What’s wrong with us is that we have been mesmerized….hypnotized by the media.
We think that posting shit on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, et. al, is equivalent to having the freedom of communication.
We think we have freedom of speech. You can say almost anything you want, as long as you aren’t yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater where there is, in fact, no fire, or talking about how Der Fuhrer is fucking up America and the American people. (Of course, you can’t libel others with your writing or slander them with your speech, but libel and slander are in the eyes of the beholder….and the courts.)
You can, however, cry “Fire” in a crowded theater where there really is a fire in progress. You can also cry “Fire” in an empty theater, where there is no one there to hear you.
The difference between the freedom of speech and the freedom of communication is that, although you may have the freedom of speech, there is no guarantee that anyone is going to hear you….unless you also have the freedom of communications.
The freedom of communication is not guaranteed by the Constitution. It isn’t included in the Bill of Rights. Communication is a commercial enterprise, owned, operated, and controlled by private corporations.
The government of the United States is supposedly prohibited from restricting the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and the right of assembly. Whether we actually have those freedoms any more is open to question and doubt…but we assuredly do not have the freedom to communicate with each other freely, because the means of communications are not controlled by the government. They are controlled by private corporations on behalf of the government.
We are now living in an alternate reality in which we think we are communicating freely but where, in reality, we have only as much communications as we can afford to purchase.
Right now, at this very moment, I am engaged in an exercise in futility because I think I am communicating with a large number of people, most of whom have never heard of me, and don’t care about what I have to say.
The feeling is mutual. For the most part, I don’t know who you are and I don’t really care about what you have to say specifically because I don’t know who you are.
Communications is only important to us when we know the identity of the communicator. Just knowing that my name is Alan Milner doesn’t mean a thing. You have to know what I’ve done in my life. You need to know my resume, and I need to know yours before communications between us becomes important.
Most of us don’t know each other. Most of us who think we know each other, only know the personalities we project online. We aren’t familiar with each other — we couldn’t pick one another out in a crowd — and therefore we really don’t care what have to say to one another.
This affects all communications because we have to rely on branding to help us determine whether the information we receive from other parties is valid or invalid.
One of the net negative effects of the internet and its spawn, the world wide web, is that we no longer have a clear channel of communication between the people who have information and people who want information.
We don’t know who we can trust. Once considered trustworthy, venerable publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post are no longer considered unquestionably trustworthy by a significant percentage of the American people. The three once-major networks have repeatedly had their veracity called into question. Virtually every other media outlet has had its veracity contradicted by other media outlets.
In the end, our collective communication system has become a cluster fuck.
Here is a thought experiment. (I’ve actually done this thought experiment numerous times.)
Go to any large office building just before lunchtime. Go to the top floor and then hop on a local elevator, going down.
It’s lunchtime. The first time the elevator stops, two people get on the elevator. They nod to you. You nod back. They continue their conversation as if you aren’t even there….but they lower their voices. (Non-insane people always lower their voices in elevators.) The next time the elevator stops, two more people get on. They ignore each other and continue their conversation.
There are now five people on the elevator. The next time the elevator stops, a whole bunch of people get on. They crowd in together.
EVERYONE STOPS TALKING.
There are three reasons for this:
Since you can no longer identify everyone in the elevator, you are more reluctant to say anything of a personal — or political — nature because you don’t know who’s listening. If you don’t have this inhibition you are probably a sociopath.
If everyone continues talking, no one can hear what anyone else is saying and everyone stops talking because conversations aren’t monologues. Conversations are questions and answers. If you can’t hear what’s being said, you can’t respond to what was said.
Once everyone has stopped talking (except in whispers; there are always whispers), whoever breaks the collective agreement to stop talking has violated a social norm. (Yes, you can establish a social norm in an interaction as brief as an elevator ride.)
When someone does break that quite literally unspoken taboo, everyone moves away from that person as much as they are able to do in an crowded elevator, giving that person space.
That person accepts the giving of space as an invitation to continue talking.
Everyone is relieved when the elevator reaches the ground floor and they can go their separate ways.
The man who wouldn’t shut up in the elevator is Donald Trump.
This is an example of the “megaphone” effect in which a person’s status gives that person a “louder” voice in any given conversation.
No one can tell him to shut up. No one can avoid listening to him. No one can effectively rebut his statements. Everyone else in the elevator is trapped into listening to what that speaker has to say. Listening without complaint is tacit acceptance of what is being said.
Those of us who think that Der Fuhrer is a bat shit crazy mother fucker, attempt to answer him. We each get into a separate elevator, alone, each of us in his or her own separate, private elevator, where we will excoriate Der Fuhrer to the extent of our ability…but we are talking to ourselves because there is no one else in the elevator.
That’s social media. People talking to themselves in empty elevators.
It sometimes happens that several like-minded people will hop on the same elevator together. Now, under that circumstance, you might think that each speaker would get heard in turn.
It doesn’t work that way. Instead, each speaker competes with every other speaker on the elevator and what you end up getting is cacophony instead of communications.
This, once again, is social media. Innumerable voices speaking simultaneously without achieving meaningful communications because everyone is too busy speaking to listen to what anyone else is saying.
What is needed, if you want to redress the grievances being imposed upon us by the Der Fuhrer’s administration, is a single, solitary, universally accepted voice — let’s call it the voice of reason — speaking out with the authority of a large group of people who have accepted that person as their leader.
The only way to beat Donald Trump in 2020 is with a better, more intelligent, less morally compromised version of Donald Trump.
If you think that communicating via social media is going to achieve anything, then you know nothing about social media or the politics of revolution. On social media, you are much too visible. Your ideas are open to debate. You will never reach the ears of the people you want to reach because they are too busy talking to listen to you.
The American revolution was started by groups of people — men and women — who met together privately, in person, to discuss the issues of the day and to plan their responses. These groups of people communicated with one another privately through dispatches carried from hand to hand because they did not trust the public mail.
They were called the Committees of Correspondence and they were the backbone of the American revolution.
It is time to gear up and get down to the serious business of meeting and talking together.
Good luck. (I’ll be the guy in the wig and the false mustache.)