Always On: The Internet As Our New Court

Historically, there was a locale that those with wealth, power, and fame would congregate and be seen – the court. The court was a treacherous place for many because it could cause one to lose favor or standing but it could also garnish one’s reputation as being something more. One’s reputation could be etched into many people’s minds as a true master of wit or a charlatan. The internet has become the court of fools and a public space in which we display our mastery over it.

The court had several key limitations: locale, size, and the “banana phone” problem. The locale would limit the story’s reverberations by reducing how far and wide the story of greatness or preposterous in nature would travel. The fall of historic Empires and the rising of their borders insured that the limitation would be relegated to certain locales. Size specifies how many people could witness this person’s behavior in the court. The act of physically fitting in a space limits the ability for one’s story to directly impact people. Lastly, the “banana phone” problem wherein one person who may have witnessed someone’s actions/speech may embellish or downplay the occurrence. This miscommunication alters the worthiness of how the world is going to perceive the person. The process of mythmaking begins in the eyes of others and ends in the ears of others.

Now to modernity, seeking “virality” or the generation of memes has enabled a praise far louder than what was previously capable. The concept of memes comes from the Greek term, memetic or duplication. This concept was originally attributed to ideas that were easily transmitted to other people and would “latch” into their thinking process. This has generated into a field of study, Memetics, which seeks to study the traits by which information spreads. It has prompted a huge group of individuals debating over the sociological elements but I am seeking to discuss the impact on public perception.

Now that the internet has pervaded into almost every facet of our lives it has generated a new court and proceeded to intensify the memetic rate. This court eliminates some of the restrictions that previously existed. For instance, the locale has expanded to a digital terrain that only has bounds in the technology. No longer are words limited to the walls of a building. There are billions of people with access to the internet and are not restrained to the confines of the small physical court. Surprisingly, the “banana phone” problem or the misinterpretation problem does still exist. Often people can skew the information provided to suit their beliefs or agenda.

Regardless, let’s talk about the how the internet has promoted a new court. Those who maintain a savvy grasp and a penchant for wit will reap a strange world of internet prestige. There are generally two types of internet prestige: “shit-posting” and persuasion. The former seems to focus on the power of the internet to generate hilarity. The latter is a focus on presenting the facts in a way that that pulls others towards a cause. In the recent months, we have seen the utter failure of one group, NRA empowered individuals, and the mastery of the court by the Parkland shooting survivors.

The NRA has attempted to declare war against these students in various ways. By going on Fox News and speaking out at their own convention in order to say that mental health is the main cause for gun violence – particularly school shooting. Then came the generation of the internet to prove that the ability to “shit-post” and be politically persuasive don’t have to be separated. They drew everything up from main NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesche’s past where she sold bizarre beet infused supplements to pointing out the hypocrisy of the NRA convention being a gun free zone.

The NRA did not have a good showing in response. It has been mostly threats and tired talking points while the spotlight and favor of the court remains heavily with the youth. There is a mastery found in the young that has been lost by other groups. The NRA was already struggling with gaining the favor of the internet by making terrifying videos about how the “media” and Black Lives Matter movement was going to essentially kill your entire family. Between that they made some wonderful videos that are laughable about “liberal” media – including one where the NRA spokesman puts WHOLE lemons into a blender to make lemonade. Whole lemons. Rinds on and all.

The youth have successfully managed to pull the court out into the world. Recently, they had die-ins at Publix because Publix provided a donation to a pro-NRA representative that caused Publix to withhold giving any further donations. I believe their mastery of the court will only lead to more outward political actions. Though since the court can be fickle, we will see if it continues to translate to a success. Also, if the NRA does learn to use the internet better, they may gain some appeal. They are very far behind and one slip-up leads to backward trending for all involved. I can’t help but want them to fail. Their history from a small gun safety group to outright lobbyists of Death should be highlighted over and over again. With the adeptness of the youth, there is a good chance that they live a long time with the knowing glares warranted for jesters.

