It’s hard to believe that a wonderful guy like the Clown could become a target of haters and receive nasty e-mails with accusations of not being a patriot, among other less-printable comments. Alas, it’s true.
His frequent mocking of Donald Trump and his banana-republic family of advisors is a clear indication of where the Clown’s political thoughts are grounded. To be clear, the Clown does not denigrate legitimate conservatism or conservatives. (For you haters, “denigrate” means to make fun of or to mock.)
Much of the Clown’s hate mail is not well-written, leading him to believe that the writers are either careless regarding spelling, syntax and grammar or are complete morons. One hopes it’s the former but fears it’s the latter.
Much ink and many pixels have been used to discuss the poisonous divide that now exists in America and many reasons are posited: education, city versus rural, class, race, old versus young, women versus men and such. The Clown believes that any or all of these may play a part in leading people toward liberalism or conservatism. He doesn’t, however, believe these differences create hatred. Differences of opinion, maybe, but hatred?
No, the hatred is a result of something far simpler. It’s the result of living in two different information universes. The Clown calls it the ” Two-Universes Problem” (TUP).
Ironically, in the earliest years of the American experiment, there was a TUP. Newspapers were highly partisan and fabricated stories to punish or burnish one political side or the other. However, these sources didn’t have much influence beyond their respective circulation areas. Therefore, spread across an entire nation, the lies and innuendos from one source were diluted and mostly disappeared as they moved into another source’s circulation area.
With the coming of radio news organizations, the partisanship began to moderate as the whole country would tune in to national news from a mere handful of broadcasters who wanted as much of the national audience as they could get. Being highly partisan reduced the potential audience by half. With the coming of television in the 1950’s, the dynamic of few national broadcast news outlets remained the same as radio. Reporting straight and carefully-vetted information was key to keeping all viewers at least partially happy and coming back. Outright lying would have been a death knell. These were the three-channel days: CBS, ABC and NBC. At one time, America’s “most trusted man” was Walter Cronkite of CBS evening news. There was virtually no TUP.
Then came the blessing and the curse of cable television. Rupert Murdoch discovered in Australia that he could produce “news” targeting only conservative populists and nearly guarantee an audience share of about 35%. Murdoch’s approach cared little about facts, verification or unwarranted innuendo. He fed the readers and later, as he added electronic media to his empire, the viewers, the distinctly far right content that made these people feel that, finally, a major national news source understood them. It was comfort food for conservatives. It worked in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. From a business viewpoint, the strategy was brilliant. From a “well informed electorate” viewpoint, a disaster.
His broadcast strategy was to intersperse entertainers like Bill O’Rielly, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingram and Tucker Carlson in and around the news department’s reporting which is actually pretty straightforward. The blending of the two and the chyron messages crawling across the screen during the legit news blurred the distinction between fact and opinion. Add to this stew radio broadcasters like Rush Limbaugh and the the electorate began to congeal around two very different information universes.
But wait, there’s more. With the explosion of social media, everyone with a smart phone and a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account became a broadcast journalist with no pesky city editor, producer, fact-check staff or managing editor to make sure the stories were factual, let alone non-inflammatory. As Mark Twain observed, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” With the light speed of the Internet, lies actually make it all the way around the globe before the truth can even find its shoes.
Members of the two information universes are positive that they have the real information and that they are better informed than those in the other universe. Broadly speaking, they can’t both be true. There was either massive voter fraud in the 2020 election or there wasn’t. Humans are either contributing to global warming or they aren’t. Liberal leaders are either blood-sucking child- molesting human traffickers or they are not. 240,00 COVID- related deaths are either a massive fraud or they’re not. These are not multiple choice issues.
The Clown is well aware that some main stream media outlets have a liberal bias and he would prefer that they would emulate the Christian Science Monitor, the gold standard among journalists for fair and unbiased reporting. The biases mostly show up on editorial pages or entertainment media programs and occasionally creep into general reporting but the Clown can usually recognizes an unfair slant and simply ignore it. He is also aware that the Wall Street Journal (owned by Murdoch) skews decidedly conservative on its editorial page but the Clown still respects and reads their news reporting because they practice honest journalism. Does that make the Clown a member of both universes? He thinks not.
Lies, fabrications and conspiracy theories, based on thin air, are not journalism, they are propaganda. A necessary ingredient for the demise of a democratic republic is for a large share of the electorate to believe that propaganda is information. (Doubters, please re-read George Orwell’s 1984 or bone up on your North Korea bona fides.)
The conspiracy theory that claims that virtually all of the main stream media are in league with liberal world leaders, Jewish bankers, the UN, a deep state run by bureaucrats, unpatriotic military leaders and the Clown are preposterous if only because it would take tens of thousands of participants to never ever break ranks. Plus, this complicated cabal would have to be impervious to a talented and respected conservative mole digging into the plot. The Clown doesn’t hate the people who believe this sort of thing but they do make him sad and bewildered.
During the time that Americans got their news from three or four reputable sources they were singing from the same information hymnal. They may have disagreed on the correct harmony but it was the same hymn. Now, half of America is singing one song and the other half a different one. Harmony isn’t possible.
There are solutions to TUP but it may be impossible to achieve because of TUP. It’s a conundrum wrapped in an enigma stored in Pandora’s box. But, if American’s don’t make a good-faith effort to solve TUP and sing from the same page in the same information hymnal, the future looks tragically bleak.
Observoid of the Day: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire