Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
— Humpty Dumpty –
The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
America has fallen and it can’t get up.
Unfortunately there is no “life alert” button hanging around Uncle Sam’s neck he can push to call an ambulance to rush over and pick him up so doctors can sew him back together again.
Like the egg character in the well known nursery rhyme, the shell that was the United States of America is too fractured to be repaired. There may not be any super glue that could be deployed to fix the cracks.
So what can we do?
Everyone could remain glued to the cable television screen watching the talking heads from the right and left argue it all out, never finding a solution because that would mean someone would have to say which side is right. But I don’t recommend it for anyone’s psychological health.
You could read all the mainstream newspaper reports and editorials to see what they have to say. Maybe you can find one you agree with. But would all your friends on Facebook agree?
You could read your favorite liberal or conservative blogs and agree or disagree with them. You could chase every link you can find on Facebook and argue with your friends all day long every day in the comments. But would you change one mind? I doubt it.
Guess what? Humpty Dumpty, America, would still be laying there on the ground with cracks in her shell bleeding, dying a slow and painful death.
So why don’t we try something different? Maybe we could look to science and even the social sciences instead of social networking?
Albert Einstein, a famous theoretical physicist, once said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
Taking off from there in the fields of psychology, the study of individual human thought and behavior, and sociology, the study of group thought and behavior, it is widely recognized that you first have to admit there is a problem. Then you have to define it. You have to work out what the problem is before you can even begin to propose potential solutions.
The news is full of all kinds of reports about various problems these days, political problems, economic problems, environmental problems, etc. But to the trained observer, all the reports seem to be self-serving attempts to profit from promoting this problem or that catastrophe, without really getting to the root cause of the main problem.
Clearly this is not going to be easy or someone else would have hit upon it by now. At the risk of pissing off just about everybody who might read this, I’m going to run through a couple of the big problems in the news right now before I get to what I see as the main problem and what we might be able to do to begin fixing it.
Some people think Donald Trump is the problem. Some people see Hillary Clinton as the problem. Or alternatively, many see the election of Donald Trump as the problem. So some are searching for legal pretext to take the election away from Trump and hand the country to Clinton. This is a constitutional disaster waiting to happen that could lead to another civil war. The electoral college doesn’t vote until next Monday, so estalishment liberals are going crazy all over social networking groups looking for an excuse to swing electors away from casting their vote for Trump. They are even promoting more fake news in the effort to accomplish this.
Let’s stop going down that road for a moment and take on some of the other issues.
Some people see Russia as the problem. Some people see fake news as the problem, or the sharing of fake news on Facebook. Some people see the mainstream media as the problem, or perhaps it’s bloggers. Maybe Debbie Waserman Schultz is the problem, or maybe the Democratic National Committee itself? Or maybe it’s the FBI or the CIA or the NSA? Are unions the problem, or the ignorance of middle class working voters? Is the American education system to blame? Or is it the electoral college or the U.S. Constitution itself?
Let’s break it down.
Is Russia the problem?
The CIA and by extension from its reporting the Washington Post say Russia’s former KGB spy chief Vladimir Putin and his army of cyber spies manipulated the U.S. election by hacking into the computers of Democrats, stealing emails, leaking them to Wikileaks, and then planting fake news stories on fake news sites and sharing those stories far and wide on social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Trump was in on this, they say. They also report that he says he doesn’t believe it was a problem. Huh?
This news was greeted by MSNBC talking head and Mother Jones contributor David Corn on Twitter in the most sensational way possible.
“Russia influencing US election to put Trump in power is bigger than Watergate,” Corn Tweeted on Friday.
Scott Horton, a New York attorney with close ties to George Soros who used to write a blog for the website of Harper’s magazine, said on Facebook on Saturday that he “Agreed.”
“If borne out, this would be simultaneously the most spectacular intel operation in modern times and the biggest political scandal in US history,” Horton said. “Watergate is nothing by comparison.”
Little noticed by most everybody, there was already a story out about this dated Oct. 16 by Esquire, a Hearst Communications magazine, under the headline: How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History.
But wait. On Sunday, the Post came back with another story saying the FBI is not convinced.
Yet why should we trust the FBI or Washington Post? The paper has been under a broadside attack in recent weeks from the left for running a story saying Russian propaganda helped spread ‘fake news’ during the election, and thus helped Trump win the election.
But it was FBI director Comey himself who issued a statement about the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s newly discovered emails leaked from Wikileaks just 11 days before the election.
He had cleared her of any actionable wrongdoing and recommended no charges in that investigation back in July.
Wrath From the Left
The Post‘s fake news report was resoundingly attacked by the likes of Rolling Stone, Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, Truthdig and Counterpunch.
The Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi called The ‘Washington Post’ ‘Blacklist’ Story “shameful and disgusting.”
