That Mesmerism that We Know so Well: The mainstream media and political parties in the “Era of the Donald”

Duopoly

Almost every morning for the past decade I’ve started the day by reviewing news from around the world from sources reflecting different political perspectives, then sitting and writing a brief essay or article on what struck me most meaningful.  I then endeavor to share it by publishing it on alternative media sites or failing that, in my own blog.  It is my way of doing what I can to understand our strange new world and helping to improve it, or perhaps more accurately, salvage it, albeit all too often at best one heart at a time.  This morning, I was struck by a very brief article on the Fox News site, “Ingraham on Republicans: ‘A lot of them don’t want Donald Trump to succeed’” (see http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/08/02/ingraham-on-republicans-lot-them-dont-want-donald-trump-to-succeed.html).

The first thing that came to mind was the embarrassing realization that I generally apologize or include a disclaimer of non-support for president Trump when I cite Fox News articles (many of my colleagues refer to that source as Faux News).  That seems both unfair and lacking in professional objectivity on my part given the reality that for a very long time, but now more than ever, virtually the entirety of the mainstream media reflects a disdain for veracity.  I ought not to discriminate against Fox News or rather, not more so than against the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, etc., but evidently I am not as immune from social and professional pressure as I should be.  Ms. Ingraham’s very brief article also made me recall my perceptions during the presidential elections last year which I’d shared in numerous interviews and meetings with Colombian media and academic sources, trying to analyze and explain the emerging political context in the United States.

At that time I’d tentatively concluded that the emerging “Trump Phenomenon” involved a movement outside the GOP, noting that Mr. Trump had previously been a somewhat moderate Democrat (see, e.g., https://www.thoughtco.com/was-donald-trump-a-democrat-3367571) and then a member of Ross Perot’s Reform Party of the United States of America (having sought its 2000 presidential nomination), and had only come to the GOP relatively recently (see http://www.tvguide.com/news/donald-trump-presidential-campaign-timeline/).  I also reflected on the oddity of how his friendship with the Clintons had in the heat of the campaign suddenly been transformed into mutual loathing (see, e.g., http://elitedaily.com/news/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-friends/1619008/).  Finally, I speculated on how difficult it would be to govern, should Mr. Trump win, without having emerged through the ranks with an adequate “political” account in one of the major political parties; something which I compared to the very negative experiences in that regard suffered by both Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.

In more general terms I discussed the deep dissatisfaction among the United States electorate with the dictatorial attitudes of both major political parties, something reflected in populist reaction to the 2016 presidential elections: a successful revolt in the GOP and one illegally “crushed” in the Democratic Party.  The duopolic nature of United States politics ingrained in the electorate’s psyche through the educational system, the judiciary and the mainstream media seemed almost ready to burst at the seams but, engaging in almost permanent triage, the mainstream media worked tirelessly to assure that public dissatisfaction with the status quo would not result in the emergence of new political parties independent of the ruling duopoly.  I erroneously predicted that third parties might see significant growth, especially with respect to the prospects of Green Party candidate Jill Stein, although I did note that the major parties’ fear based, lesser evil campaigns involved ominously tried-and-true, very well-funded and implemented strategies and tactics; tactics which as usual, worked well, although not quite as well as the Clinton campaign had hoped.  I successfully predicted the results of the popular vote (Clinton by 2%) but, like the Democrats, fatally ignored the distortive effects of our federal system with respect to the Electoral College.

Immediately following the election, I had a second round of interviews and meetings with Colombian journalists and academics and shared my fears of what three headed government might look like in the United States, where GOP traditionalists, shocked and angry Democrats and a furious mainstream media would do everything possible to undo the electoral results, regardless of the consequences.  My analysis was direly pessimistic, even if I had failed to adequately factor in subversion by the intelligence community and holdover Obama administration functionaries.  Facts have, unfortunately, for both the United States and the World, born out the accuracy of that analysis.  It’s disturbingly fascinating to see the mainstream media’s behaviorist tactics, tactics identical to those espoused in theory in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and implemented in practice by Nazi propaganda minister Paul Joseph Goebbels, so effectively applied.  The public seems to realize it’s being lied to and manipulated but still succumbs emotionally to such manipulation, as though it was utterly bereft of free will.  Interesting in a perversely ironical way given the nature of Biblical free will, a gift which if exercised in a non-approved manner condemns the “beneficiary” to an eternity of torment.  In our situation it seems, the torment is preordained regardless of what we do.

As is the case in Venezuela today where the opposition is corrupt and ruthless, the government inept and the public desperate, the immediate choices and prospects facing us are, to put it mildly, not encouraging.  Still, I perceive that the real danger lies not in the short term governmental dysfunction we are suffering but rather in the long term harm that may be occasioned to our political institutions and traditions (although not close to democratic nor successful in attaining equity, justice or the common welfare, they’ve at least avoided violent civil strife for a century and a half).  On the other hand, perhaps today’s crises hold the key to the social, economic and political reforms we need to break free of our oligarchic masters.  Public opinion polls (inaccurate in many respects though they’ve become) reflect the public’s disgust and perhaps even loathing for both major political parties, the mainstream media and our three branches of government.  If those negative sentiments could somehow be converted into positive reactions followed up with action, the end of the second decade of the third millennium of the so called common era might merit a positive reflection in future history as a turning point in participatory popular governance; until now a mere illusion. ….  If we can somehow break free of that mainstream media mesmerism we’ve gotten to know so well.

So, as usual, …

Here’s hoping.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen).  Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at wacalvo3@autonoma.edu.co or guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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