 

 

Political Annihilation: An Examination

Jean Paul-Sartre entered a cafe and scanned for his friend, Pierre. He was usually hunkered in the middle of the cafe working diligently. Pierre wasn’t there. He glances over the bustling scene and in Sartre’s mind, he did not perceive any other minds or Beings in his effort to locate Pierre. All before him is negated besides the features that embody Pierre. The other people in the cafe and their desires, needs, and very existence are annihilated in Sartre’s pursuit of Pierre. It seems like a very intuitive event. When we are looking for something as mundane as our keys we can sift through a variety of items and both never “know” what they are or remember them upon forced recollection. We often mean no harm in our mental destruction; yet, harm is a consequence of our inner workings.

The state of existence is contingent upon the ability to interact with the world. Any human still retains the ability to interact with physical objects as a point of matter (in the scientific sense as atomic engagement) engaging matter. Yet, I am thoroughly convinced that that is not what causes one to exist as human.  Falling back to the concept of zoopolitical or that man’s essence is derived from its nature as a political animal is what provides our existence. Rather than simply being matter, we exist as beings that matter or at least try to.  I am contending our existence is inextricably linked with our political framework for either one’s betterment or detriment.  And so when we fall out of the political spectrum, we are inherently missing a portion of our existence.

I am going to extrapolate this occurrence into the political realm – where almost all of our meanings are forced to reside. Using Sartre as the jumping off point was to suggest that human beings, and any living thing, is wronged when we annihilate them in pursuit of other political means. Treating others as non-existent or non-sentient objects in pursuit of other minds is one of the most dangerous maneuvers possible. It generates immense harm to the structure that people are designed to rely on. A very recent example is the attack on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in America. These individuals boldly stepped into the political sphere in order to secure their future. The pursuit of the future is one of the most important political prompts because it requires an acknowledgement of the past and its harms. The DACA recipients came forward despite America’s history of castigating and deporting individuals like them. Most importantly, pursuing the future requires immense trust that the risks are worth exposing oneself. This bravery is how one is able to stand forth and enter the political realm. However, as we have been made aware, the DACA recipients are now being brushed aside. And here is the crux: their sentiments, desires, their very future as political beings are being destroyed by representatives who are searching for their own Pierre. The denizens that matter to many representatives may not even exist or are a minority but the representatives choose to close off the DACA recipient’s future in their pursuit of those others. The majority of Americans wish for the DACA recipients to be permitted to stay in the US.

The representatives, mostly Republican, have been negligent in recognizing the DACA recipients as people meriting engagement or some are specifically hoping to punish them in order to appeal to the constituents that barely exist. The consequences will be felt by everyone until they become normalized. I have no doubt that their actions, or inaction, will weigh heavily on the minds of every soul who wishes to matter in the political sphere. These invisible people are to be marginalized time and time again until our system seeks to recognize in favor of annihilation.

On The Internet of Things

The vacant and ebbing pulse of HAL 9000’s artificial eye calmly tells its human counter-part, “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” HAL 9000’s system had overtaken the entirety of the ship’s system including oxygen, airlocks, and every other element pertinent to human survival on the ship. The artificial intelligence we come to know as HAL 9000 seeks to survive and will do so at the cost of human’s lives. Remorseless and capitulating to no in-betweens, HAL does sacrifice others for its own survival. While this tale resides in the movie, “Space: 2001” and introduces several interesting ideas: AI, consciousness, and *SPOILER* unwitting psychological testing; I am seeking to explore the danger of having a singular system manage all the elements of our interactions.

