I’m a little behind the 8-ball this week.
Ann and I have been traveling for the past week… we’ve come up to Portland, Oregon to visit her sons and our granddaughter who will turn one-year-old this coming weekend. So there has not been a lot of time to write and comment despite all the weird and disturbing shit that’s been going on in the world in the past few days.
For the past few days, we’ve been on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, staying in a charming turreted rooftop AirBnB in the seaside “Victorian and Arts Community” of Port Townsend.
Yesterday we rode a ferry across a channel from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC. It seemed oddly appropriate to be exploring a foreign country on the night that Donald Trump seems to have secured the Republican nomination and will apparently spend the next 6 months a mere one bracket away from the Oval office. Of that pending calamity I had this to say on Facebook last night:
…and I will perhaps have more to say in the future but until then I encourage My Faithful to read this assessment of the current climate by Andrew Sullivan, who has finally emerged from a long period of solitude to finally shed some light:
And so, as I chitchatted over cocktails at a Washington office Christmas party in December, and saw, looming above our heads, the pulsating, angry televised face of Donald Trump on Fox News, I couldn’t help but feel a little nausea permeate my stomach.
What is most compelling (for me) about Andrew’s analysis is that he recognizes the profound role that our shifting media environment has had on a once-familiar political process:
What the 21st century added to this picture, it’s now blindingly obvious, was media democracy — in a truly revolutionary form. If late-stage political democracy has taken two centuries to ripen, the media equivalent took around two decades, swiftly erasing almost any elite moderation or control of our democratic discourse…
…as Facebook and Twitter took hold, everyone became a kind of blogger. In ways no 20th-century journalist would have believed, we all now have our own virtual newspapers on our Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter timelines — picking stories from countless sources and creating a peer-to-peer media almost completely free of editing or interference by elites. This was bound to make politics more fluid….
The web was also uniquely capable of absorbing other forms of media, conflating genres and categories in ways never seen before. The distinction between politics and entertainment became fuzzier; election coverage became even more modeled on sportscasting; your Pornhub jostled right next to your mother’s Facebook page….
In the end, all these categories were reduced to one thing: traffic, measured far more accurately than any other medium had ever done before.
And what mainly fuels this is precisely what the Founders feared about democratic culture: feeling, emotion, and narcissism, rather than reason, empiricism, and public-spiritedness.
That’s more than enough excerpting to demonstrate what I have contended all along, that this is a “McLuhanist” election cycle. The medium IS the message, and we are seeing a process that has been transformed by the way that information is gathered and disseminated through the electorate. Sullivan brilliantly demonstrates the opportunity this unique slice of time has presented for just the right kind of whackadoodle demagogue.
Anyway, I’m traveling and haven’t had a lot of actual keyboard time during the expedition.
The photo at the top of this post, which I made yesterday, is from the interior of this magnificent edifice, the British Columbia Parliament Building in Victoria:
We were on the ground floor, looking up through three-stories at the inside of the rotunda and dome above. There was a display in the very center of the space below the rotunda, so I couldn’t get in the center and look up; I had to hold the camera in my outstretched hand and aim it up, and could only see what I was doing from the flipped-out LCD screen. Ordinarily I would have been tempted to shoot a perfectly symmetrical image, but I actually like the way this turned out better than that perspective probably would have.
Anyway, that’s the news from the Pacific Northwest. Tomorrow we go back to Portland, this weekend we celebrate Juniper’s first birthday, and we’ll be back in Tennessee late Tuesday night.
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