“I have known, for decades, that American discourse was degenerating into babble; that the American academy was becoming, more and more, a dumbed-down, profit-based, high-school-equivalency engine; that American society was devolving into race-, and income-, and illusion-based ghettoes, many literally gated. I have been knowing all this. But still, somehow, the Era of The Trumpocene has come as a shock.”—By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring
By Way of Being
By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring
“We’re creating a world of dummies. Angry dummies who feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest, and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition and confrontation.”—Ray Williams, “Psychology Today”
“The rise of idiot America today represents—for profit mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power—the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they are talking about. In the new media age, everybody is an expert.”—Charles Pierce, Idiot America
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”—Isaac Asimov
“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness . . . . The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.” ―Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
PETIT TRIANON Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—1/25/2016—What can I, what should I, add to the noise of this past week in American politics?
For the most part, I’m just speechless. Gobsmacked, in Brit-Speak. Wind knocked straight out of me. Trumpified.
I have known, for decades, that American discourse was degenerating into babble; that the American academy was becoming, more and more, a dumbed-down, profit-based, high-school-equivalency engine; that American society was devolving into race-, and income-, and illusion-based ghettoes, many literally gated. I have been knowing all this. But still, somehow, the Era of The Trumpocene has come as a shock.
How have Trump and, now, Palin, of all people, hijacked my television set, my computer, my car radio, my newspaper (“The Good Grey Lady”), all social media, and even my subconscious? How has the country of my birth come to this, then, and so rapidly?
Here we are tipping into America’s Third Reich, and I somehow missed the First and Second.
“The Huffington Post”’s self-styled “Senior Viral Editor,” Nick Wing, titled one of his latest posts, “12 Things Sarah Palin Just Said, In What We Can Only Assume Is Real Life,” and subtitled it: “We keep pinching ourselves and it’s not working.”
Amen, Nick Wing, amen. I, too, and my circle of international peeps have been pinching ourselves ever since Trump began his toxic surge to the top . . . but it’s not working. We’re black and blue from pinching, and still shrieking like Munch-man on the bridge.
How are the loudest voices in the room saying things like this, out of Palin? “How about the rest of us? Right-wingin’, bitter-clingin’, proud clingers of our guns, our God, and our religions and our Constitution. Tell us that we’re not red enough? Yeah, coming from the establishment.”
And this, out of Trump? “I will build the greatest wall that you’ve ever seen. And I would never do this myself. But I hope it will be so—actually, it will even look great. I already know what it should look like. You know, the other day, they were saying, I was watching these characters—politicians that are running against me—you can’t get Mexico to pay for the wall! Of course you can. They can’t because they never would even think of it.”
Yes, the American Apocalypse has been bred, delivered, and is up on all four feet, by Trump, out of Palin.
There was a time, in living memory, when I thought the Grizzly Mom was amusing, if insane. Now, I shudder in my shoes to see her return to the stage, without her minders.
And Donald Trump—psychopathic narcissist, pathological liar, demagogue, poseur, ignoramus, etc., etc.—just scares the bejeezus out of me.
Friends call me from The Other Coast, from Europe. They can’t sleep. The prospect of Trump in the White House has them up at all hours, whimpering.
So, again and again, to them and to myself, I repeat my mantra.
It’s a simple one. Three syllables. These days, it beats Valium or Clonazepam or Ambien.
At bedtime, I mutter to myself, or down the phone line, over and over: “Nate Silver. Nate Silver. Nate Silver.”
“Give me the numbers, Nate. Talk science, and polling, and comforting figures to me. Soothe me, oh world-class statistician and predictor-extraordinaire, oh you who called so masterfully the 2012 United States presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, correctly predicting the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”
Weigh in, Oh Prince of Polls, Oh Regent of Reason, Oh Colossus of the Cerebral Cortex!
And Nate—sparingly, because it’s so early in the election cycle—is weighing in, every now and then, like a sort of sabermetric deity on high.
Here he is, my adult in the room, talking about Trump’s huuuge problem amongst the electorate at large: “We’ve got an unpopular set of presidential candidates this year—Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in either party with a net-positive favorability rating—but Trump is the most unpopular of all. His favorability rating is 33 percent, as compared with an unfavorable rating of 58 percent, for a net rating of -25 percentage points. By comparison Hillary Clinton, whose favorability ratings are notoriously poor, has a 42 percent favorable rating against a 50 percent unfavorable rating, for a net of -8 points. Those are bad numbers, but nowhere near as bad as Trump’s.”
Nate, I grovel in gratitude at your metrical feet!
But he’s not finished, yet: “This is not just a recent phenomenon; Trump’s favorability ratings have been consistently poor. It’s true that his favorability numbers improved quite a bit among Republicans once he began running for president. But those gains were almost exactly offset by declines among independents and Democrats. In fact, his overall favorability ratings have been just about unchanged since he began running for president in June.”
So, calm yourselves, defenders of democracy. We’re not finished, yet. And turn down the volume—everywhere—for the duration. Google Nate, every now and then, over the course of the coming year. I’ll keep you in the loop, as I can. Just know you have company among the sentient insomniacs of the world. Relax, repeat my mantra, and keep your voting cards ready.
It’s going to be OK. Eventually.
“12 Things Sarah Palin Just Said, In What We Can Only Assume Is Real Life: We keep pinching ourselves and it’s not working,” by Nick Wing, January 19, 2016
“Anti-Intellectualism and the ‘Dumbing Down’ of America,” by Ray Williams, July 7, 2014
“The GOP’s demonic alliance: How the religious right & big business are dumbing down America,” by Conor Lynch, April 27, 2015
“Apocalypse now: Sarah Palin’s bizarre Trump endorsement analyzed,” by Dave Schilling, January 20, 2016
“Sarah Palin: The most ridiculous quotes from the Donald Trump endorsement speech,” by Heather Saul, January 20, 2016,
“Donald Trump Is Really Unpopular With General Election Voters,” by Nate Silver, January 18, 2016
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