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2.26.2016

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Neil Postman's prescient examination of the role of mainstream broadcast media on public discourse was in full display last evening in the GOP debate.

What a shameful display.

I've already lodged my vote in the Florida Democratic Primary, but I am, of course, keeping tabs on the GOP as well. Sanders and Clinton have positive attributes and negative attributes.

Marco Rubio, a conservative centrist that has done some good things for the state of Florida, has positive attributes and negative attributes.

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump? I don't see anything to recommend either of these guys, and their public displays of intellect, critical thinking, and substantive content leave so much to be desired that I actually am a bit fearful of what might happen if one of them won the nomination.

Postman's argument rests on the notion that convergence in radio, print, and television transformed actionable information into edutainment. He notes that the contemporary media is context free, truncated, titillating, and shallow. He mentions the waning of the private self in contemporary society and he cautions against the dangers of losing historical perspective.

It's an excellent text and, even though I'm generally an optimist, last night's debate perfectly illustrates how far we've fallen in terms of public discourse. The name calling and mud slinging was discouraging. It was like watching adolescents fight in the back seat of Mom and Dad's station wagon, and the sad thing is that Rubio had to get down into the dirt with these guys. 

Ultimately, Americans--and particularly supporters of the far-right contemporary GOP--lust for this type of thing. When Trump tweets that Cruz is a loser, which he does a few times a week, he is pandering to a base that gobbles up the negativity like candy. When he states that he'd like to punch a protester with a different opinion--the very definition of American democracy, mind you--in the face, dim-witted ogres at his rallies cheer for him. 

Seriously. This isn't the kind of thing we should be cheering, people.

Trump epitomizes the very thing that Postman warned us to be very wary of. A bombastic dullard, Trump has declared bankruptcy multiple times. His projects routinely fail. he hasn't an iota of a clue on the legislative process, and he's never done anything truly meaningful for America. 

He is not a viable leader of the United States of America.

Rubio said that Trump would be selling watches in Manhattan if he hadn't received a $200 million dollar inheritance. I'm sad he had to stoop down into the gutters for a handful of mud, but I'm glad he finally did it because Trump deserves to take a bit of the abuse he so commonly dishes out. 

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