How Synthetic We’ve Become

Samantha tells me I sweat too much and I know this is true, it’s August and when I walk to my car after work the drips run right down my sides, and if I wipe my brow my eyes sting. But there’s a fix for this, Johnson & Johnson makes a bodywash – for men – with aluminum zirconium tetrahydrochlorate, an antiperspirant that forms gel-like plugs in all of my sweat-ducts. My morning routine is shower, then brush my teeth with an electric toothbrush and use teeth-whitening mouthwash. I know there’s fluorosilicic acid in the water to keep our teeth white, but even so. I keep my appearance top-notch, because Samantha and I are moving up in the world.

We work out at the same gym. At different times though usually. I take creatine supplements infused with 4-hydroxy-isoleucine and another pre-workout supplement that dilate my cardiovascular system so that my muscles receive more oxygen and blood. Samantha has been taking the new ‘Viagra for women’, to match my own enhanced libido. I’ve elected to receive monthly testosterone treaments.

Samantha and I eat healthy. No McDonald’s. We buy enriched cereals containing almost all of the vitamins and minerals we need each day. We don’t worry much about folic acid though, because it’s required that all bread is already folic acid enhanced. We take Centrum as well, and go to Whole Foods for other more specific dietary supplements.

We save money where we can (we’re looking into flats downtown). When we purchase produce we look for the fruits and veggies with the thicker coatings of wax. The wax contains the presevatives and pesticides that keep our produce fresher, longer. When we’re home and have unpacked our groceries, we additionally spray our produce with Difenoconazole, a common agricultural fungicide, to further prevent decay.

On the weekends we scrub our townhouse with triclosan-based cleaners and Clorox, and use Lysol disinfectants to clean the air. We are expecting a baby soon in a month, and would like the baby not to get sick. We’ve even planned to accelerate the recommended vaccination plan – 128 shots by the time he (she?) is 18 months.

Samantha and I tan three times a week.

I’m prescribed a mixture of Aderol and Welbutrin to keep me focused at the job I love. These worked well when I was diagnosed with ADD in elementary school, and continue to do so. I take Oxycontin for my constant migraines, an incurable disorder caused by dilated blood-vessels near my brain – that, or because I’ve had the misfortune of twice (twice!) catching a ‘super-bug’, though I regularly take antibiotics so I don’t get the flu. I also eat lots of poultry.

I work in politics for a company called ConAgra. My job is to help make the food-supply more resistant to insects, diseases, drought, synthetic herbicides, and direct sunlight. The goal is to make food more affordable. I understand this a lot, because Samantha and I too are on a budget, which is why we’ve been using formaldehyde instead of skin lotion.

I’ve also been keeping up on the markets. I have a bluetooth I listen to financial news on. Siri reads the news to me, and when I don’t understand a word Siri explains the definition. I can’t say I’ve retained much. But I am looking forward to economic recoveries. The central bank is going to re-manipulate the interest-rates, the economy is finally going to be overhauled by Congress, and new incentives are going to encourage borrowing and spending and money-creation. I am hopeful these new things will get society back to its natural balance.

Happy In-Dependence Day

Mister President, do you swear to uphold the economic prosperity and national security of these Great United States? I do.

Madame Speaker, do you swear to uphold the financial security and safety of these Great United States? I do. Then let us join hands in our singing of Hymn 64.

O say can you see

By the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed

At the twilight’s last gleaming.

I am Student Code 3118946C, and I am at my desk, facing the altar. The altar two stories above looks down at the Great Hall filled with student desks, and in the depths the desks begin to fade, shadows folding into a darkness veiling the extent of this religious delusion – how has this cathedral justified its tithes?

The Emcee of Services, Fox News Model in a primpy suit jacket, rises on the altar and lifts her hands, cue the lifting of heads. The choir continues:

Whose broad stripes and bright stars

Through the perilous fight

Will the Class of 2016 step forward. This includes myself, shuffling into small aisles filing to the foot of the altar of Our Savior. We kneel, looking up at an alter two-stories too high for us to see the elected clergy.