For his part, Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer who used to write a blog for Salon.com out of San Fransisco, but who got famous and then hired by the UK Guardian newspaper for being the journalist Edward Snowden chose to leak his national security secrets to, said in his new web publication The Intercept that disinformation, not fake news, got Trump elected.
I asked Scott Horton about this reporting Saturday on Facebook, knowing he used to be a fan of Greenwald back when he wrote for Salon.
“Greenwald’s writing on this issue is ridiculous nonsense,” he said.
When I asked a followup question: “Are you now saying the mainstream, establishment, traditional media knows what it’s talking about?”
He said: “As I just noted this was the biggest news story of the election cycle, indeed of any election cycle, and up until today the US media ignored it. They blew it in a huge way.”
I agree the mainstream media has blown it, many times in my lifetime. So why are we trusting them now?
Truthdig, the lefty blog out of California that was named as one of the duped publications by this shadowy, anonymous group PropOrNot, awarded its Truthdigger of the week award to a few of the other journalists who came to its defense by attacking the Post story, including Greenwald, Taibbi and Joshua Frank, co-editor of CounterPunch, who published his take in a story under the headline: CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear.
“The whole thing adds up to one big ruse, orchestrated by PropOrNot and promoted, quite carelessly, by the Post,” Frank says.
The group, according to The New Yorker, reached out to a number of publications prior to its launch, hoping to snag a little attention. The Post seems to be the only place that took the bait. (Post reporter Craig) Timberg, I’d hope, regrets he even responded to the the mysterious group, which claims to be made up of “computer scientists, statisticians, national security professionals, journalists and political activists, dedicated to identifying propaganda”.
Of course Truthdig and Counterpunch made the PropOrNot list of publications supposedly duped by this Russian propaganda, although they have both supposedly been removed from the list in the wake of legal threats.
Another Counterpunch editor, Jeffrey St. Clair, who has written for the Post, filed another missive in the case. Counterpunch, another liberal California publication that bills itself as engaging in “fearless muckraking since 1993,” a publication for which my partner and associate editor at the New American Journal sometimes writes, says this about the Post.
The Post put its credibility on the line when it agreed to quote the spectral figures behind PropOrNot as an anonymous source, investing these sinister individuals with the allure and gravitas of Deep Throat.
In short, PropOrNot is itself “prop.” And the Washington Post’s big story is fake news, a fabulation as grand as any story by Janet Cooke or Jayson Blair. But unlike Cooke and Blair (both black and both fired immediately after discovery of their faked sources), this was shoddy journalism with a political purpose. It was written in venom with the intent to harm and destroy and apparently still enjoys the full-backing of the paper’s editors and publisher, Jeff Bezos (of Amazon dot com).
But the gig is up. Timberg and the Post can’t now claim plausible deniability for their hit piece–not while the ink from their smears is still fresh on their hands. We’re not going to let them get away with it. Not in this climate of manufactured hysteria. Not ever.
Wow. Reminds me of an old saying we used to whisper in the Decatur Daily newsroom back in my cub reporting days: “It’s a war, and no one is safe.”
Spying and Hacking
Spying has been going on for centuries and will continue. Hacking has been going on for decades and will continue. Let us not be fooled by either.
Are bloggers the problem? The mainstream media? Fake news? Facebook?
I could continue on ad infinitum or ad nauseam, but I’ve already written one very long piece on this fake news business.
I sincerely wish Debbie Waserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee had heeded the warning of the Wikileaks attacks on Clinton and her emails back during the campaign and not helped rig the system against Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders. But that’s polluted water under the cracking bridge now.
I wish union leaders had not sat out the political fights in the U.S. over the past 40 years and done more to educate their workers on the relationship between economic and political reality. But they didn’t.
I wish people didn’t listen to talk radio and Fox News. But they do.
I don’t know if abolishing the electoral college and switching from a republic to a direct democracy voting system would really help anything. The mob that elected Trump would rule for sure then, although perhaps Hillary Clinton would have prevailed this time with a majority of the popular vote. But would that really solve the underlying problem here? I doubt it.
The New York Times, which in the wake of the fake news scandal is now promoting itself on its web front page as “Independent. Trusted. Real,” thinks “the breakdown of a shared public reality built upon widely accepted facts,” is the problem. But even the Times editorial board admits that “Donald Trump understood at least one thing better than almost everybody watching the 2016 election” (including every reporter and editor at The New York Times).
This chaos created “an opportunity” for a politician who would be an “autocrat.”
“For him, facts aren’t the point; trust is,” the Sunday Times editorial says. “Like any autocrat, he wins his followers’ trust — let’s call it a blind trust — by lying so often and so brazenly that millions of people give up on trying to distinguish truth from falsehood. Whether the lie is about millions of noncitizens voting illegally, or the crime rate, or President Obama’s citizenship, it doesn’t matter: In a confusing world of competing, shouted ‘truths,’ the simplest solution is to trust in your leader. As Mr. Trump is fond of saying, ‘I alone can fix it.’”
