Who Cares Who Wins In November?
Journalists make their living by publishing sensationalist reportage that grabs eyeballs and thus assures the flow of revenue that ultimately pays their salaries. Early in the career of any starry-eyed cub reporter comes the realization that very few people are interested in nuance, context, or complexity. Successful careers are fashioned in one way only: by writing a constant stream of simplistic context-free narrative that focuses exclusively on the right now and resolutely ignores everything that actually matters.
Whether journalists are reporting on covid-19, Iran, French street protests, or a US election, the tone is always the same and the information conveyed is likewise constant: a meme, a soundbite, a cliche.
Journalists feed on sensation like vultures feed on carrion.
Which means that if we think we can learn anything of importance from the media we are sorely mistaken. It’s not that the news is fake so much as it’s a total distortion of reality. Though to be accurate, in the case of the endless torrent of trash churned out by Rupert Murdoch’s many companies, it is indeed largely fake and nothing more than ultra-right-wing propaganda for the mindless masses.
Most people are vaguely aware that the media rarely if ever reports on ordinary events in which no one is killed or maimed or incarcerated, because nobody cares about such things. The media’s focus is exclusively on the one plane crash rather than the hundred thousand safe flights per day, the civil war rather than the hundreds of countries at peace, the few who die from a disease rather than the billions who are unaffected. But hardly anyone realizes that their entire notion of reality is skewed by a lifetime of consuming such distortions. In consequence, nearly everyone over-estimates threats and totally fails to have any concept of what is really happening around them. People are always more gloomy than the data supports, and have practically zero knowledge of the real world.
Not one in ten thousand US voters, for example, can name even a single foreign politician. Not one in a hundred thousand US voters can draw the Mercator projection. Europeans used to be far better educated than their US peers but nationalist/populist victories over the last few years have resulted in citizens of countries like the UK, Italy, and Poland becoming nearly as ignorant as their US counterparts. Context-free sensationalism is now all most people know.
Not surprisingly therefore, today the media is jumping up and down excitably about the upcoming US elections and its reporting is entirely short-term. According to the generic media narrative Trump is trailing in the polls, Biden will win and restore normality to the USA, and we can all pretend the future will be sunshine and roses.
We live in a world of instant forgetfulness so it is certainly true that if Biden wins the White House and the Republican Party suffers at least a few defeats in the Senate, all the craven boot-licking flabby old Republican white men who have enabled Trump for four years will suddenly disavow their actions and pretend they were always against him really, deep down, and now they are shocked — shocked! — at all the things their votes let him get away with. And Republican voters will nod and keep voting for Republican candidates as they always do because, let’s face it, the poor things can’t help themselves.
The newspapers and TV programs will babble endlessly about “the end of America’s nightmare” and how Biden represents “a new beginning” and all the rest of the predictable and empty cliches beloved of media organizations everywhere. Ordinary people will as always simply believe whatever they are told and fail entirely to understand what’s actually happened since 2016 and why, despite all hysterical claims to the contrary, the nightmare is not at all over.
Let’s look at what the years from 2016 onward have democratically ushered in: Brexit, Trump, Duterte, Bolsonaro, Babiş, repeated victories for PiS, a huge rise in support for AfD and Le Pen’s French neofascist party, an ultra-right-wing President of Austria, and of course the cementing of Erdogan as Turkey’s immovable Sultan and Putin as Russia’s immovable Tsar.
Much more important than these individual events is the fact that 2016 onwards has demonstrated without a shadow of doubt that everywhere in the world enormous numbers of people are so ignorant and so stupid that their votes can be readily harvested by means of blatant lies and appeals to humanity’s worst instincts. This lesson is so powerful that the UK Conservative Party is slavishly copying all the lessons the US Republican Party has taught, to great effect.
The fact that these tactics destroy society and cripple the economy is irrelevant in comparison to the votes they secure. When it comes to the pursuit of personal power, cynical politicians are always happy to sacrifice country for the sake of self.
Amid all of this we need to remember one important fact: Trump is an infantile moron. He has failed at every single thing he has ever attempted. He’s the only person in history so breathtakingly stupid that he lost money running a casino, not once but twice. Trump has the attention span of a gnat and the intellect of a dead snail. And yet even this pathetically inadequate creature has effortlessly defecated all over the US Constitution and destroyed every supposed “check and balance” over the course of four long years. He has crippled the US abroad and sowed irreparable harm at home.
Imagine what else he would have done if he’d been only a little less incompetent and stupid.
Just as we can’t un-invent weapons of mass destruction, so we can’t un-learn major life lessons.
Trump showed clearly that representative democracy is a bad joke, an unamusing farce that easily delivers to demagogues and tyrants the boon of unlimited power. Trump showed that there are literally no restraints if one is totally unscrupulous.
Fortunately for the USA and for the world, Trump is a moron with no plan.
But out there in the shadows are people who are far more intelligent, far more self-disciplined, and far more strategic than the orange simpleton. These unnamed people have watched Brexit and Trump and all the rest and they have drawn the obvious conclusions. These people are the middle-aged white men who in just a few short years from now will be elected into the highest offices and seize control of their respective nations.
In the USA this power-grab will be aided tremendously by the most right-wing Supreme Court since WWII, which now includes two sex offenders and a judge who is so in favor of instant tyranny that she claims it’s not her business to comment on whether or not a President should violate the Constitution by remaining in office after he’s been voted out.
This is Trump’s real legacy: the ineradicable knowledge that, as Plato pointed out more than 2,500 years ago, representative democracy is ideally suited to the needs of tyrants.
The future is coming.
But don’t worry: when it arrives, the media will faithfully miss the point entirely and focus exclusively on superficial and meaningless detail.
So no one will even notice the final step that delivers us all to dictatorship.