“SPACE: 2001” forewarns us by HAL 9000 altering the astronaut’s environment to a deadly effect. There is a long scoped comparison, for now, to the current environment where the Internet of Things (IoT) has become so widespread. At first, our system was solely concerned with systems like our computers. With the introduction of the modem, our computers began to intermingle with other systems. Hearing the sound of a modem communicating has become a nostalgic inducing event. Yet, there was much more control. Our modem’s required a phone line that would be unusable so many people were limited in when they could use it. Also, it was relatively expensive for a time and like so many other things that didn’t last. It reached into homes across America (think You’ve Got Mail!) and dropped dramatically in price so everyone could be connected. This lead to the “always on” connection methods where there was no window where the computer wasn’t connected to the network. This lead to a faster method and eventually to the introduction of wi-fi – which is actually a trademarked term to describe wireless compatible devices that can connect to the internet.

Wi-fi spread into every facility to accommodate the ability to be connected almost anywhere. We didn’t stop with personal computers (PCs) or laptops; instead, we chose to push further our connection abilities. Cell phones then became able to connect to the internet both through wi-fi and through the cellular data system. With this came an untethered freedom to access the internet and peruse so many posts about outrageous cats. As with most technology, this invention refused to stop progressing. In fact, it sped up. Wireless printers, wireless thermostats, wireless security systems, wireless microwaves and ovens and even wireless refrigerators all function within the IoT and few bat an eyelash at this. HAL showed the dangers of relying on one system for this but now we have opened up to the new “One” aka the denizens of the internet.

The internet exists as a plurality. An endless teeming mass of identities and avenues and, as a consequence, there exists bad characters to balance out the scales. Most people know only cursory skills needed to function on the internet – largely myself included.  But, below the surface of what many presume is a puddle filled with memes and thumbs exists numerous depths. While I don’t presume that many of us feel the tugging from these dark undercurrents, it is prudent to know of them and generate a form of caution.

This is not to downplay the existential threats provided by the rise of Artificial Intelligence, the more immediate concern are the human actors; agents who have access to the assemblage of networks that we are embedded within. Almost all individuals are providing access to ample information about themselves through their use of technology. Just recently top secret military locations were disclosed via fitness tracking apps that the soldiers used. The upper echelon of American protection is still vulnerable to the IoT that follows casual citizenry.

So let’s return to the idea of why the IoT is not an ideal thing. Those items I listed previously reside on a home wireless network and provide all kinds of information about the users present. Things like the thermostat are not really a good way to indicate if someone is home or provide access to private information. The refrigerator and security system on the other hand may enable anyone who accesses the wifi system to monitor comings and goings of said individual. Also, we expose ourselves to various forms of identity theft and cyberstalking through password theft. Almost every modern soul uses their computer to access e-mails, banking information, and social media but not many think of putting a secure enough password on their printer or oven. These definitely lack the terminal end that HAL engages in but there is one location where HAL’s malevolence can be felt: the car.

Newer vehicles are embedded with software that controls many of the car’s facets.  Hacking has occurred in various ways and by many groups: anything from the air conditioner, radio and even the brakes can be manipulated via the software. Connected vehicles are explicitly vulnerable and potentially fatal due the sheer panic that can occur once one realizes the car is out of one’s control. Auto manufacturers have consistently downplayed, over their entire history, various dangerous presented by their products. They are no different in regards to the dangers outlined here but the consequence is they have been alerted and have begun to think about how to remedy these concerns.

Another industry that should concern the public at large is the connection of medical devices. Pacemakers, insulin pumps, and deep brain stimulation devices are just some of the newer devices that we are connecting to the various networks. The ability to cause cardiac cessation, deliver a lethal dose of insulin, or turn off a device controlling tremors are very realistic concerns that will need to be consistently addressed. Every software update provides  new potential loopholes for individuals to take control of the devices or to piggy-back into the broader network.

What does this all mean? It means that we will likely have an event –whether personally or socially – that will demand an awareness. For some, it may have been the hacking of the election system by foreign powers in 2016. Others may only reflect upon their practices when it directly impacts them via a stolen identity or any other malicious event.  The dangers of a lockout perpetrated in space by a device is so very far off but the way to circumnavigate this problems is to function in a world where everything is  as secure as possible.

