I never took the smile away from anybody's face
And that's a desperate way to look
For someone who is still a child
--In a Big Country,
And why should I call your name,
When you're to blame
For making me blue?
--Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,
and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace
--The Genius of the Crowd,
[This is a prelude to our concluding segment on the stories we tell, "Circle Jerk III: The Frontier".]
I do not watch the news, as the mandatory agenda and relentless editorialization is onerous. But occasionally, it cannot be avoided.
Like Douglas Adams' holistic detective Dirk Gently, the gestalt does not escape my vision. To that end, two segments in a recent BBC World News America broadcast neatly collided for me.
First was a story on the propriety of leaving graphic Syrian violence uploads on You Tube channels. The commentator suggested that discretion was the key as, "People live on their platforms."
They live there, mind -- not just visit, not just type or read. Live. In a 5 x 8" screen. Even International Humanitarian Law would frown upon such living conditions.
And the Band Played On
Second, catty anchorwoman Katty Kay was sputtering over the bipartisan meeting called by the President with Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Clearly, this move was in violation of the party line that Mr. Trump is untenable.
"But he's 'toxic'", said Mrs. Kay (her go-to descriptor for the President.) The horror accompanying her protestation had the desperate look of someone who has been gobsmacked: the gig was up. Nothing normal was supposed to happen, yet it did.
It sounded like the silence after the horrible scratch of an agly needle on a rare vinyl album; it will now never be the same.
Instead of what might have been interesting speculation regarding a meeting on healthcare that looked a bit like a convocation from the film, "Cocoon", we get Kay, beside herself, asking her guest for some understanding of this, to her, inexplicable event.
In an embarrassingly simple explanation, the guest explained to Kay that as the U.S. President is the head of the Executive branch, he is allowed to do this sort of thing. (In fact, he noted, this is exactly the sort of thing candidate Trump promised to do.)
In such moments one perceives that the vitriol against this "impossible" President is just so much night music, a nocturne designed to both palliate and arouse the insulted Clinton faithful. The media enabled them to feel a false sense of power by unceasingly feeding -- in fact, designing -- their corrosive hatred.
While the media story is that chaos reigns, the more banal reality is that the administration churns on, doing the work of government.
A responsible press would sift through the daily docket to find the boring but important news which merits coverage. Instead, you will hear about shoes, hands and the inappropriateness of Mr. Trump's every utterance because it is a cheap and easy way to entice the faithful to update their feeds without much thought.
These two stories explained why what should have been the story of the century -- analyzing and perhaps even celebrating the election by the people of a candidate far outside of the mainstream -- has gone missing.
While this election could have spurred an honest and incisive discussion about why such a happening, that would require actually looking at the state of the American people.
Instead, we have been trained to mock the President and all attendants, and have been offered no insight. Those who voted for him are stupid little puds worthy only of our derision (right?) Comedians like Jon Stewart may be proud of their legacy.
[Note: Mr. Stewart exited stage right, perhaps aware of the Roman circus - runaway train which he had ushered in. Because he could be sharp or funny, or because he had that elastic Buster Keaton face, it became o.k. to outrageously disrespect the news. But people began THINKING of that AS the news.
No one is funny today, however, though the disrespect continues. Both he and the now-retired David Letterman have left a much meaner world in their wake.]
Today, an inroads is always found to bring any disaster back home to Mr. Trump. We all know the drill: he is white and wealthy, therefore, he emboldens poor and marginalized people to crawl out of their hidey holes and disturb the rest of us.
At least, that is the media's story and they are sticking with it. It has incited their faithful to expulse untold reams of bilge over the last year.
(Addendum: The contrapositive of the story is that if we had a person of color or a woman President, the white men would not some out of their hidey holes, and their needs and concerns would be staunched. And of course, to the party line Democrat, this would be a Good Thing.)
But as with a hurricane, such passionate energy eventually dissipates. Perhaps some of the erstwhile livid and animated viewers are becoming like Sasha Baron Cohen's character Borat at the Texas rodeo, or maybe his rapt listeners.
In the midst of Borat's impassioned diatribe about how the U.S. is going to win their "War of Terror" in increasingly contorted and ridiculously vicious ways, the supportive screams of the crowd begin to die down at his uttermost declaration (May you destroy their country so that for the next thousand years not even a single lizard will survive in their desert.)
At some point every dupe tires, and perhaps, realizes that he has been had.
And so it goes. All of the madness to which we have been exposed, causing us to to cry out against our duly-elected President, has probably been a proving grounds for the use of social media, like a test to see how wastewater permeates an unsaturated zone.
Meanwhile, some other people who know the score and see the futility, are reading Financial Times, The Economist or The Wall Street Journal, and are not spending too much breath on these things that obsess the lives of the hoi polloi.
The people who "live" on their smartphones and happily re-tweet endlessly unvetted "news" bits, have been played. They have proven to be someone's useful idiots, as they are pricked hither and thither, like hapless paramecium, whose thumbs cannot twitch fast enough (if paramecium had thumbs, that is.)
They were not even paid the $15 a Gallup Poll might have to pick their brains. By willingly surrendering their contacts and their wits, the angry re-Tweeters have proven quite useful to someone, as they dart under their Petri dish cover (i.e., smartphone screen).
Someone will use this enormous trove of free behavioral data you have provided. Count on it.
Cold comfort, but Big Brother loves you.
NEXT: Ranger on Vietnam