Overhead is a darkness of chains clanging, belts whirring, gears clunking, engines churning. You can see the first few layers of conveyors, of mechanical arms and processes rising up and quickly veiled in the darkness and no one is said to know how high the darkness goes.

We subverient are gathered here today to accept our diplomas stipulating debt-repayment plans – I can choose the 20yr plan, the 30yr plan, the 50yr plan, but the debt-collection agency who has purchased me is going to get their gold, they hold my credit score and life-dreams as collateral.

We subservient are gathered here today at the foot of the alter, kneeling with our heads raised, DHS troops patrolling aisles and windows with M16s and riot-gear and night-vision goggles equipped with facial-recognition technology and retina scanners – poor luck if you have a nervous twitch.

O’er the ramparts we watched

Were so gallantly streaming

I will be ushered to another desk. I have graduated from this desk, owned by The Ohio State University LLC., led by hand to this next desk, property of Halliburton Financial Services. I am told Halliburton even has fluorescent lighting. The choir continues its low-key hymn while the Fox Model Arbiter of Democracy continues the ceremony.

Let us bow our heads and recite Prayer 649:

We pledge allegiance to the flag

Of the United States of America.

And to the financial stability

for which it stands

one nation, under surveillance, defended,

With comfort and money for all.

And the rockets’ red glare

The bombs bursting in air

I have been corralled into this school. I will spend the next thirty years paying off loans they sold to a debt-collection agency, and boy do I thank everyone for teaching me how to obey my bosses and file forms and itemized deductions, for helping me pay for the pharmaceuticals I needed to sit still at my desk. I will faithfully spend the rest of my life making payments to an insurance corporation, in the name of a basic human need. I will watch wars on CNN, monitor frightening stock-market dips on Fox Business, learn about The Benevolent Ones on MSNBC. My children will grow up idolizing Disney brats in ritzy hotels and cruiseliners, I’ll ignore civic duty while watching Disney’s ESPN NFL play-offs Super Bowl Sponsored by AIG Countdowns Rundowns Best Plays Ever. My children will follow corporate careers into newer sub-divisions 3000sqft houses in 3500sqft lots, and I will depend my old infirmity on the caprice of a capitalist hegemony that’s made retirement an ideal I need a PIN and good faith credit in the Corporate Federal Government for.

Screens on the back of the altar show videolink to a marble hall, long mahogany table of men and women who may be hedge-fund managers or Joint Chiefs or Senators or CEO’s – no, I recognize the names of The Unelected Masters of Mankind, bankers for the institution that might be public or private in DC or Manhattan or Riker’s Island London Hong Kong, Live From Baghdad the World Bank Free-Trade Geo-Political Positioning it’s all for our Safety and Wealth, it’s what these people are here to defend, for us.

The video-link speaks: It has come to our attention that Student Code 3118946C did not complete Geology 101, prerequisite for the Corporate Finance track. The student’s degree is invalid. Student Code 3118946C, step forward.

The politesse of proper etiquette requires, when being spoken to, to keep my head down, hands folded in the front. Supplicate. Serve. Masturbate Your Masters.

They have been monitoring me. Processing me. Indoctrinating me.

Student Code 3118946C, are you aware that without us you would not find a career? That you would not be able to afford your car, your TV, your tablet, your vacations, your clothes, your debt if it weren’t for the benevolence we serve you with? Do you understand that, without us, you would suffer and die without a doctor to treat you, without a savings account in your old age? Is that what you want, Student Code 3118946C? Do you understand that without us you are nothing?

O say does that Star Spangled banner yet wave

There are sounds of fawning, crawling at the feet of the Masters of Mankind because our neighbors are hungry and poor and we want someone to do something, because we might lose our jobs, be unable to afford the aisles of our favorite supermarket chain. There are sounds of drones screeching, bombs falling, catastrophe. People shouting in a crowded mall because their neighbor looks suspicious. But we are saved by the benevolence and altruism of Humankind’s Dominant Hegemonic Power, the most Powerful Human Beings history has ever seen, watching after us, feeding us, curing our ailments and concerning themselves with our mental well-being.