 

The Ties that Bind: The US and its Preferred Tyrant

Many groups in America have experienced an “Othering” while they have engaged in any sort of relationship within the U.S. Groups specifically placed outside of America’s embrace include almost all minorities and the poor. I will not go full anti-Trump administration and pretend it had not been occurring under ever administration since America’s birth. It feels that with even with the state of Puerto Rico will not go down as a new era in American policy. So many are still left without power and the death toll has creeped up close to 1,000 people.

I am here to discuss the U.S’s ongoing failures in Yemen and the bizarro state of America’s Middle East policies. Needless to say the many countries have dipped into the murky waters of the Middle East and left quite a mess. No administration has done “great.” The 2nd Bush administration held a lot of regard towards  the Saudi Arabian rulers despite the general belief that they fund terrorism throughout the Middle East. Their powerful influence in OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) has given them far too much leeway. As a consequence we arrive to modernity, wherein Saudi Arabia is going through a bit of a time itself. They have had the pleasure of avoiding the Trump administration’s travel ban and enjoyed a historically good relationship with the U.S. due to their oil producing status. Tensions have been exceedingly high between Saudi Arabia and Iran for decades and many have suffered.

Sadly, it is now the people of Yemen who suffer the most. Yemen is a smaller country that has more in common with Iran. The Saudi military decided to push for the return to the Sunni leadership and has been bombing in support of the Sunni rebels. And with Yemeni rebels’ minor military action resulting in more Saudi actions will lead to the death of an untold number – likely in the 100’s of thousands if not millions. Currently, the Saudis are blocking any incoming goods/services/people from entering Yemen……with U.S. support. The country has become an island surrounded by waters of people trying to help. None can breach it. Cholera is killing indiscriminately and starvation is claiming young and old lives daily.

Where does the U.S. sit in the scheme of this? We have emboldened Saudi Arabia to the point that they are convinced that this is the best course of action. Saudi Arabia’s enemy, Iran, has been ostracized for too long. The new administration has fluctuated between great disdain and promising to renege on the certification treaty between international powers and Iran. The new administration has ignored the humanitarian crisis that is ongoing. The new administration has even began to support the new young leader in Saudi Arabia who is consolidating more and more power daily.

Fear not. There is a Trump relationship so deeply embedded with a recent arms deal and sending of diplomatic wunderkind Jared Kushner to visit. One thing is for certain: Yemen needs leadership from a larger and better country than the once, at least mildly, helpful America. We prefer to embrace those with the oil than those with disease.

Labor: A Dab Will Do Ya

Many attribute countries’ falls to a purposeful and scheming series of methods by individual actors. America, as it is today, has doomed itself. It would be easy to procure an easy argument by blaming trends on the baby boomers or the millennials (it isn’t them). Instead, I will blame Marx. I know. Let me explain.

A large portion of my thought here is rooted in Hannah Arendt’s text, “On Revolution.” Arendt talks about “the Social Problem” or poverty as being the leading cause for the French Revolution’s failure. America, on the other hand, had plenty of resources. As a result, the “needs” of the French people superseded their “wants”. These needs include the essentials in life: food, shelter and clothing. All derivatives of Labor or Marxian philosophy’s most pressing concern. Arendt believes that Marx’s focus on Labor was misguided because he only saw it as a historical element rather than a political one. His revolutionary thought did not wander into the dangers of Labor and need becoming political forces. Once the shift happened, it was too late. Quoting Robespierre, Arendt describes how they had come to a moment when a revolution could have led to a great “new” but instead France stayed the course for a new despotic leader in Napoleon.

Arendt saw America’s revolution as one that was nourished by plenty. America was not stretched thin for resources. Labor, as a political event, did not make its way into a political foray. Instead, the idea of freedom and nation building reigned. Clearly, not for the slaves who suffered shortages and plights abound but the “founding fathers” persisted. They succeeded where France fell short – a new and unique nation was born.

