Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Drawing To A Close Of The Information Revolution

Few realize it but a 60 year revolution of a different sort is showing signs of closure.  The re-election of Barack Obama was a signal that a victor in this revolution, brought about by the proliferation of the television set, is now beginning to emerge.  Since it is an un-named revolution, hidden perhaps behind other simultaneous and not entirely disconnected revolutions like the sexual revolution, I'll simply suffice to call it the Information Revolution.

It's clear that information has always played a crucial role in struggles, whether armed or cultural.  But this revolution is different for it has been the very concept of information that appears to have been at stake.

Historically, as it involves information, strategies have centered on it's control; bluffing opponents and deceiving enemies with false information, as well as propagandizing the populace to arouse passions against enemies, have all been effective utilities of information.  The American founders understood this well and so enshrined the freedom of information into the Constitution as a defensive bulwark against those who would control information for their own gain. But the television has changed all that.  The control of information has been rendered irrelevant because information itself has been rendered irrelevant.

A glimpse of the new battlefield upon which this revolution would take place occurred in 1960 during the first televised presidential debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. This debate, it so happened, occurred as the proliferation of TV sets in the American home was in full swing. These debates are noteworthy, therefore, not because of the ideas that were debated, but rather because of the impact the medium would have on the outcome.  Nixon, it was said, looked old, pale, unshaven and sweaty while his opponent appeared young, tan and energetic.  That none of these qualities have any bearing on presidential capabilities is very much a foreign thought today.  That we would cringe at the thought of voting in a primary for a profusely ugly candidate is a testament to the revolution and its success.

The famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, in contrast, remain noteworthy to this day for their ideological content.  They embody the battle of the mind and worldview of that day between contestants wielding weapons of ideas bolstered by information.  But this occurred during a time when people drew conclusions from ideas and experience.  But because of the advent of the television set, the Nixon/Kennedy debates would not be a battle of minds, but images.  These debates would therefore forever change American and global politics.  Television would lull Western societies into a false sense of intellectual grandeur and glamor while at the same time actuality relieving them of reason and the toil of thinking.

The power of the moving image accompanied by emotion-arousing music, complete with caricatured, easy-to-hate strawmen, was not a brand-new concept, to be sure. It was developed and used effectively during World War II.  But the migration of that arrangement from the scarcity of the big screen to the daily ingestion while congregating with the family in the living room would prove to be an extremely powerful weapon that would bring about previously unforeseen or imagined changes.  Information, and then informed reasoning, would become a thing of the past for the collective society.  It would become a thing akin to a strategically ill-placed fort, bypassed and ignored by conquerors while its inhabitants fawned for logic-based intellectual battle.

The very concept of an informed citizen experienced a sort of reverse petrification process.  He would be transformed from an individual anchored by truth and reality into a caring, feeling and malleable citizen; one who hates and loves the correct ideas no matter how dissonant they may be. He wouldn't bother to consider their origins, reasonableness or consequences, for to do so would require reasoned contemplation. Since these new feelings--not ideas--were installed by a medium that bypassed the cognitive filter of the mind, their installation went unnoticed.  As far as they were concerned, the mindset originated within themselves.  Truth itself would be a casualty as feelings, rather than an informed, principled and thoughtful position, would increasingly become the basis of a new kind of "truth".

The Nixon/Kennedy debates marked a beginning of the revolution by providing the discovery of a new means of conducting warfare through the image-driven campaign and the power of the TV.  It was quickly realized by some that with this new medium the political ground rules had drastically changed.  A projected image could now trump ideas. This fact ceded enormous amounts of power to television journalists and executives.  It was a an opportunity that leftists immediately began to exploit.  But it wasn't by any means limited to just the news media.  All programming became a tool by which feelings based values could be implanted.  The left was successful in populating every aspect of the medium with leftist ideology and ideologues.  Within 12 years, to even their own surprise I am convinced, they were able to take down a sitting president, all while successfully projecting an image of themselves as objective, bystander journalists.