The Times seems to be saying that the breakdown and failure of American institutions is at the root cause of our shared disaster now.
“The institutions that once generated and reaffirmed (our) shared reality — including the church, the government, the news media, the universities and labor unions — are in various stages of turmoil or even collapse.”
OK, now we are getting somewhere near the real problem. But we are still nowhere near a solution. Is it possible to rebuild those institutions now? I don’t know.
You know, I was doing a little reflecting this week back to another time when some pundits claim and a lot of people believe life was better when we did all share more of the same reality in the early days of television. World War II did bring the Western world together to fight the Nazis in Germany and the Imperialists in Japan. We did experience a certain economic boom in the 1950s.
I too can vaguely remember sitting in a den in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, as a five-year-old kid, staring at a black and white TV and listening to Walter Cronkite report on the first American to orbit the earth. This past week I went back and read the Washington Post story on that feat, and the Times feature length obituary on John Glenn.
Maybe if you are a white guy with a good job and a full retirement and health insurance it’s nice to look back on that time and say the world was a better place then, our country was a better country.
But what if you were a black kid then across town living in a falling-down shotgun shack with no heat or air conditioning? What if your daddy did not have a job, or if he did, it paid so little he could barely afford food much less to pay for your college education? What if you were a woman with some talent and ambition yet all you could do was cook and clean or maybe type for a living?
Do you know any African Americans or working women or gay people who think the world and the country were better then? I don’t see them waxing nostalgic and voting for the likes of Trump.
Yes, our institutions failed us. They are still failing us. And that is just fine with those who would exploit this failure to create opportunities for themselves, such as politicians like Donald Trump and other Republicans such as Senator Jeff Sessions.
Let’s look back on another time not as long ago.
When I first got into the news business in the early 1980s, another time Republicans like to look back upon as a golden age, Alabama was a one-party state. That party was the Democratic Party, led by then Governor George C. Wallace.
I recall writing one of those unsigned editorials for a chain of newspapers on the Gulf Coast calling for a competitive Republican Party to counter the Wallace Party. Historian and author C. Vann Woodward had written that the closest thing to a totalitarian state in the U.S. at the time was Alabama under George Wallace.
Unfortunately, as the Republicans came to power on political campaigns attacking the very idea of government itself, the pendulum swung way too far to the right. We got the damn tea party instead.
President Obama’s victory in 2008 gave millions of people hope that we were ready to move beyond that as a country.
Now Trump’s election has dashed all those hopes and we are going to have to endure at least another four years of this before we may have a chance to move beyond it once and for all, if we do not just allow the fractures in our nation to explode and kill this experiment in democracy for all of time.
I can’t predict the future, and I don’t know what Trump will do. I doubt he will do much of what he said on Twitter during the campaign.
But I will give the son-of-a-bitch credit. He fooled a lot of people by appealing to the lowest common denominator in the human mind and spirit by voicing the frustrations of every disgruntled and angry person and group in the country. He was a much better politician than anyone wanted to give him credit for, and that includes the entire mainstream media establishment in America and every blogger and Facebook commenter I’ve ever read.
Everybody got this election wrong, except for me and David Underhill and Michael Moore.
Now what to do?
Some of the comments having to do with claiming the Russians were in league with Trump to steal this election through fake news seem to be trying to establish a legal framework to stop Trump from taking office and installing Hillary Clinton in the White House somehow, since she won the popular vote and maybe Trump’s votes were not legitimate?
You want to see a constitutional crisis that would result in armed conflict and civil war on these shores? Just try that. We could kiss any hope for the future of the United States of America goodbye for sure if this is what people want to try.
If Hillary Clinton wanted to challenge the outcome of this election, she should have never conceded and done what George W. Bush did in Florida in the year 2000. It’s too late for that now. It’s over. Trump will be inaugurated on Friday, January 20, 2017, for good or ill.
Maybe he will screw things up so badly that we can get him impeached. But of course that would make Mike Pence President, which could be even worse. Maybe we could impeach him too. That would give us Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Not much better.
No, we are going to have to fight to get our country back on track, and that is going to take a long time and a lot of hard work. I don’t know if it can be fixed. I am not optimistic at this point. But what choice do we have but to wake up and go to work every day and try?
Jump On The Bus
Then there is one more thing we could consider, if the liberals in New York, Washington and California would stop ignoring me and if the Republicans would turn off the radio and Fox News and read what I have to say.
I have this little book out called Jump On The Bus: How the Independent Web Press Could Save American Democracy. In it I talk about a better definition of objective journalism, one based in science, not just capitalism and economics. I mention E.O. Wilson and the selfish vs. the altruistic gene in the book. That explains a lot about where we are now.
Hey, if any and every species in the vast rainforest could be important medicine, is this not true for the ideas of individuals like me? Maybe we could give this a try. It couldn’t hurt. It might just be the medicine we need, the glue to fix our failing public dialogue. We might even find a way to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
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© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.