its utter failures to present any semblance of that truth to the public.

Stylized Image of Donald Trump, By John Haines at Pixabay
Trump and Trust in Media

I'm very glad to have come across the article you've published about fact-checking. It was brief, informative, and frankly, provides some hope for the future of objectivity. Having a Facebook Page that's dedicated to helping researchers arrive at truth using digital tools and exhaustive research, it is meaningful to see how other groups in society are responding to what I can only describe as the rampant disinformation, that clutters up Facebook feeds.

I do have a question for you, however, and I believe it is relevant to this entire issue. I would posit that the rise in disinformation, and more importantly, the public' susceptibility to it over the last dozen years is, likely, proportional to the falling confidence and trust the general public has in the western mass media as a whole.
Here's a Gallup Poll  for reference.

Has the media asked itself  why the confidence of the public is so shaken?
Therein lies the root of the problem, wouldn't you say?

Every time I hear or read the press discussing this very topic, their conclusions sounds like boilerplate nonsense. No-one seems to have an answer as to why only 4 in 10 Americans trust the mass media to report fairly and accurately.

Ironically, you hear those same junk answers coming from newscasters and conservative pundits these days attempting to explain the rise of Donald Trump. It is clear they have no idea how this man is appealing to so many voting Americans. "People must be angry or something, right?"
Yeah. right.

Yes, Americans are falling for unchecked facts and wild stories in record numbers it seems. Although I'm not a Trump supporter, I can tell you what it is that is making the pundits scratch their heads. They won't believe me anyway. They're too pretentious for that.

The reason Trump won the Republican nomination and may even win the election is simple. He is confirming to people the things they already believe. He's telling them what, in their minds, amounts to truth. And some of these “truths” seem to directly contradict your “facts.” He is appealing to that side of the American mind that is angry about the financial crisis. After all, the American People still remember all those financial “facts” about home prices that the media was spouting out for years before the crash.  They were very helpful indeed.

They are angry over Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the entire global fiasco that is American foreign policy. Of course the mass media has been there the whole time spitting out government supplied “facts” through each of these campaigns. They are angry about the 9/11 story, and the complicity of anyone that has doggedly adhered to the absurd narrative of those days' government issued “facts.”

And lastly, they are angry at the mass media for having completely failed in its duty to accurately, fairly, and completely, report to the American public those things that it had and still has a duty report upon.

The American people have stopped seeing a difference between the press and the politicians. Everyone is complicit. That is not what you want to hear but it is how the public, the real public is feeling. And that is the press' fault.
You had a job to do. You failed. Your job, was to speak truth to power... You still fail.

Unless your name is Seymour Hersh, or you work for The Intercept, Propublica, or one of the few other news outlets that are doing honest reporting these days, the American press corp should quit bitching about what the public "falls for," and focus on the crap they are broadcasting to that very public.  The fact is that all this complaining is just another way of  propagandizing.  Besides, it is the press' great failure over the last dozen years or so that has aroused such disdain for “facts” these days, anyway.

Moreover, until the press comes to terms with its own complicity, and realizes that its ultimate responsibility is at odds with those upon whom it reports; that the white house correspondents dinner is a kick in the teeth to most citizens, we can expect Americans to get their news from sources who haven't necessarily checked all their “facts.” But then, hey, no big deal, it's not as though we can say that the mass media checked any of theirs either, right?

The message to the press is this: trust in the media and whatever facts they come up with can begin being rebuilt one way and one way only. Revision.

You want people to believe you? Why don't you start by taking Oliver Stone's advice and quit referring to the Kennedy assassination as anything but a coup. Why don't you start asking yourself some simple questions like how does an airplane made aluminum that is irreparably damaged by geese manage to punch a hole through solid concrete, even in the wing section? Or how does an entire building free fall collapse despite suffering no apparent damage whatsoever?  That was a historical first by the way... Hell there may even be a news-story there!

Protesters in New York City carry saying "World Trade Center Building 7 didn't just blow itself Up!"
Building 7 didn't just blow itself up! .... or did it?

I don't care about Donald Trump and give even fewer f*cks about Hillary Clinton. We as a Nation are screwed either way. Bernie Sanders may have been the only chance this country had to redeem itself in this election season.  But wait, the national media reported that Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic nomination before California had even finished voting... I wonder how in the world anyone went about checking that "fact."
Great Job guys.
Truth to Power, remember?

This article by Mattathias Schwartz from may further elucidate my point.