I’ve been trying to work out in my mind how to decrease the ever widening split in America … since 1994 … and the bringing forth of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. This “contract” … the first alternative fact of the current political era … tapped into America’s desire for reform rather than business as usual … whatever that was … and whatever business as usual was supposed to be.
A November 13, 2000, article by Edward H. Crane, president of the libertarian Cato Institute, stated, “…the combined budgets of the 95 major programs that the Contract with America promised to eliminate have increased by 13%. He described the election of 1994 as an “epic slaughter of the majority party in Congress” that “changed American politics for the foreseeable future,” and that “after 60 years of Democratic dominance in American politics, the two parties were on a par.”
You can’t split a nation … until the two parties are on par … once equal … you can more easily turn them into waring parties with one goal … to win whatever race we are being manipulated to participate in.
Now for whoever has seen a Warner Brothers cartoon … once you’ve caught up from behind … and the race is even … it comes down to by any means necessary. Kill … not just hinder … the enemy. Thus … happy musings of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill over lunch … to work together and find common ground … were left by the side of the highway like road kill.
All that mattered was winning!
Throw in the internet … and the advent of social media … and facts, real or alternative, became the new gas enabling mass delusional thinking … way too much information to read or verify. Soundbites are good … I have time in my busy schedule for them … while I’m working two jobs to make sure I can buy more stuff. We let high school graduation rates plummet … and made critical reasoning and problem solving it’s own form of alternative facts.
Then … two television phenomena put in the hammer down to solidify alternative facts … MTV and Survivor.
Let’s start with MTV. I was there when MTV went on the air. What a hoot it was. It rambled along with videos primarily designed as art pieces … the more unusual and clever the better. And then things changed … somebody got a great idea. Lots and lots of products placements … not just commercials … but inserting products into the videos. You could instantly create an alternative pop culture reality that all people would rush to buy whatever they saw. Even better, you could create these realities years ahead … have some pop star start wearing some horrible excuse for style … or sing a song in some horrendous new style that sounds like cats dying … and suddenly … everyone wants the ripped jeans and likes feral cat music. Engineering of alternative facts in action.
Moving on to Survivor. What an amazing concept? Debuting in 2001, the show maroons a group of strangers in an isolated location, where they become rugged individualists and search for food, water, fire, and shelter. The contestants compete in challenges for rewards and immunity from elimination. Contestants are voted out by their fellow contestants until only one remains and is given the title of “Sole Survivor” and is awarded the grand prize of US$1,000,000.
So .. 20.8 million people regularly tuned in to the first season. The first season Survivor … Richard Hatch … demonstrated for America all the tools needed to win in 21st Century America … aligning, triangulating, lying, shocking (he was most often naked), and mocking … a classic gaslighter. He also used some classic Freudian tools … identifying, projecting, and most importantly … splitting.
Splitting … separating everyone and everything into polar extremes of all good and all bad … smart and dumb, saints and sinners … diffuses the anxiety that arises from our inability to grasp the nuances and complexities of a given situation or state of affairs by simplifying and schematizing the situation and thereby making it easier to think about, It also reinforces our sense of self as good and virtuous by effectively demonizing all those who do not share in our opinions and values. People who split will usually then cause the split to become reality, often done unconsciously. In children this can be normal as in a child who tell mom that dad sucks … tells dad that mom sucks … and before long mom and dad are at war with other and ignoring the kid who is now freely eating candy and watching the TV … off the hook for anything while mom and dad battle. When this is done by adults … it leads to huge waring camps … such as nation against nation … or Democrats versus Republicans … to the death!
You’ve followed along this far so let’s go one step further before wrapping this up. So … in order for America to be so split … and split further to extremes every few years … first by Gingrich but even further by Neocons of the Bush era … the Tea Party … Occupy Democrats … throw in Fox News versus CNN … and finally all out splitting by Mr. Trump … we have to assume someone is behind the split. So friends, we must ask ourselves the age old question … who is best served and why by this ever widening split between Conservative/Republican and Liberal/Democrat forces ? How can we mitigate this split and make the American people more resilient to fight and resist the splitters … to stop fighting each other and turn in a united front to defeat the splitters? How can we diminish the power of social media as a force for alternative facts and splitting that throws more fuel on the fire ? Just what the hell does MTV and Survivor have to do with all this?
Tune in to my next blog post for the answers … Good day!