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Monday, August 29, 2016

The Sheep aren't ignorant, and you're not their Shepherd

The rise of social media has convinced everyone to believe that they’re somehow above the fray where ‘the sheep’ lap up whatever propaganda you supposedly see right through.

And it’s all nonsense.

Whenever you hear a statement that contains the term ‘the sheep’ being oblivious to some devious scheme that the speaker claims to be able to see through, you’re not hearing a deep thought, but a plea. You’re hearing a nobody make a claim that he or she is special, unique. You may not have elite physical abilities, you may not be rich, you may not be famous, beautiful or impossibly charismatic, but at least you can look down your nose at the ignorant rubes who watch Fox News or MSNBC. When you have no real talent or attributes to mark you as a special snowflake, you cling to virtue signaling and being a pseudo-intellect who sees through the lies, whatever lies they may be. This is especially true in todays’ perpetual mass culture where excellence in any endeavor is broadcast for all to experience.

We’re all the sheep, and the sheep are way smarter and better informed than you think. You’re not special, you’re not abnormally smart, you’re not wiser than everyone else, you just have an ego. Some people get their political opinion from dumb sources and talk radio, others want their gossip with a patina of aspirational intellectual sophistication and wave around the New Yorker or the Atlantic as if they were more substantial.

The truth is our hyper-connected world has created a desire for two ideals that contradict each other. We don’t want to appear, innocent or naïve to our peers. Those virginal people are just rubes, they’re not ‘sophisticated’ like I am. On the other hand, the age of atomization creates a great need to belong to something, whether an imagined tribe or an ideological movement. But joining a movement means tamping down on your desire to stand out as special, and more importantly, more insightful and unique than the communal spirit you yearn to be a part of.

This election cycle has really drawn out the narcissism out of the electorate, the online commentators, the pundits, the politicians and their enablers. Everyone who receives a salary for offering their opinion on political matters is just shilling for their pay master, or opining within the implied confines that the Carlos Slims, Jeff Bezos, AIPACs and Saudi funds set for them. They’ve always been the same, except this is the first time they’ve had to turn the rhetoric up to 11 and prove that their worth the sugar daddy money that keeps their media outlets afloat.

Then there are the regular folks, the types of people who keep the most recent editions of the New Yorker, the Economist, the Weekly Standard and the National Review on their coffee tables so that you know they are serious intellects. The folks who advertise their sophistication by mocking the supposedly coarse culture of the masses, who describe in condescending terms the unsophisticated masses who buy up whatever political snake oil is up for sale this cycle. We’re all desperate to present the illusion that were experts and there are now entire media outlets built around selling you that delusion at a discount.

What do the Daily Show and their ilk really sell? A deep understanding of the body politic? An honest appreciation of the local concerns of American voters? A thorough accounting of who funds the opinions that filter up to the foreign policy establishment? Of course not, that would be humbling. Nobody watches a show to be humbled. Humbling a person doesn’t get repeat viewers or convince them to buy stuff they don’t need. No those shows sell condescending snark against people the core audience needs to feel better than. When you don’t like yourself, you don’t like other people either, especially other people who live far away that you’re allowed to mock without fear of shame. How else do you know that you’ve got status worth envying if there aren’t groups that you consider to be below you?

These are the kinds of folks that I know well living in a large blue city. The kind of limousine liberals that quietly condescend when speaking about the Republican Party base, and the dorky grown up campus Republican who despises the street fighting ways of the alt-right, because it’s a perceived affront to some class system that he (always a he) imagines himself to accepted in. But that’s not the actual message they’re telling, primarily, to themselves.

I previously wrote about Trump’s ascendancy representing the death of the old consensus America that the boomers implicitly accepted as a perpetual and robust. Along with the death of that staid world, is the death of all the perceived hierarchies that came with it. Titles, degrees and other markers of prestige just don’t have the same cache that they did even 20 years ago. Younger folks aren’t nearly as impressed that you’re a Yale graduate or that you have a prestigious law degree as they were a generation ago.

Nor do high dollar indicators of high class mean what they did a generation ago, except with folks who can afford to buy giant yachts in an age of cut throat retail competition. So all that’s left is elevating yourself by having the right opinions, and when that’s taken away, acting as if the entire process, even having enthusiasm, is so far beneath you because you see through the lies that rubes don’t.

It’s why you hear so many people talking about how horrible both candidates are as if they were interchangeable representatives of a clueless mass of rubes. Or they comment about the supposed crassness of Trump to avoid talking about any grand policy differences between him and the establishment. But it’s all the same narrative. How could such a great country disappoint you by getting two odious senior citizens to lead this country. Where are the true statesmen who live up to my high ideals? Who’ll make me believe in the ideals of our republic like children whom I hope make me proud for raising them right?

I always ask, compared to whom and in what time period? Ignore the history books and read the primary sources from campaigns going back to the founding of the nation and you’ll see a lot of our current political rhetoric packaged in the writing style of the times. Politicians were always perceived as scumbags, liars, degenerates and immoral scolds.

-But I don’t really like Trump, but… But what? You think you’re smarter than his supporters? You think he’s uniquely crude compared to McCain, Bush? How are his supporters dumber than Obama’s supporters in 2008?
-Well he’s had four bankruptcies
-How’s that relevant to running for high office. Many great political figures were failed business men or class traitors
-He’s a racist
-What color are your neighbor’s faces? The classmates that your children have in that nice suburban school district?
-How’s that relevant?
-Words are meaningless, what you do, especially when you have options, is your opinion…
-Well Trump just seems vulgar, he doesn’t appeal to me. He’s disappointed me by not acting Presidential.

It’s always a personal disappointment, as if the country were your inconsiderate children forever failing to live up to your high standards. As if you have the great answers and everything would be good if everyone else was more like you. There’s a deep narcissism in holding oneself above the reality of politics. An implied message that the speaker is better than those mouth breathers who support a representative, warts and all, and hopes for the best.

When you say the country disappoints you, you delude yourself into thinking anyone else was obligated to care.

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