The media continued to consolidate this power and appeared to have been home free with their agenda when they met with their first counter-attack from the unlikeliest of corners, AM radio.  In August of 1988, Rush Limbaugh launched his syndicated radio show, the first of its kind.  A society in decline does not lack in awareness of its decline, only in an awareness of exactly why it's taking place.  It is disoriented.  How it thinks--or perhaps better put in modern times, if it thinks--will determine how it responds to reality. Limbaugh simply articulated things that many people knew but were unable to frame into a cogent thought. He managed to clear away the fog of liberalism for many. Within a few years, he would become a household name across America.  Not surprisingly he immediately fell under hostile attack from media strongholds.  Nevertheless, he was arguably instrumental in a major political upset for leftists in the battle of ideas, the Republican revolution of 1994.  With the mimicking of  his success by like thinkers and communicators, AM radio would become a lone beacon of conservatism and thoughtful dissent.  This conservative outpost would eventually pave the way for Republican majorities in both houses of congress and control of the White House.  Conservatism, however, would unfortunately be successfully blocked.

The left's failed attempt to mount a counter offense in AM radio is in its own right telling.  Talk radio, as it turned out, is a poor medium for manipulating emotions. It is a medium for the mind.  In response to radio's inroads, TV media, which had begun 24-hour cable news programming in 1980, began to up the ante as it began to test the waters of shedding the pretense of objectivity.  Any boundaries that once existed against such things, they discovered, had long since vanished. Their "journalism" became increasingly emotion-based, as well as glaringly and blatantly, biased.  The "news" media, for all practical purposes, was no more.  It had become a de facto state-run propaganda machine.  The lines between the Democrat party and other power players like the entertainment media, government unions, universities and public education had solidified into a nation-wide machine that would make Boss Tweed's little operation look like a little 10-year-old bully in comparison.

As this revolution draws to a close, AM radio, like the reason and logic based ideas it trumpets, is being reduced to a mere nuisance.  The emotions of voting for a man of the people, so vacuous of real content that anyone's Utopian hopes can easy fit inside his created image, has proven impervious to pertinent information.  The logic based facts of America's very real financial predicament, for example, simply bounce off the walls of closed minds. No fiscal hole is so deep, it is evidently felt, that the pockets of the rich can't be raided to fill it. Interestingly enough, and also telling, is the fact that so many rich, who are the supposed causes of all that ails us, are on board with the soak-the-rich plan.  That would give a thinking society reason for pause, but not this one.

The 2012 election was a milestone for several reasons, the most relevant of which was that President Obama did not attempt to hide, and in fact was refreshingly forth-coming, with his revolutionary Marxist inclinations. He even removed the facade of his stance on marriage; a milestone in its own right. The conservative media had become prevalent enough so that the availability of information about his views and intentions were plentiful.  It wasn't a lack of unbiased news outlets that brought about his success, for it was not as if his positions were cognitively considered, and then embraced in the minds of his supporters.  And it wasn't like any views that opposed leftist views were refuted either. Such would have meant the thoughtful consideration of valid information, and then the ramifications of that information.  No, for the first time, a  growing number of the people based their choice on how they "felt" about the image of Barack Obama projected.  The sad reality of that election was that only a minority actually shared Obama's revolutionary ideas.  But that minority, coupled with those who had projected their utopian ideas onto an image of a man were enough to breech the last remaining barrier between a free nation and tyranny. That bulwark was the voting booth.  He was able to gain a majority of voters without hiding his true identity, and he did it in spite of numerous and disastrous scandals and decisions, any one of which would have had a Republican falling to an embarrassing defeat.

This revolution was not about Barack Obama, nor was it about conservative versus liberal ideology.  The name and face of the man in this past election is irrelevant, as it will be in the next.  What is relevant and revolutionary is the ability of someone unseen to create an image with any smart looking and sounding face though the manipulation of emotions and feelings through entertainment, social, and news mediums, while at the same time quelling critical thought in the majority of the voting population.  What had been the minority has now become a majority.  There is now a new frontier before us.  The only question is, where will the image manipulators take us now?