O’er the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave.

Happy In-Dependence Day.

 

Patient Lost In Aisle Five of the ER

 

For two days the inside of my ribcage has been sore. A dull throb, even, on the left side. I am looking at myself in the mirror. The night it began I felt lightheaded and my left arm had a pulsating throb, dull, numbing in heartbeats right down the nerves and veins to the fingertips. That was two nights ago and the soreness beneath my ribcage has not waned. This has now become disconcerting. I shout downstairs for my wife.

There are ten hospitals within a two-hour drive. The hospitals nearest the city have the highest average ER-costs. There are websites dedicated to comparing hospital costs, for the consumer’s benefit. There are five levels of ER care depending on how much you’re dying. If you’re a Level 5 dying, the costs are highest. I understand from a business perspective this makes sense. But I don’t know what kind of heart attack this might be, hopefully a minor, not near-death one. People can have minor attacks without even knowing. I am hoping for this.

90-minute drive to the next county, rural hospital, cheapest ER. We’ve brought the credit card to prepare for Level I Might Die.

The ER waiting room has bandages, gauze, Neosporin, crutches, braces, IV bags, in vending machines along the wall. I take my family through the security checkpoint and am greeted my a polite hostess who walks us to an empty bank of seats. I fill out forms and pass along my information. No, I do not have health insurance (pangs of guilt). I am handed a financial assistance form. I am an asshole bilking the insurance pool.

We are led down a cozily-lit hallway, in the patient rooms we pass are flickers of candlelight and soothing audio of nature. There are shiny metal carts draped with white cloth, clean china and those ornate metal domes that keep meals hot until the butlers can serve. The end of the hall we make a left, antiseptically pungent white fluorescent light. We wait in the financial assistance room. My vitals are read, EKG, awaiting the results. Everything appears fine. This is great. I’m not at risk of a heart-attack, I don’t drink copiously or smoke or do hard drugs, I’m not over 60 and I’m not morbidly obese. But the EKG doesn’t always pick up everything. If I’d like to, they can take an X-ray to look for obstructions or swelling, the only heart-attack signs the EKG won’t pick up. How much extra? About a grand. This is okay, I filled out the financial assistance form, I have a credit card, my chest hurts. What aisle for the X-ray? We’ll take you to the Radiology Department.

It probably wasn’t a heart-attack, is the verdict. Probably pulled a muscle or a tendon or a ligament in my chest. I work manual labor, this sounds plausible. I am given the bill for services rendered and sent home with Ohio Health System key-chain, bumper sticker, and t-shirt Made In Taiwan.

My wife is asking about the bills. It’s okay, see this one right here, the hospital gave us 75% financial assistance, the $800 is only the original charge, before the sliding-scale discount. Yeah, says wife, but then these other two bills. This one for $400 is for the ER doctors, and this one for $1,200 is for the Radiology doctors. This warrants several hours of phone calls: elevator On-Hold music, transfers between departments, telephone line dead-ends. It is explained: the ER doctors and the Radiology doctors don’t actually work for the hospital, just in the hospital, they have their own companies they work for and you have to call their respective billing departments for questions concerning your payments. Can you transfer me? No, sir, I can’t transfer your call to a different company. Have a nice month.

I’m an idiot. My illusions of how the world works are the puerile impressions of Sim City. As a kid, at the computer, building fake digital cities and you always had to build a police station, a fire department, and a hospital. Zoom in to the Sim City streets, see the little cop cars, fire trucks, ambulances racing to save the dying Sims. You had to raise taxes and allocate funds. It was a computer game for kids, of course it was simple.

Sim City is not real life. It is time to grow up. Be a good citizen, follow the law, make your monthly payments to an insurance corporation.

Someone was breaking into our car last week. Wife the insomniac saw through the window, stranger with a coat hanger crammed down car door window slit, trying to disengage the door lock. She called the police. We were standing in the street beside our ravaged Nissan, the police officer taking our information, filling out clip-board forms. He tore off the yellow carbon copy and handed it over, a bill for $800, make all checks payable to Riverside United Security Services.