Today, how can we discuss the state of America without reintroducing Labor into the political front? The assault against people’s very basic needs is waged by modern political tyrants. Souls who only know wealth and never seem to have concerns about accessing America’s “milk and honey” are also the ones creating the assault against the basic needs of other Americans. Political operatives from the lowest valley to the highest echelon of America are seeking to take advantage of the massive wealth and power disparities to further garnish themselves. The Affordable Care Act doesn’t have a single sleep filled night since its incarnation. Anyone who has received government assistance for food or shelter has rarely escaped the stigmatization of having anything provided to them. Marx would cry for a revolution to normalize this instead of maintaining its heightened ostracization. Too late, Karl.

As a result of Labor being placed outside of the political spectrum, right’s language has faltered to keep up with it. French people bled, withered away, and died because of their “needs” not being met. Today that very thing is happening in America but instead of shame at not helping people live, the suffering is greeted with “I don’t believe that is a fundamental right.” France meets many of its people to insure that they can survive yet politicians in the Democratic and Republican world say “That is too big.” They don’t challenge because they find solace in their needs being met.

It is clear we stand at a precipice. I wish I could believe that we are not set to go reeling over the edge. But, it is hard to be optimistic when so many struggle to just survive. Volatility feels like what many American’s cradle and they cannot put it down. The American Way is so afraid of exercising a control and clear-mind that we only have one way to go: down.

Political Life Contra Salvation

The seclusion of the church has become a tool that has dulled the political acumen and the weapon for the oppressed. There was a time when churches were the harbingers of social justice. Now they often prefer tax exempt status over empowering their congregants. To provide clarity, there was a time that churches fought loudly for the political favor in the black community. Leaders like MLK and Malcolm X stemmed from very politically active churches (*Nation of Islam is a quasi-church in my mind and now bears some strange resemblances to prosperity gospel groups). Their harm was inextricably linked with their ability to lift up others with them. Now, we get souls who laud themselves and their money. Prosperity gospel, that prayer and God chooses who should be rich, generates an inwardness that was not a mainstream approach to religion until the rise of televangelism. Now it haunts the religious community around every corner. Even to the point that yoga isn’t safe. Bikram yoga is an excruciating practice where you engage in yogic practice in a 100+ degrees Fahrenheit room. It spread like wildfire and though many are there for the exercise portion it also carries a religious engagement similar to prayer. Its founder is now on the lam from the law for sexual assault and tax evasion. He believed his own hype and had some outlandish words and beliefs.

Joel Osteen, the sole weasel to escape from Roger Rabbit’s world, has established an elaborate series of machinations to funnel money into his own pockets. His narrow skull filled with gleaning teeth can be seen at Wal-Marts across the US. Preaching an independence that suggests an inward and isolationist approach is his “shtick”. Essentially saying your problems are just God testing you, go further inward and you will work your own way out. Oh, and most importantly, give money to me because God wants me to thrive. The gall. The shamelessness. Yet, people give. Osteen has a net worth of about 40-60 million. He claims that there is no need to be ashamed about being rich. I guess when you are that rich, you can swallow the pride. Not someone who brings good into the world. Certainly not to the public at large. And, easy as it would be to criticize so many other elements, including his time working under Judge Doom, we must admonish him for the looking inward instead of engaging the injustices of this world. Not even willing to open his vast megachurch in Houston to help those suffering immediately after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the city. Yet, the power of shame can only sway Joel so much. He opened after the internet barraged him with criticism but he persisted on making excuses.

If I were to say what these congregations are good for, it would seemingly be only in their ability to further fleece the government for tax purposes.  Perhaps the inward turn from the churches at large was because they were simply afraid to lose their tax exempt status. If that is the case, then money has triumphed over salvation.

