Is the American Experiment Over or Just Beginning?

Rush Limbaugh should be forever indebted to Bill and Hillary Clinton. No oneĀ  has profited more in this Country than him and his minions of like-minded imitators and provocateurs on the entire catalog of mythology based around the former President Bill, and now; candidate, Hillary Clinton.

I came under the Limbaugh spell in 1992 when I was still working as a Photojournalist which forced me to spend an inordinate amount of time in my vehicle – I think I had figured out that an average week put over 500 miles on the odometer.

I had lost out on numerous jobs with major newspapers to minority applicants, and I held a bit of a grudge, rather than correctly place the blame on my (at the time) less than stellar portfolio. The Grudge is the stock and trade of the radio and television talk show host. They exploit fear and irrational anger to drive ratings. Rush Limbaugh stoked that “white man’s rage” against minorities specifically, and “Liberals” in general. All things that are wrong with the world can be blamed on liberal philosophy / politics, and anti-discrimination laws.

Limbaugh, a college drop-out, and mediocre sports and radio disc jockey, one day started ranting about the unfairness – probably from his own experiences – of minorities getting an advantage on white, male, heterosexuals.

It struck a chord. It spawned institutions like Fox News and the countless regurgitations of his brand of hyperbole that wasn’t quite fabrication from whole cloth. It was cloaked around the mantle of fair and balanced as opposed to the Mainstream Media (broadcast news programs), who were perceived as leftward leaning. There would be a kernel of truth in each story, but surrounded by embellishment (spin) and the angry, white male character invented by Limbaugh and his clones.

This became a somewhat cult-ish genre of alternative “news” that allowed once bush-league broadcasters, like Bill O’Reilly, who was an anchor with daytime, tabloid television’s Inside Edition to build an empire of fist pounding, yelling-over-the-top-of-guests, style of punditry that dominates the cable TV infotainment channels on both the right and left sides of the political spectrum.

Infused into this maelstrom was the aforementioned grudge, and the anti-grudge rhetoric on the left. By the middle and late 90s, left and right pundits were yelling past each other in ever increasing crescendos of vitriol and exaggeration.

But, there is a more sinister and cynical thing at work in our body politic. It is the erosion of dialogue and debate. It is the demise of the original “News Media” – the “Lamestream Media” that another demagogue in a past election cycle harped on. Gone are the days of reading the local and national newspapers from cover to cover every morning over breakfast, or listening to the days news by trusted broadcast television news anchors we invited into our living rooms. Granted, this was primarily still a white, male, western democracy dominated presentation of the world.

With Social Media replacing cable news programming in the late 90s beginning with SixDegrees.com, and more recently; Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter in the 2000s, “news” became consumed as posts taken from Blogs and stories linked from sources like Breitbart, Huffington Post and countless other web sites with names like Prager University (which isn’t a real university), Infowars.com, Buzzfeed, The Blaze, ConservativeTribune.com, Patriotupdate.com, Drudge Report and many, many more. There are even spoof news websites, like The Onion, New York Time’s Borowitz Report, and others that clearly label themselves as satirical, but still manage to be regurgitated as “real news” by unsuspecting Social Media warriors.

We are no longer intelligent consumers of news, but rather; news junkies who love to have our own worldviews reinforced and spit out in an endless non-conversation over social media and in tense, anger-infused personal confrontations with Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary during Thanksgiving dinner.

So, now we have Donald Trump as a real, bonafide presidential candidate.

For President.

Of the United States.

A Reality TV star who’s tag-line on his pretend business game show is “You’re Fired!”

Let that sink in for a moment.

I once had a friend – an acquaintance, really – who told me in all seriousness that he believed the “masses were asses,” and shouldn’t be trusted to vote in an open, and free election. I argued, to the contrary, that Americans are the most educated, intrinsically honest, rational beings in a modern Republic. I argued that we have access to a free press, where one can find out the truth of politicians’ claims if one look and research appropriately. I was enrolled at Kent State University at the time, studying Journalism. We were trained to write stories using facts, and to check the facts, not once, not twice, but THREE times before going to print with a story. I told him that we can trust our Media, who are taught to be as objective as possible. That their stock and trade is in reliability. If they get it wrong, as humans are sometimes prone; it must be corrected.

“No, no, no,” he said, “the Media is controlled by liberals who have a secret agenda to …” and he would continue to spout the most recent conspiracy theory he had heard from his little clique of listeners to a late night, AM radio talk-show host (pre-Rush) who was famous for tales of alien abductions and government conspiracies. He would rant on and on about how they had infiltrated the elementary schools, and were brainwashing children into forming a future, one-world government where Christianity was banned, businesses were controlled by the government, and women were forced to have abortions in order to keep the population down.

He said that Americans were already brainwashed, and that in the very near future, a liar, manipulator and demagogue would rise to power through a popular election by lies and deceit, and usher in the New World Order. This was in 1985.

Ironically, this same person is now an avid Donald Trump supporter, and I’m beginning to think he was right about the “masses.”

Hmm.

I still read brick and mortar produced newspapers and magazines (both printed and online) that provide balanced reporting from both sides of the political spectrum, and are actively striving to maintain a reputation of accurate news reporting. I no longer watch cable news programming, preferring instead to watch the local television news. It is a little frustrating that this programming still hasn’t evolved beyond the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality, but they are doing better since they have to compete against cable news. And, I learn about important local issues and events that the cable programming misses. The one thing they DON’T do is report rumor and innuendo disguised as “breaking news” the way the cable news programs do. They will wait until they have something verifiable to use. I like that.

As far as social media, I try to sort the good from the bad. I appreciate humorous things and am always a sucker for inspirational postings. I will block posts from the absurd, muckraking websites from both my left and right leaning friends. In the past, I have tried to “correct” misinformation, but this is a fruitless endeavor. I suspect the folks forwarding these ridiculous stories know full well that it is pure BS, so my attempts to steer them down the path of virtue is vanity on my part. Thankfully, there is a way to block the junk without unfriending folks. I don’t believe in censorship, so I will gladly read well written, researched articles from any point of view.

We have many important and serious issues and problems in America that need intelligent, reasoned discussion if we are ever going to continue our evolution as a society. I think we need to start a dialogue that isn’t shouting and jockeying for our particular point of view. We are becoming a more diverse culture in faith, ethnicity, custom and orientation. This is a good thing, and is what makes the future of America something to be embraced rather than feared. We need to build common ground, not a more tremendous wall.

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