Yes, this makes sense, this isn’t Sim City.

Why Third-Party Votes Are More Important Than We’ve Realized

Media pundits, politicians, and everyday Party People (Democratic and Republican voters), tell us every four years that voting for a third-party candidate is a waste of our votes. I wrote-in Ron Paul in 2012, and this was apparently a waste of my vote, because I apparently helped Obama win his re-election by not voting for Mitt Romney.

If you’re supporting Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton, you’re wasting your time and only helping Donald Trump by not supporting Clinton, the only ‘real’ candidate who can stop Trump. Apparently.

The media and the political class (and the Party People who eat-up everything they say) tell us that what matters most is stopping the Greater Of Two Evils. You don’t want Trump to be president, do you? So you have to support Hillary Clinton, even if you don’t agree with everything she says and does.

We are hard-pressed to find a media-outlet that does not swing left or right. You can make the argument that CNN and NPR don’t have political leanings, but it doesn’t matter much – media, and the way many people think about politics, are led by Fox News, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times.

Our political discourse is dominated by the division of a polar-opposition: you are either right or left. If you are right, anything left is antithetical to your beliefs, morals, ideals; towards which ever side you identify with, the other side is antithetical to who you are as a person.

If you do not agree with Trump, you are going to vote for him, because Hillary (or Sanders) represents everything you disagree with. In fact, if you’re a Republican, you’re emotionally resentful of Hillary and Sanders. You have to be, because they represent the negation of everything you are as a person. The same stands if you’re a Democrat, being emotionally resentful of Trump and Cruz – these people are against everything you define yourself by.

If you see yourself as a Democrat, you are always going to vote for Democrats, because the only other option is the antithesis of you as a person. You will always vote for Democrats. Likewise for Republicans. Regardless of who the nominee is, you will support your party’s nominee to prevent the election of a candidate who represents the negation of who you are as a human being.

It doesn’t matter what the Republican Party has done in the past, or what the party says they’ll do in the future; it does not matter who the Republican Party nominates, or what policies they support, you will vote for Republicans.

What reason, then, does the Republican Party or the Democratic Party have to give a shit about your opinions? For what reason should your chosen party support the policies you favor? You have one choice to make: vote your party, or its polar-opposition.

You will never vote for your polar-opposition, no matter what. Your chosen party has your vote locked in. They do not have to care what you think, what policies you support, as long as they pay you lip service and position the ‘other’, the polar-opposite, as an evil you must emotionally resent.

If you vote for a Republican or a Democrat, your vote is worthless, because your vote was cast years ago when you realized it was You And Yours or Them And Theirs; your vote is worthless, because the party you vote for has no reason to support the policies you support (except, of course, while campaigning) – witness Obama pushing the TPP, opening drilling in Alaska, expanding the NDAA, letting the Pentagon give war-machines to police; witness Bush passing No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, letting the NSA spy on everyone, creating the Department of Homeland Security; Obama deporting ‘illegal’ families, Bush letting them in.

This will not change, because your chosen party has no reason to change.

This is why voting for third-party candidates matters more than voting for Republicans and Democrats – by voting for third-party candidates, we force the Republican and Democratic Parties to abide by our ideals, morals, and opinions, to win back our votes.

If you emotionally resent Hillary Clinton, but don’t like Trump (or Cruz), don’t give your vote away – vote for the Libertarian Party, or the Constitution Party.

If you emotionally resent Donald Trump, but don’t like Clinton (or Sanders), don’t resign your vote – vote for the Green Party, or the Socialist Party.

We can continue to vote for people we dislike, just to stop people we hate, and continue to watch our chosen Parties defy their promises and lip-service, or we can weather four years of someone we hate to force these two major political parties to pay attention to our opinions, to support the policies we desire.

Third-Party votes count more than any other vote. And the more people vote for third-parties, the more important these votes will become, the more the Republican and Democratic Parties will have to pass policies we actually approve of.