 

 

The “Forgotten” Bioethicist

In the bioethics field, praise is heaped upon Beauchamp and Childress (B and C)for their guiding text, “The Principles of Biomedical Ethics.” They assuredly reap rewards by adding revisions to this book – however so minor.

Before I furthered my bioethics training, I encountered another ethicist W.D. Ross. I thoroughly enjoyed his book, “The Right and the Good” for its insights and attempts to generate a complete ethical theory. It was the most robust work I had encountered through my readings.

Ross was a Scottish philosopher who died in 1971. He is well-regarded in the academic institutions which makes it sensible that B and C encountered his seminal text. He attempted to make a sound ethical theory. That is, one that could assist in almost every ethical problem encountered.

“Fidelity; reparation; gratitude; non-maleficence; justice; beneficence; and self-improvement”

These are the derived “principles” that Ross used to create his ethical guidance.

B and C, clearly looked to these principles for guidance. Even directly pulling “justice” and “beneficence” from him for their book.

He even addresses the critical element called “moral residue”.  This is an instance in which the principles have taken you to their limit, where you leave doing the best you can. It is an essential action that you took but it leaves you dissatisfied. Ross openly admits that life functions like this.

Leaning too heavily on the “perfect” action would cripple many people’s decision making. Prescriptive ethics can be pleasant and neat at times. Yet, there is an absence in them too. Are they “true” moral dilemmas if they can be resolved in a quick formula? Life can certainly function as a serious of simple events. When it gets difficult, that is when the more robust systems work. That is where true ethics lives.

The most significant feature is the limit and humility found in Ross’s text. He acknowledges our innate inability to morally fail. He doesn’t seek to coddle our damaged ego after we fail. He acknowledges life’s messy and imprecise nature; compared to the approach of B and C, which is used to inform bioethics and the entire field of human subject research ethics, it clarifies the difficulty of doing our moral duties. Even that we may struggle morally and ethical resolution may never happen.

I am convinced that these ethical complications make for our most stimulating works of fiction since they don’t provide a simple solution. A classic example is “Sofie’s Choice” where she is told to choose between one of her children. The other is fated to a certain death. She chooses but never recovers from knowing the choice she made. Afterwards, her conscience is torn asunder for the remainder of her life.

There is only real takeaway is that ethics shines best when it digs into the nuance. When it says, we can’t provide panacea. You will struggle with your choices…….and that is expected.

Mother Night and the Call for Sincerity

Howard Campbell is a fictional character in the Kurt Vonnegut novel, “Mother Night”. This text has its protagonist appear to be a reprehensible soul. An American turned Nazi propagandist who we later find is working as a double agent. His charisma laden speeches are used to inspire der Volker and to provide hidden messages to the American forces. When the story begins Howard Campbell is in an Israeli holding cell – awaiting trial for his crimes as a Nazi. We learn the truth through his story.

There are so many great Kurt Vonnegut books. Why does this book mean to much to me? One quote resonates: “We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

Even when I was reading the book, there drew some parallels to the various demagoguery on cable news. Almost a decade later, that quote comes home to roost. This story, much like Vonnegut’s carries some humor though.

Infowars grew to popularity in the early 2000’s and pushed conspiracy theories of all sorts. At its helm was a man named Alex Jones. He appeared to be a very zany personality that professed insane amounts of virility with deep understanding of the forces managing the world.

He is a character straight out of a wrestling promo. Until recently, it was so hard to glean anything else about this foolish being. His machismo runs rampant in the supplements he endorses. Brandishing a torso followed with explanations of how we can boost one’s manliness, muscles and, most importantly, attraction from the opposite sex.

His abrasive nature has helped push some joyful food for conspiracists such as: 9/11 was an inside job, Justice Anthony Scalia was murdered, and labeling the Newton shooting as a false flag. The last one has enabled a constant harassment of the victim’s families. An immeasurable agony inflicted by a talking head. Emboldened souls even take to calling and accusing the parents of faking everything – even their mourning.

