Monday, January 11, 2016



An Uncertain Road
    The road to November 8 will exhaust us but this juncture of the journey hints that something is coming true. The test of the hypothesis is Trump and Sanders.
     In lectures and addresses audiences have been told of what I call a divide between the informed and the entertained. As Americans became more media dependent,  consumption of entertainment eclipsed serious information gathering, either by book, magazine, newspaper, documentaries or broadcast news, which has morphed into something less serious, more personality and ratings driven. 
     To the point, more people "follow" Kim Kardashian than President Obama. More know her than the Speaker of the House or the Defense Secretary or Scott Pelley, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer or Megan Kelly, even combined. 
      Teachers and professors thanked me for speaking of the eventual divide between those who are entertained and those who are informed.  Those who use media like fast food and those who seek intellectual nutrition. Consequently those who would be led and those who would lead.
       About Donald and Bernie-both are in their own way populists. This is not to demean followers of either candidate, but to draw a generalized comparison. People in both camps  fall outside these definitions, but they are exceptions to my rule. Both men seem to channel an anger, a resentment with the status quo. 
       Trump channels those who don't like government, worry about immigrants, fear federal over reach, are upset with gridlock and inaction. Trump, who offers no specifics but plenty of bombast is "the man." They are unlikely to look deeply into an issue, including Mitch McConnell's pledge to make government stop working and John Boehner's failure to make the House function, the nexus of gridlock and the failure to fund enforcement efforts to keep the money hustlers in check and out politics. Trump even brags about how he bought politicians.
        Sander's followers know the nature and genesis of "the problem" and agree with Bernie's articulation of the disparity and role of big money. Their anger is at the 1% precisely, investment banks and the way Congress has specifically rolled over for big money, in their individual PACs and wallets and to the influence that has been purchased by lobbyists and special interests who also write the legislation that becomes law.
"Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore"
        Both groups are angry. One is just mad and fed up in general. Their candidate offers no tangible solution. The other is studied, specific and understand what kind of legislative remedy is needed. In a very real sense these two populist movements underscore the point-entertained or informed? 
         We have become an increasingly frivolous nation, less well educated than historically, though we are certainly entertained. The nation is materialistic and consumption oriented, with little sense of history, exhibits poor critical reasoning skills, is more fragmented and with a dangerous lack of a sense of commonweal. We can be selfish and too often our religion is mean spirited, judgmental and exclusionary. Madison Avenue appears to have had more impact than Academia. Entertaining diversion trumps educational vigor.
       Traditional Republicans are sick that someone like a Donald Trump or a Ben Carson can be taken seriously when others with relevant experience, regardless of what people  think of them, can hardly move the needle.  Who are the wind in Trump's sail? The entertained.
       Hillary Clinton, a traditional, professional politician is being nudged, feeling a bit of the Bern. Like her or not she is the old fashioned pol in this fight. Who are the people empowering Sanders? The informed.
       Sure, there are informed followers in the Clinton camp as there are in the supporters of Bush, Christy, Paul, Fiornia, Kasich.  The sad joke however is Republicans are now reaping McConnell and Boehner's influence and that of the Tea Party. Recent Republican strategy has so empowered evangelicals, freedom caucus wackos, conspiracy theorists, birthers and the one issue mouth breathers they now have an orange haired, impolite, hate mongering, ego freak of a  clown running strong. Scary stuff when low information voters can also do more than pose for all of those weird Walmart shopper photos.
      There's a lot to be said for being informed, even if it requires using the brain and bumping up against hard questions, complex issues, challenges and difficulties that elude simple solutions or rehearsed sound bites. Gaining knowledge and being informed is not a simple as sitting and staring.
      Being upset with the way things are is a good thing. It's a start. Ideas need to follow.
     History is a relentless scribe, though it could be such a nurturing companion if we were but to embrace it.

    See you down the trail.


  1. If you get a chance, read Trump's rant about football and yesterday's games. He sounds like the drunk sitting three stools down from you in a sports bar, doing commentary while drinking his 9th tap beer.

  2. Unfortunately, the low information voters don't have enough information to know they are the low information voters....

  3. Nice writing. It's worried me for years how we've (the 'general' populace)reduced our attention span to a 15 second commercial. My oldest told me there is even a abbreviation for it: TLTR.....too long to read. This does not bode well for us.
    The last picture above reminds me of the back roads of Marin and Sonoma Counties, north of you.

  4. Thanks.
    I was not aware of TLTR. That is frightening.
    The photo is of San Simeon road heading toward that little patch of light at the top of the mountain, about where the paved road ends.

