We have met the enemy and he is us.
What most people call a “truth teller” in politics is someone who repeats their dearest held beliefs and prejudices back to them. This is easy to do because SOMETIMES, those things are true. That being said, the vast majority of people seldom want to hear anything that challenges their beliefs. So they don’t read it; they don’t like it and they don’t share it with their friends. When media becomes a highly competitive business, which it is on both the Left and the Right, these stories become unprofitable and few people write them. Instead, they focus on stories that make money. In other words, if conservatives believed there were men on Mars, most of the hosts on Fox would be talking Martians all week while the hosts on MSNBC would be doing specials on Mole Men at the center of the earth if that’s what liberals believed in.
Don’t get me wrong; there are people with integrity in the media and politics, but the truth is that integrity isn’t what sells any more. Neither is human decency. Instead, the public loves controversy, disaster and outrage. So why not tell a shiny lie? Why not say something terrible? It’s like I told my friend Matt Lewis on Twitter, “If 1000 people think you’re scum, but you get 100 new twitter followers who want to see a train wreck, it’s a win to a lot of people.”
This is how a lot of people on both sides of the aisle have built careers. The more horrible things they say, they more they’re attacked by people on the other side which makes them more popular with their own side. In fact, that had more than a little bit to do with how Donald Trump became president.
But, what does that sort of thinking lead to ultimately? A world where people like Bill Maher and Shaun King represent liberalism while Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos are the ones most associated with conservatism while everyone else is trying to up their a-hole game to catch up.
Incidentally, this dovetails nicely with conspiracy theories which are becoming increasingly prevalent because surprisingly, accuracy doesn’t matter all that much to the public. It doesn’t matter whether you’re floating the idea that the Russians rigged the voting machines on the Left or that George Bush planned to merge America, Canada and Mexico on the Right, there’s no price paid for foisting nutty conspiracy theories on the public, but there are gains to be made by doing it. Online, conspiracy theorists make up in enthusiasm what they lack in numbers and they’ll push what you’re doing. So, if no one abandons you over your ridiculous conspiracies or indifference to truth, the only thing stopping you is your conscience. So, if you’re say Mike Cernovich, Alex Jones, Robert Reich or Michael Moore and have no conscience, why not go for it?
We blame the media, but we CREATE the media. Liberals want to hear anti-conservative propaganda; so that’s what they get. Conservatives reward people who lie to us and worse yet, people who hate us. So much of what has gone wrong with our country from the conservative perspective comes down to that old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Liberals are loud; we are quiet. The Washington Post pisses us off, but we don’t cancel our subscriptions. Hollywood stars come out against everything we stand for, but we keep watching their movies. Colleges openly work to brainwash our kids to hate everything we believe in and we send them there anyway. We might as well wear “Kick Me” signs.
Also, is anyone being honest about why government is so screwed up in America? It’s screwed up because of US conservatives, liberals, moderates, you, me, all of us.
Politicians lie to us and we shrug our shoulders and say, “That’s how it goes.You can’t expect these guys to be honest.” We talk big about wanting balanced budgets, but then get upset when we’re confronted with the reality that it’s not possible to get there without cutting Social Security, Medicare and the Defense budget. We send our money in to PACS that are often completely ineffective at best or outright scams at worst. Interest groups have learned from us that it’s better to shoot down every piece of legislation than to back something that’s less than perfect which will call their purity into question. The same members of leadership in both parties who do nothing to make the country better and everything to make it worse win over and over again no matter how badly they fail.
At the end of the day, most Americans love snark more than wisdom and they would much rather be entertained than informed, catered to rather than challenged. That’s why we have the culture we do, the media we do and the politicians we do. If we change ourselves, then all those things will change, too. Cross your fingers, but don’t hold your breath.