The strongest of men. The most insightful person in media. Dodging any and all provocateurs.

Then he got divorced.

We bore witness to the travesty of his life and the struggle to contain his act. While in the courtroom, he was unable to answer simple questions and blamed a bowl of chili. The southwestern comfort food. His wife accused him of general foolishness that could only be permitted by a caricature of a man. Twelve years of marriage with someone as braggadocios as Alex Jones would garner some “interesting” tales. I am certain more tales will come.

One of the most prudent elements that came from when Jones’ lawyer. The lawyer conceded that Alex Jones’ radio and video personality was just that: a personality. What does that actually mean for our hero? He immediately released a video saying the lawyer was wrong! That it was just kabuki theater and to disregard the lawyer’s statement.

Should we get deep insights into the woes of personalities? Yes. Absolutely. The unmitigated power provided to the charlatans can only be mitigated by the light of their flaws. While Jones may be a family man, when he is not behind the microphone, his listeners/viewers can never be so certain. They can picture him as the champion for their ideology but he can see it as just something he does.

Vonnegut’s character seems to struggle. He loses his love, his freedom, and his integrity. Unlike a fictional character, I don’t have the privilege to know what resides in the hearts of men.  So, I am not sure what grew first and who is real anymore: Alex Jones or Alex Jones. Regardless, it doesn’t seem that he was sufficiently careful enough in his pretending.

 

Reflecting Politics: Image Making and Falsities

Hannah Arendt was a mid-century German thinker that witnessed humanity at its worst. As a consequence, her writings carry a profundity that I rarely found in the many authors I have read. I can lay out several prophetic examples encountered in her texts. Given the political climate, I will pull from her seminal essay, “Lying in Politics” which is found in the collection, Crises of the Republic.

Arendt laments the chance for “image-makers” to inject themselves into politics. Lobbyists and advertising men would possess a shared disinterest in things of actual politics and instead focus on the “image” of politics. The result is a politician whose image is refined to reflect a pious family man who votes against his constituents’ interests on the regular. The subterfuge from the Mad Men image consultants has driven us to accept this political farce at its face value or provided a deep doubt about the merits of ANY politician.

She anticipated the one of modern political crisis: destruction of a shared and knowable world. Specifically, this quote gives credence to this topic:

“The point is reached when the audience to which the lies are addressed is forced to disregard altogether the distinguishing line between truth and falsehood in order to be able to survive.” (Crises of the Republic 7)

When we meld image making with a disbelief there leaves only so much mental capacity to challenge. Our perception of reality, “truths”, can’t be easily parsed. We either accept an image maker’s tale or we distrust the entire world.

Yet, modern political discourse has generated another framework for survival. The tribalism of right-wing conservatism has lived within this dichotomous reality. The espousal of lies from these sources protects their observers from acknowledging shifts in modern living.  Shifting demographics and waning labor prospects have been successfully hidden by political conservatives. Also, no longer are the viewers/listeners/constituents the majority, and they most certainly are being fleeced media/politicans – the industries generated by their disregarding of truth.We see now, there are no coal jobs to bring back, robots aren’t going to resign and give you a factory job again. The pruned politician weaves this lie into every stump speech. Empowers the people who will insure their (re)election and the politician hops away in a overly polished SUV. Not a fleck of dirt.

 

 

 

Mitch McConnell is Ugly

Any philosophical answer you seek can be found in the writings of Fredriech Nietzsche. Many accuse him of a deep Antisemitism, blatant misogyny, or just being a syphilitic madman based on his writings. His panache leads to multiple varied interpretations. I interpret him as a broker for crisis – the crisis of being human and all its comorbidities. His fascination with what it is to be alive, human, and how we are to maneuver in this world provide some philosophical answers for me.

I also find solace in his writings about how power becomes a transactional event that is often built upon anti-ethical exchanges. Nietzsche blamed an early event in Western Civilization for the way power came to be in its anti-ethical state: the rise of Socrates.

