Our current times will go down in history as the age of bullshit. Unless, of course, the manure spreaders somehow figure out a way to prevent the truth from ever being recorded for posterity.
The powerful and privileged have always found honesty inconvenient. It has this pesky way of interfering with their plans.
Their problem got way bigger in the 20th Century with the advent of radio and then television. Never before in human history could more sources of information reach mass audiences so quickly. The powerful and privileged knew they had to do something.
Step one was doing away with the Fairness Doctrine and weakening other public interest obligations enshrined in the Radio Act of 1927 and the Communications Act of 1934 that for decades ensured everything from coverage of local issues to children’s educational programming.
Step two was methodically demonizing legitimate news reporting and convincing a significant segment of the population to no longer trust what is reported.
Step three was the construction of their own alternative “news” operations. Free of the old requirements to serve the public interest, they could build their own propaganda machine. And they did.
The completion of these three steps brought about this era of fake news and alternative facts we now live in. The age of bullshit. The powerful and privileged succeeded. They may have been too successful for their own good.
At first, they had to be delighted by how efficiently their machine worked. All across the nation, public offices were occupied by people who benefited from the falsehoods the machine spread but at least appeared to understand the truth. But now, a large and growing segment of society clearly embraces the lies and either won’t or can’t distinguish fiction from fact. More and more public offices are being occupied by such people, which has brought us to the point where those who’ve been empowered to govern aren’t governing. Maybe they’ve been entertaining fantasies and scapegoating and demonizing for so long that they’ve forgotten how to govern. Or maybe they never learned how. In any case, they can’t possibly deliver what their propagandized constituents expect them to accomplish. They can’t simultaneously cut taxes, drastically increase military spending, protect Social Security, balance the budget and bring down the national debt. They can’t create a private health insurance system with no government involvement that will cover everyone and cost less. They have no way of bringing back all the lost U.S. factory jobs in heavy manufacturing.
At least one of the minions of the powerful and privileged who helped spread the manure now admits he helped create a monster as he regards a president who “gives every indication that he is as much the gullible tool of liars as he is the liar in chief.” Most just keep spreading.
In 1795, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “light and liberty go together.” By 1816, Jefferson’s thinking on the matter sharpened: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” It sharpened more by 1821, almost as if he could see what was coming: “No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity.”
One can only imagine what Jefferson would have to say in 2017.
— Mike McCabe