Want to stop the Republicans from taking over the country? Vote for Socialists. Want to stop the Democratic Party from taking over the country? Vote for Libertarians. The people you hate might win elections for a few years, but the politicians who pay lip-service to your opinions will actually have to start following your opinions, and their respective political party will be stronger for it.

In all, there are 37 third-party political platforms. Not all of these participate in national elections, and not all of these are on all ballots in multiple states. Here’s an excellent list at Ballotpedia.org outlining which third-party platforms are in what states.

Take back American Democracy; vote for Third-Party candidates.

Progressive Contradiction

We view the world in polar opposites, sets of two’s set against each other: men and women, white and black, night and day, love and hate, right and left. A person or a thing must be one of these; a thing can never be both polar opposites, or else it would be a contradiction and explode into some inward -8^8 dimension.

I don’t know if that’s an exact theory, but the gist’s correct: it can’t be night and day simultaneously, you can’t have war and peace at the same time, you aren’t going to turn the lights on by turning them off, and you’re not going to have rotten milk that’s fresh.

Therefor, we choose to value one polar-opposite over the other. It is better to be wise, good, and alive, than it is to be dumb, mean, and dead. Be greedy for yourself, or selfless for the masses. You can support Individualism, or you can support Collectivism.

Much of politics is framed around polar-opposition. If you’re against one, you’re for the other: you can be a Republican or a Democrat, Conservative or Liberal. And, if you don’t straight-forwardly identify with either or, you can only describe yourself, and you will only ever be described by others, as being more Red or more Blue.

Which brings me to Progressivism. Generally, Progressivism is a Collectivist ideology – find me a Progressive who disfavors unions, or who vocally supports personal greed at the expense of the community.

In our society, Collectivism is tied-up with Government – Government is of the people, for the people, by the people; Government is a social institution wherein people work together, collectively, for the collective good (ideally, anyway). Progressivism argues for collective government.

Which is where the Progressive Contradiction lies. Because, no matter how democratic a government is, a government is run by individuals. The President will have four years to individually pass whatever Executive Actions the President chooses. The FCC decided, on its own, to enforce Net Neutrality laws; the individuals who run Medicare/Medicaid have decided, on their own, to change the way they reimburse doctors; someone at the Pentagon decided to sell extraneous military equipment to police departments.

Our system of government relies on individuals who act on their own, or, at least in small groups.

Any system of government depends on authority to survive – these people must have authority over these other people. And, once a person is given authority over others, the collective becomes a series of individuals exerting power over other individuals.

Authority is the imposition of this will over another will.

There is nothing Collective about wielding authority over others, no matter how Progressive a policy is.

I’ll pose the argument that the only action that is collective is the action done for others, not to others. It is not collective or progressive to collect taxes, or pass regulation, or to have any government at all. It is only collective to work with others in non-compulsory agreement. It is only progressive to make a lot of money, and give it all to a children’s hospital. The only thing that is collective is cooperative, not authoritative.

I won’t pose the argument that we need to, in any short amount of time, disband all governments and organize into an anarchic society, but I will argue it’s where we should be heading, however slowly. All we need to do is stop quiveling about authority; instead, selflessly dedicate our time and efforts to others.

 

 

Free Trade And Wall Street

NPR covered free-trade deals today on On Point.

Some basic facts were established – our trade-deficits with China, Japan, Mexico, and everyone else are staggering; our exports with Mexico have grown tremendously while also strengthening Mexico’s economy, which helps stabilizes Mexico; China, Japan, and a few other countries offer foreign companies heavy subsidies to manufacture in their own countries, and also that China happens to require several big-name corporations like Intel and Boeing to share their technologies with the Chinese government; these countries will even build factories for these companies (Hey! Here’s a free manufacturing plant! Come abuse our poorest citizens!) – and that the WTO has also set the precedent (copied in NAFTA and TPP) of allowing corporations to petition tribunal courts that are allowed to require governments to change their laws: if a company feels that Cambodia’s government is breaking the free-trade pact by passing too-strict of regulations, the company can literally take the Cambodian government to court.

