Stumbled across another interminable comments discussion at RD about the responsibility of "Christians" for whatever political ills the complainers want to complain about. And I stumbled across this, from 13 years ago, where I made the observation that:
The Rev. Debra Haffner (a Unitarian Universalist minister who directs a national interfaith group, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, and quoted by Mr. Rich) "detects an overall "understanding" in the media that religion "is one voice — fundamentalist." And, says Frank Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice: "There is the belief that the conservative view won, and the media are more interested in winners."
So this is a silly thing, but a silly thing with momentum. Demonize your opponent, turn anything they say into blasphemy (anti-Christian, anti-American; it's all one), reduce the issue to "us v. them," and get people to vote on their fears. It's perhaps the oldest political strategy of all; and the most effective. We have always been at war with Eurasia.
And in light of this report from NPR this week, I wonder (not for the first time): do we really need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows? The discussion was of this op-ed: "Facebook wins, democracy loses," but all I could think listening to the report was: replace "Facebook" with "internet" and you get the same results. Here, you try it:
VAIDHYANATHAN: Yeah, and that's happening. It's just not happening as effectively or efficiently. Basically what we are facing here is that Facebook is a communicative medium that is really well-designed for motivation. Whether that motivation is to occupy a park in Lower Manhattan to protest Wall Street or to generate essentially genocide against the Rohingya, motivation is something that works really well on Facebook. What doesn't work really well is deliberation because Facebook itself - the algorithms amplify strong emotional content. Those are the things most likely to be shared. And if they're most likely to be shared, then exponentially they get shared because Facebook's algorithms pick up those signals. It becomes really hard for messages that are deliberative and careful to spread on Facebook. Those things drop like a rock.
GREENE: And do you feel that Facebook is coming to this recognition because Mark Zuckerberg made a number of concessions? I mean, September he laid out this nine-step plan to be more transparent, saying he's working with government agencies and election commissions to make sure that he monitors and patrols this problem. Is that encouraging to you?
VAIDHYANATHAN: It's encouraging that there seems to be a recognition of some of the problems, but the problem with Facebook is Facebook. It's not any particular attribute along the margins that can be fixed and reformed. Any time that you can imagine a social media platform that connects 2.2 billion people and has a remarkably powerful and precise ad platform, you're going to have trouble.And I don't even have a communications degree!
I Just saved you the trouble of getting a "media studies" degree, and I don't even have Marshall McLuhan to pull from behind a movie poster! Yeah, yeah, cheap shot, but is it really the fault of Facebook or Google or any of the "Five Names" that the internet is an international outrage machine? That it's only purpose is to amplify the sound of back-fence gossip to the roar of a stadium crowd? Before Facebook it was blogs and comments and "Somebody on the internet is wrong!" Now it's websites thinking they are boldly publishing "the truth!" getting played like fiddles by trolls, and we are all Donald Trump and believe in some sort of conspiracy theory. How far removed are we, really, from blogs that used to trash "the media" because of their coverage of Clinton or Shrub or Obama? Is Facebook really the cause of our troubles, or is it this brave new world of "more speech!" in which everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned? "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." But that's not a vision of apocalypse, it's simply the way things have always been; it's only the megaphone that's gotten bigger.
And honestly what has changed except that we've elected Newt Gingrich for President? Maybe this is the change we needed. Even CNN anchors are arguing with interviewees, and even if the media still thinks all religious persons in America are either radical Muslims or fundamentalist Christians, the latter isn't quite getting the free pass it once did. Fundamentalist Christians are on the verge of looking like losers, and that's deadly in the eyes of the media. Blood in the water time. Maybe the Beast's hour had to come round at last, so we'd finally start taking things involving the commons a bit more seriously.
Maybe. I'm still more comfortable with plus ce change, plus ce la meme chose. The old political strategies are still the most effective, and the most effective of all is to organize and vote and work within a party structure. I was bemused by media anointed DACA leaders who warned the Democrats not to take their votes for granted; if DACA wasn't reformed, they would take their votes and go home, they said. Which made me wonder who they were leading, and why. If Dreamers want 7 more years of Trump, that's the threat to make. Otherwise, quit throwing temper tantrums and insisting on getting your way just because you have the media spotlight: work, vote, especially in primaries, get your candidates elected.
Nobody is going to do it for you. After all, we've always been at war with Eurasia. The only way to stop it is to replace the propagandists. We've never had a clearer view of who they are, that's for sure.
Or we could just wish real life was like the movies, where all we had to do was watch.