Saturday, December 12, 2015

Facebook Is Where Human Intelligence Goes To Die

Last Straw Alert & Farewell to Facebook (December 9, 2015):
FoxNews has suspended Lt. Col. (Ret.) Ralph Peters for his on-air gutter language directed at President Obama. This video rant has been blowing up my Facebook feed - mostly with approval.
Richard Nixon's disgraced Attorney General John Mitchell stated in 1970 that "this country is going so far right that we are not going to recognize it." He was referring to the ascendant "New Right" that was just then coming onto the political scene and that first seized power with the election of Ronald Reagan ten years later. Ronald Reagan: a politician who looks positively moderate by today's standards but whose politics were "so far to the right" in 1970 as to be unrecognizable to a Nixon man. (Wow!)
Working class ethnic whites (Irish, Italians, Greeks, Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, etc.) from the part of the country from which I hail (the northeast) used to be reliably supportive of unions, progressive taxation, and other policies that favored their interests and that aimed at a broader-based prosperity for all. These same working-class ethnics, usually Catholic or Jewish, tended to be supportive of church-state separation and suspicious of southern evangelicals (with all their odious Neo-Confederate baggage). They championed education -- i.e. being smart -- and wanted their children to be more educated than themselves -- in the classic sense of becoming broad and critically minded (vs. obtaining "job training"). For this reason (and others), they proudly supported wonderful middle-brow cultural phenomenon like "Great Books" clubs, local theater, etc. They were FDR / JFK types who would hang portraits of these great-flawed men in their homes.
Today, it would seem from my Facebook feed, the 1970s New Right and its values (free market purism, religious zealotry, militant anti-intellectualism, gun fetishism, angry calls to "take our country back" from [fill in the blank] etc.) have completely captured working class whites nationwide and a goodly chunk of the rest of the electorate. The heroes are no longer FDR or JFK but Joe the Plumber, Cliven Bundy, and that American Sniper dude. An education sufficient to read and understand those "Great Books" is not every American's birthright (that would be "socialist") but a form of snobbery. There is an apparent respect for this vile man Ralph Peters -- a commentator too extreme even for FoxNews who has disgraced the uniform I used to wear with his vulgar public insults against the sitting commander-in-chief. Some "officer"! Some "gentleman"!
These cultural trends are all so very, very ominous and put me in mind of Sinclair Lewis' great 1935 agit-prop novel "It Can't Happen Here" about the rise of a corn-pone fascist in the mold of Huey Long. Donald Trump is not from corn-pone stock. But in just about every other manner, he is Berzelius Windrip -- the main villain in Lewis' novel. A few years back, I thought our home-grown corn-pone fascist would be Sarah Palin but it turns out it's a developer of casinos -- i.e. shrines to the religion of getting something for nothing. Perfect, actually. And very, very ominous. I promise all of you that if we ever end up with a dictator in this country it will NOT be of the left-wing variety. He won't be wearing jack-boots and sporting a funny mustache but the philosophical similarities with you-know-who will be unmistakable. (Note: I don't equate Trump with a mass-murderer like Hitler, but he does exude the distinct whiff of a milder form of fascism.)
Since precious few forums exist anymore to engage in that vital conversation necessary to a functioning democracy, I had naively hoped that Facebook could be a place for civil / polite debate and conversation. Not just a place for sharing pictures of our food (to which I plead guilty). But Facebook is clearly beyond redemption when it comes to "discussion" of anything. It is where human intelligence goes to die. It is probably the best example of what James Howard Kunstler calls the "diminishing returns of technology" -- right up there with the robots who always answer the phone every time you call the cable company, internet gambling, and internet porn.
This will be my last post. I am quitting Facebook (cheers from some corners) which is becoming a rank cesspool -- like the popular culture at large, I suppose -- just as soon as I can save all my pictures and videos. I cannot take one more racist or historically ignorant "meme."
I shall attempt to politely advocate for a more enlightened and less angry world in other ways and in other places, Love to all.
Oh, and please read books. Good ones. "It Can't Happen Here" would be a good start. I will mail my copy to the first person who requests it in an old-fashioned written letter to me.
"Our most basic common link is: we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal." ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Peace out . . .