The guest who was for free-trade deals such as NAFTA, the TPP, and the WTO, blamed our Houdini middle-class (where’d he go?) on a lack of education and infrastructure.

The other guy kept mentioning how these free-trade deals are always so favored by Democrats, like The Clintons and The Obama, but also by both The Bushes. He said special interests have been driving these trade pacts because they allow these companies to circumvent wage laws, environmental regulations, etc.. Then he finally came out and said it’s because of businesses like CitiGroup, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan – all of whom, as the guest points out, funded both The Clintons and The Bushes and The Obama – that we have these horrible trade-pacts, because they’re the ones saying what should go into these pacts.

Master of an empire bigger than most nations.

That’s the craziest conspiracy theory I ever heard of! Wall Street commandeering both parties to establish word-wide trade-zones which they themselves dominate! Egregious accusation!

 

Get rid of the damn free-trade deals. Of course The Kings of Wall Street manipulate both parties, and write our free-trade pacts. We can replace them with tariff agreements – hey man, you lower yours, we’ll lower ours, deal? Tariff agreements, without China building factories and staffing them with unpaid slaves for US companies to go ravage.

Who knows? Maybe GM, after getting a bailout, will move its factories back to the US!

 

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The Real Shit of Capitalism

I can go grocery shopping, and while at the same super-market I can do my banking, get a medical check-up, buy drugs, drink at a bar, eat a rotisserie dinner, drop my kid off at daycare, go Christmas shopping, sit at a cafe, and listen to a live band.

I can buy a 2-liter of Pepsi, or a bottle of water, or stop to eat KFC or Taco Bell and I’d be giving my five dollars to the same small group of investors. I can buy contact-solution, soap, toothpaste, hair-dye, deodorant, or tampons, and I’m giving money to the same CEO.

What extremely sucks about this society of advanced capitalism is how few people are capable of owning so much. Whether or not consolidation is the inevitable, natural outcome of capitalism is debatable – humanity’s only tried it once – but I do like listening to Adam Smith of all people, as he decries, “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”

We all know the Walmart Effect: Walmart opens, and several businesses close their doors. A super-market opens, and several grocers go under, and the bakery, the butcher, the pharmacist, cafe, optometrist….

Someone opens a fast-food restaurant. Okay, great. Have at it you producer of fine burgers and fries. And then they open 500 more. 10 other people do something similar. Now, if you’d like to own a burger joint in America, your only option is to work for one of these 10 other people – either you franchise one of their stores, or you open a rogue burger-and-fry joint and go out of business because you can’t compete with a national dollar menu.

Same if you’d like to open a hardware store, a barber shop, a pizzeria, a bar and grill, a cafe, a toy-store, etc. Want to make sinks or small-engines? Kohler will destroy you.

This consolidation into massive chains and conglomerations and corporations could very well be the natural, inevitable outcome of a free-market. But we had free-markets before we had capitalism, and we had free-markets long before we had mass-chains, conglomerations, and doctors’ office in grocery stores: we should be able to have a free-market and mom-and-pop toy stores, at the same time.

A market dominated by a handful of people isn’t free. An economy, or a country, where you can’t own your own business, or produce your own product, where you cannot survive unless you ‘earn a living’ as part of a massive corporate beehive, isn’t a free market, or a free country.

I believe in free-markets, but nobody’s free if they need $20 million in capital and a nationwide supply-chain if they’d like to own their own hardware store: our only option is to choose a corporate beehive, and await our bi-weekly allotments of honey. In America, we have no self-sufficiency, no independence or liberty.

“Hey Marty, long-time no see. What beehive are you earning a living from these days?”

 

Still Refusing to Purchase Health Insurance

When somebody tells me they like Obamacare, I have this tendency to picture gills on the sides of their necks and if I zone-out long enough the person turns into a pants-wearing fish from SpongeBob…

… Ask a fish what’s above the water, and the fish will have nothing to say, other than maybe, “There’s something other than this water?” They might not even be aware of something called ‘water’ – having never experienced a lack of water, they have no way of isolating and defining water.

