The minor prophets of conservatism may be past their sell-by date.
The Televisual Era is Over
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But only political victory can stop elite mobbery of our political discourse.
Between the “bombshell” Buzzfeed story that, “if true,” was finally going to sink Donald Trump, and the savaging of the MAGA hat wearing Covington High School teens, the tired old media has had another banner week. This promises to be yet another year of its protracted seppuku with the very #fakenews spear the media forged with Trump in mind.
Distrust and animosity deepen. Contradictions heighten. And as the media’s slow motion suicide rolls on, people are daily inoculated from the old illusions of “news” media.
This inoculation is what matters most, as after the cheap propaganda tricks of the televisual era are seen for what they are, they bring diminishing returns. (I’m following our Editor-at-Large James Poulos in making the word “televisual”—and Marshall McLuhan—great again.)
People have only just begun to see the cheap ideological sophistry of the televisual era, in which racism and sexism and other -isms were held up as the greatest, unpardonable sins possible and used as blunt instruments to bludgeon opponents right the hell out of the public square.
For an ever increasing number of people, this tactic isn’t going to work any longer.
In the case of the Covington kids, of course, the intended effect was to obscure and discredit the reason so many tens or hundreds of thousands of people were marching in Washington, DC.
Further, the story was supposed to reinforce the idea that you aren’t allowed to wear a hat supporting the President of the United States. Worse than passive racism, wearing the hat is active “white nationalism” and could lead to the justified public destruction of your life on national television.
Finally, the story was meant to reinforce the narrative that (smirking!) young white men are racists, especially if from private Catholic schools or privileged positions from which they might soon lead.
But, as Poulos might say, digital technology doesn’t care about your televisual narratives.
This realization came too late for the ruling class, which is why they are struggling to control digital forms of communication.
As Poulos points out, they thought the woke future was ensured by digital technology. But digital technology is simply memory and retrieval of information. As opposed to television, which remains the continuous flow of heavily controlled and produced imagery.
In principle, at least, digital technology gives the role of interpretation over to anyone who can retrieve the data.
Thus the era of imaginative narrative fantasy is over. Now everyone begins to deconstruct television. The old morality plays don’t work. Even old forms of advertising don’t work.
So you get what we got: this time around, it’s much harder to execute the Anita Hill/Blasey-Ford gambit, and 30 seconds of Covington video doesn’t cut it, either. Digital technology records and retrieves in potentially all directions, bringing us nearer to the complexity of the real (which TV was used to controlling and simplifying), and rendering propagandizing pundits irrelevant.
The powers that be are racing to control the early forms of digital communication (FB, Twitter, etc.), but it’s a thankless task. You can’t ultimately control digital the same way you could TV. But as they feel their control loosening and watch their formerly manicured narratives begin to grow wild, they are doubling down in response.
Considered in itself, the Covington kids incident was marginal and meaningless in the grand scheme of things happening under the sun. The absurdity of thinking a brief clip of moving pictures of a few people milling about in a throng of thousands constitutes objective “news” about the goings on of the world should be obvious to all but those still stuck in the idiocratic era of TV.
But while the news was fake, the intended effect by the Left of their latest classic cut-and-paste is quite real.
1) Don’t let your kids wear hats supporting a President of the United States we don’t like.
2) Don’t criticize us when we yell out derogatory and hate filled language at high school kids for hours on end.
3) Don’t let your 16 year old look old hippie protestors in the eye and smile.
If you do, we will publicly destroy your life and ignore and drown out your popular protest movement in real time.
Many speak as if the lesson of the last week is that we all need to avoid rushing to judgment and issuing Hot Takes, as if there was some larger goal for much of journalism and political discourse today other than using Hot Takes as weapons in a war based on longstanding judgments on both sides that the opposition must be vanquished.
Our more intellectually-minded pundits would like to think their audience sits waiting to “rationally” evaluate their columns, pining to be persuaded by op-ed reasoning. To “moderate” pundits, such “reasoning” often means either utilitarian policy arguments, laden with data and social science research that can be used as evidence by either side, or a some form of “But both sides…” sermonizing that splits up blame.
In our present circumstances, such reasoning is not persuasive.
There is a portion of the population that is persuadable, of course, by either side. But there is also a political war on, which requires victory (and defeat). And political victory is also a form of persuasion—in fact, it forms the very environment within which political discourse takes place.
This sort of elite mob behavior will never stop because any one of us writes another article on civility, cautioning against Hot Takes and rushing to judgment. It will stop only when such behavior involves tangible losses in the aforementioned war.
Real public cultural consequences—punishments—are necessary to counter outrageous propaganda and vicious mob attacks on the innocent. And the same is necessary for those on the Right who refuse to acknowledge reality. Public shaming and mockery is a two-edged sword.
The barbarous New York abortion bill passed this week reminds us that we live in a nation of technologically advanced savagery. And in one-party states like New York and California, where anything the Left wants now goes, things are about to get much, much worse.
Before Trump, the one-party, failed republics of California and New York were what the Democrats were hoping for nationally for the foreseeable future. Many still think they represent the inevitable destiny of America itself.
As California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris didn’t hesitate to send the SWAT team into David Daleiden’s apartment, using the full power of the state to shut him down and punish him with the full force of the law, arm in arm with Planned Parenthood and the media.
Imagine what she would do as President.