  5. Tom, Tom, Tom ---- rarely do you produce something I radically disagree with. But this one is way off.
    The general contrast of informed vs entertained is valid; but your attempt to cloak Sanders boosters as the "informed" is bogus.
    Sanders boosters are no more informed than Trump supporters who "know" there is something horribly wrong with the kind of political correctness and victim culture that drives "informed" college administrators to abridge free speech and defer to "micro-aggression." They wouldn't articulate it that way, but they are plenty well enough informed to know "that ain't right."
    Just because Sanders supporter can mimmick Rachel Maddow complaints about income disparity doesn't make them any more informed or less "entertained" than Trump supporters who mimmick Laura Ingraham or Megan Kelly.
    The entertained vs informed dichotomy only works if entertained means visceral, and informed means guided by, and indeed constrained by, intellectual JUDGMENT.
    In THIS context, a professed socialist advocating income redistribution as the tonic for income disparity is far from "informed." The Bernie Sanders recipe for correcting income disparity has been tried over and over, and it just flat doesn't work. Makes you feel good for a while when we stick it to the 1% .... but slightly larger shares of a smaller pie helps no one but the government bureaucrat in charge of moving the money. Bernie Sanders is no different than the professor who forbids the discussion of data because it might hurt some victim's feelings. Both are highly educated frauds; what they profess appeals to emotions not to intellect. That does not make them "informed."
    Sanders may be smoother, better educated, less crass and sometimes better mannered than Trump, but they each owe their success to the identical factor ---- masses of voters who are so angry that they are no longer ashamed of being ignorant. This is the history-proven recipe for populist extremism -- of the left and the right .... Mussolini, Peron, Lenin, etc etc etc.
    Whether our republican form of self-government can withstand the demise of attention span is a very open question. We might all brush up on our Orwell and Tolstoy.

  6. ML thanks for your great reply.
    There is much you say I agree with so I'll go there first. It is deplorable that speech and expression are being abridged. There seems to be a lot of "Helicoptering" involved in how college administrators are responding. It is increasingly difficult to find a public square where all ideas and expressions are able to be examined. Wrong, terribly wrong.
    The entertained vs informed dilemma operates across more platforms that political alliance.
    First, being informed doesn't mean that one is right, or correct. One can be informed and be wrong. Information in this sense is only part of the equation. Judgement does indeed come into the proposition. And while I said there were exceptions to "my rule" it is the larger dichotomy I seek to illustrate. The Trump supporters are likely more emotion first, reason second in their allegiance. Sanders supporters are likely reason first and emotion second.
    Whether it is listening to old Sanders speeches, or mainlining Rachel Maddow logic they have a specific module of data they cite and utilize in the execution of their passion. The Trumpistas have less specific data to cite and utilize because their guy doesn't offer much.
    Now you are correct, both of these populist movements are masses of voters who are angry.
    Defending Sander's arguments could be a battle for another day, that was not or is not my intent. It's just that his backers seem to "know" why. Trumps backers tend to "feel" it.
    The axis of this logistical exercise is not far afield from the old Nature V Nuture syllogism.

    Fraud? Perhaps as you argue, but fraud needs to be proven. If Trump's backers were indeed informed, one would think they could find another candidate who could do something about the specific issues that perplex and anger them. Unless they are just angry and not really sure why. Who's fault is that? A real estate developer without common civility and who thus far displays an inability to articulate rational solutions to complex problems does not seem to be an "informed" choice. Bernie may be nudging Democratic Socialism into his parties discussion, but he brings a specificity that Trump lacks.

    Now you and I know there are strains of information. There are facts, there is spin, there is disinformation, there are active measures, blowback, double talk and lies. What follows then is understanding of information relative to the uniqueness and field of view of the listener.
    In journalism I sought to avoid speaking of the "truth." We pursed facts as they were quantifiable-did someone say something-did a person vote that way-were the bills paid-
    and we pursued information which unlike facts was always open to interpretation from whence one viewed the information. (The neighbors were upset because the factory made such noise. The plant manager said the noise was necessary to make the production line safer for workers.)
    I share your concern about ignorant, angry voters in mass. Populist extremism is a threat. Income redistribution or socialist principles while they may be abhorrent to some, even many is not an extremist threat. Advocating closing the nation to all Muslims may well be extreme.
    I get that you are not a Sanders fan. But my logic goes to this, the US would less likely experience a government of mob rule under Sanders than under Trump. Sanders has ideas with details. Trump has anger and bombast. If Providence has a sense of humor and we end up with a fall campaign of Sanders Vs Trump then let me be the first to quote a former Presidential Candidate
    "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." Funny how time filters Barry Goldwater's thought. Take from those lines what you will. I read liberty and justice. Am I informed?

  7. Such beautiful sights here. Majestic. I especially like the bird.

  8. Nature gives us such beauty. Thanks for the note.