Ask an Obamacare Fish about Obamacare, and whatever it is the fish might be saying, the babble is roughly translated, “I’m a Fish Cog and nothing exists outside our Fish Machine! Are you paying for the Gold plan or the Platinum plan this year?”

“There is no such thing as a Fish Machine!”

I don’t know how people could have fallen for this Obamacare: “Spend your life making mandatory monthly payments to insurance corporations and love us for it.”

Is that progress? Has someone defined progress as “Crush Your Soul In The Cogs of Our Massive System In The Name Of Saving You”?

I’m not participating. I’m not going to be forced to spend my life making monthly payments to insurance corporations. I’ve yet to purchase health insurance, and have no intention of ever doing so.

The ACA is a trap, the first Federal mandate to include every single human being in existence in the US. Sure, we had Social Security, but you never had to work over the table and pay into it. But now, if you exist… damn well better be paying your monthly corporate-insurance dues. For the first time in US History, every living person is forced to participate in a massive bureaucratic system controlled by wealthy CEO’s, our lives turned into meaningless cycles of payments to our chosen corporate masters.

Fuck the ACA. Fuck The Obama. Fuck all of you Fish Cogs. I’m flat out refusing to ever purchase health insurance – let the IRS fry my tax return, I’ll choose a shred of humanity.

Why Politics Are So Divisive

Ask your neighbor, your friend, your co-worker, or your kid what America’s biggest problem is, and you’ll hear that politics have become too divisive.

The exacerbation of this division is a recent development; though stark political divisions have always been around, these divisions have never been so pervasive, in every conversation from politics, to education, to mass-shootings: never have the adherents of opposing political opinions been so intransigent, emotional, prejudiced, irrational…

This modern political division probably began in the late-1960’s when ABC ran a series of debates between William Buckley and Gore Vidal, two ideologues on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Their arguing made for great television, and the networks realized the money potential of giving ideologues screen time. (The documentary, Best Of Enemies, about the Buckley-Vidal debates and the impact the debates have had on political discourse, is on Netflix.)

Maybe I can argue that these ideological divisions were tense before these debates, that this is why the debates were so successful, because these divisions were already in the heads of the public. Or, that the Buckley-Vidal debates didn’t have as large of an impact as the documentary suggests, that current political divisions parallel the growth of the Federal Government – as population size grows so does the number of opinions, and with stakes being higher at the national level, the major parties (or factions within them) cling to ideological fundamentals to resist broad changes at the national level.

Regardless the inception of the division, the division is here, and it is pervasive. Even if someone sabotaged Fox News and MSNBC and both these Manipulators of Opinion were excised from existence, we’d still have headlines like:

“Bernie Sanders’ Fiction-filled Campaign” – Washington Post

“Watch Tommy Chong’s Pro-Sanders Video” – The LA Times

“Ted Cruz’s New Anti-Choice Group Is Headed By a Guy Who Thinks Abortion Caused the Drought” – Mother Jones

“For Hillary Clinton, Feminism Means ‘Blame Men First’, and to Disagree is ‘Misogyny'” – The National Review

 

Even if we disregard the blatantly-subjective headlines, major media still front-page stories catered to specific sets of opinions:

“US Warships Sail Close to Island Claimed by China” – The Wall Street Journal

“Labor Leaders Fear Trump’s Appeal With Rank and File” – The NY Times

It seems reasonable to think that without the Buckley-Vidal debates, chances are our politics and media would be just as divisive, as an inevitable outcome of mass-communication technology: everybody loves to hear their own opinions being affirmed (Confirmation Bias), and with so many media outlets now able to reach millions, media are more able to cater to specific opinions without alienating their readerships.

Viewed this way, divisive political discourse wouldn’t disappear by castrating talking-heads, demagogues, and party-fringes, because… The Internet – we choose to have our biases confirmed, and it’s easy for us to do so.