Vacation posting: When Capitalism Devours Democracy

I am on vacation, and so have only been able to take notes on the posts I want to write for the past week. Here is the outline I jotted down in the car:

  1. When Capitalism Devours Democracy

Ken Star, Mueller, the media, and endless for-profit, anti-nation investigations into the president. (Actually, Tom Nichols’s discussion about the evolution of talk radio and Cable News and their deleterious effects on political discourse is one of the better parts of his book, The Death of Expertise.)

The overly complex legal code + endless investigation + the media + advertising dollars => undermining government function.

Watergate, White Water, Monica, Russiagate, etc.

Can you imagine the national reaction if someone tried to investigate George Washington the same way? It would have been seen not as “anti-George Washington,” but as fundamentally anti-American, an attempt to subvert democracy itself and interfere with the proper functioning of the nation.

Note the complexity of the modern legal, economic, and tax systems, which simultaneously make it very hard for anyone doing much of anything to comply with every single law (have you ever jaywalked? Accidentally miscounted a deduction on your taxes?) and ensure that, with enough searching, if you want to pin something bad on someone, you probably can.

This is why you never talk to the police. Reason #1:

Even though you believe in your heart that you have done nothing wrong, you have no idea whether you might be admitting that you did something that is against the law. There are tens of thousands of criminal statutes on the books in America today. Most of them you have never heard of, and many of them involve conduct that nobody would imagine could ever be a crime.

(Unless you’ve been pulled over for speeding. Then obviously you pull out your driver’s license and talk like a normal human.)

See also Joe Salatin’s Everything I want to do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front.

In short, the media discovered, with Nixon and Watergate (at least within the past century or so,) that constant presidential scandals could be good for ratings, and certain folks in the government discovered with Bill Clinton and Monica and Lewinsky that if you go digging for long enough, eventually you can find some kind of dirt to pin on someone–even if it’s completely irrelevant, idiotic dirt that has nothing to do with the president’s ability to govern.

This creates the incentive for the Media to constantly push the drumbeat narrative of “presidential scandal!” which leads to people truly believing that there is much more scandal than there really is.

Theory: Monica, Benghazi, Russiagate, and maybe even Watergate were all basically trumped-up hogwash played for ratings dollars. (Well, clearly someone broke into the Watergate hotel.)

The sheer complexity of the modern legal system, which allows this to happen, also¬† incentivizes each party to push for constant investigations of the other party’s presidents. In essence, both sides are moving toward mutual defect-defect, with the media egging them on.

And We the People are the suckers.

I feel like there are concepts here for which we need better words.

Liberals and Conservatives have Stopped Talking to Each Other

They aren’t talking to each other; they aren’t even talking about the same stuff anymore.

I normally hang out with liberals, but this past weekend I spent around some of the more traditionally conservative members of my extended family. Since I spend a fair amount of time critiquing liberal ideas, you might think we’d have a ton to discuss, but no. The things I’m concerned about and the things they’re concerned about are totally different things.

Think about it: how often do you hear liberals make an impassioned defense of Obama’s actions in Benghazi?

Personally, never. I’ve never heard liberals discuss Benghazi at all. The only time I’ve heard the word cross their lips, (or keyboards,) is in the context of, “Oh god, my conservative relatives ae going to rattle on endlessly about Benghazi at Thanksgiving dinner.” It might as well be a hemorrhoid treatment for all liberals want to talk about it.

Now take the conservative side. When’s the last time you heard your conservative relatives talking about “white privilege”?

Probably never.

Some stuff makes it into both communities–riots, for example–but a ton of political debate, discussion, philosophy, development, etc., is going on in total isolation from the other side.

The reason, quite simply, is the internet.

Once upon a time, there was no internet. Everyone watched TV and/or read newspapers, and even if you hated Fox News or MSNBC, you probably still encountered it occasionally or knew people who watched it. In other words, there were only a few news sources, and chances were good that you were watching/reading them.

Then came the internet. Many young people today get most of their news/political discussion from internet sources like Tumblr and Facebook. Many of them do not take a newspaper or watch the evening news, and neither do the majority of people they know.

Older people still get their news primarily from TV and newspapers. (One older relative claimed to spend $190 a month just so he could watch Fox News–a news source he very adamantly vowed to never give up.)

So young people progress ever leftward, largely oblivious to what old people are thinking and talking about. And old people, in their own information-bubble, have no idea what young people are thinking and talking about.

Conservatism tends to be pretty bad at making coherent counter-arguments to liberalism, (mostly, I think, because conservatives tend to operate on an emotional basis of “I like it like this because I’m used to it,” rather than on rational arguments,) but if the two sides aren’t even talking, the chances of getting the two sides to agree on anything or debate their way to a rational consensus seems even less likely than usual.

I think it likely that some new form of conservatism may spawn from the depths of the internet.