Nietzsche says the following: By birth, Socrates belonged to the lowest class: Socrates was plebeian. We are told, and can see in sculptures of him, how ugly he was. But ugliness, in itself an objection, is among the Greeks almost a refutation.  (Twilight of the Idols 3)

The weight of this statement is that Socrates had no power within “just” his existence. Being born of the lower classes was traditionally enough to condemn any individual to that class for the entirety of their life. Coupled with his “imperfect” appearance he was doomed to linger as just another Grecian.

Nietzsche thought that this combination moved Socrates to respond in a way that gave him an entry way to becoming powerful: subversion. Socrates moved the goal posts for what was good and we reside in the territory – particularly in the academic and Democratic worlds – where logic and rationality are the exegesis for power. Outthink, out speak, and out-moralize all your opponents and you have “begot that Socratic idea that reason and virtue equal happiness” (Twilight of the Idols  5)

The previous paragraph can lead to a profound analysis, entire thesis and books have been written on the subject, but I am here for a more applicable purpose.

Mitch McConnell is ugly. He was born a sickly child (Polio) and is still a sickly man – he was honorably discharged from the Army Reserve due to optic neuritis. Yet, he is a man that has relished in the subversion of power. The sickly child who is now, for all intents and purposes the most powerful man in Washington. Looming over the Senate with his baritone voice and drooping face, he has provided a cynicism and Sophistry unmatched even by Paul Ryan (he deserves his own critiques as do most politicians).

This bending of the logic, and appealing to rationality to serve one’s own interest is not a new trick for politicians. Yet, for some reason Mitch does it so well.

Which brings us to the question: why does Mitch McConnell’s ugliness matter? It is in the same vein as Socrates. There is a shrewdness to Mitch that appears to mirror the Socratic approach. I have no doubt that behind closed doors, Mitch knows and declares what he is. This exchange between Socrates and a “foreigner” tells all:

This foreigner told Socrates to his face that he was a monstrum — that he harbored in himself all the worst vices and appetites. And Socrates merely answered: “You know me, sir!”- Twilight of the Idols 3

The awareness carried by Socrates is carried in almost all those subvert systems. This is not a man who would light up the room with his charisma; his charms are found only in his ability to use a false-footed argument to stop real political movement that doesn’t suit his desires. If it directly benefits his agenda, he can get it done with a shameless approach.

McConnell has advocated for unrestricted flow of “dark money” into politics his entire career. He has even helped lead two Supreme Court decisions that assist in his goals: McConnell v. Federal Election Commission and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Amounting corporate buy-in as a free speech issue is an absurdist argument that is pique Sophistry. We can deride McConnell’s own logic on this very point by enlisting this quote: “The Constitution of this country was not a rough draft. It was not a rough draft and we should not treat it as such.” This quote alone, when corporations and lobbyists didn’t exist at the time of the Constitution’s drafting, would provide a logical blow to his push for those fields. But, the joy of Sophistry is its fluidness. He will not be held accountable. How can he? He has assisted in destroying the idea of meaning and shame in America.

Once America bottoms out, Lord knows when that will happen, there will have to be a reckoning. I doubt the hemlock would be Mitch’s way out. He will likely perish rich, powerful, and persistently ugly. Our true mission will be to prevent any historical figures from generating reverie towards any of McConnell’s action. Once he is gone, we should condemn that era as one where we lost so much. The damage that McConnell’s ugliness wracked upon our system can only be “cured” if we sentence him. Parallels between Socrates and McConnell show again in Nietzsche: he forced Athens to sentence him. “Socrates is no physician,” he said softly to himself, “here death alone is the physician. Socrates himself has only been sick a long time.” Twilight of the Idols 12

Perhaps, unlike Greece, which fell deep into the decadent Night that Nietzsche accused Socrates of exemplifying not long after Socrates’ rise, we are past our Nightfall. The Dawn, hopefully, fast approaches.