Archive for February, 2019

When television overtook print as the dominant medium many of us studying the media assumed that we now had the technology in place to bring about a happy global village. It seemed obvious that people would easily come together, understand and appreciate each other’s cultures, and world peace would finally be within our reach. The cold war between superpowers was coming to an end, but instead of creating this imagined happy village, television would magnify a wide range of already simmering smaller conflicts. Instead of a better world, television would help create a more dangerous one.

Later, when the digital revolution gave us social media, we once again assumed that media platforms like Google and Facebook would become positive forces. Certainly, Facebook would bring people all over the world together as happy “Facebook friends.” That did happen for a while. “Friending” people became the thing to do, and collecting thousands of them was a source of pride. But eventually angry people would begin using the technology for angry things, and very serious social disruption issues would appear.

Gradually many teenagers are finding that the Internet is robbing them of important face-to-face interaction skills. Their interests are narrowing instead of broadening. Their ability to process complex information is actually fading. Many gradually become lonely, interacting mostly from their bedrooms and texting all day long.

To make matters worse, some of these teens fall under the spell of bullies and sexual predators. As a consequence, a growing number battle depression. Some even consider ending their lives, while others have done so.

Even the social media platforms that provide the rest of us happy and useful family, personal, and professional interactions, are proving they can be time wasters, and even dangerous weapons in the hands of foreign and local adversaries. Suddenly we are all scrambling to learn how to spot the “fake news” that is viciously intended to create social division and discord.

While the benefits of social media platforms are clear, many of those same platforms have damaged their own original benefits by selling access and advertising to the wrong people. Facebook is struggling right now to balance the idea of access based on “freedom of speech” with access based on “fair use policies.” But it may be too late. Populist and terror groups disguised as legitimate organizations have already become experts at using this technology to mobilize their followers.

With an autocrat-determined president who uses Twitter every day to create division, chaos, and fear, it is now virtually impossible to separate truth from lies, and to stop fringe groups from using these tweets to empower themselves to act out their often racist anger. And today’s populists are not just right wingers. They are any extremist group, left or right, that decides to get mad and incite sympathizers to make trouble, and even violence.

Yes, social media really does have a dangerous dark side. And an in-depth civics and media literacy program in every school, college, and community action group, seems to be the most practicable way forward.


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I write about media and communication, and the political consequences of media revolutions. Politically I am independent. But I have become disappointed in the legislative paralysis caused by extreme partisanship… and that lies, exaggerations, personal attacks, and double-speak have become an accepted reality in political discourse.

From a pure communication and media perspective, today’s rose garden performance was a disaster. It was factually incoherent, rambled for 50 minutes around unrelated issues, and was even contradictory about whether the need for more wall is a real national emergency. At one point, he actually admitted that he did not have to declare this emergency now… adding that he is already building the wall.

It was 50 minutes of pure “word salad.” I wrote about this brand of double-speak in Lesson 477. Google the phrase and you find three related health conditions. The third condition is “narcissistic personality disorder,” described as a person with an inflated sense of self-importance, disregard for others, and excessive need for admiration.

All Americans should suffer through all 50 minutes of this Rose Garden disaster. However you feel about the need for a border wall, after analyzing this performance you simply must be concerned about what is actually going on in this administration. You will likely conclude that we really do have a national security emergency, and it is living in the White House.

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As the democratic candidates for president get in line, it is refreshing to see diversity in race, gender, and religion. It is also refreshing to see intelligent young people getting interested in politics. They really do seem to represent the diversity of America.

Most have done their homework, have impressive backgrounds, are good speakers, and have a lot of stored up enthusiasm and energy to display in the many months ahead. And if you listen to their words, and are moved by their upbeat tone, you will likely conclude that any one of them will make a great leader of something.

But recent television and social media revolutions, combined with hard lessons from the 2016 election, have already changed the requirements for winning in 2020. Looking strong on television, in social media, and in person is now basic. And simply being photogenic does not help. In fact, “too pretty” today can actually be counterproductive. What works best in a “hard-hitter” world are leaders who can look both really strong and sincerely empathetic at the same time.

Here is what all this will mean in 2020:

(1)  A physical presence and “look” of strength will be necessary to match Mr. Trump’s towering, loud-mouth, arrogance. This strength need not come from height, weight, or gender. Rather it can come from posture, facial expression, attitude, tone, rock solid self-confidence, and overall body language.

(2)  An unwavering strength of character must also be obvious from past and current behaviors in order to counter Trump’s lies, exaggerations, cruelty, bully tactics, lack of ethics, autocratic behaviors, and name calling.

Therefore, a picture image of both personal strength and empathy is the bottom-line prerequisite for winning in 2020. This will matter more than gender, age, race, or even rally generated excitement. And a deep understanding of issues, a clear vision for the future, and fully explained commitments, must underlie everything.

Before you support any candidate you should ask these questions: Overall, is this person strong enough to win? Can he or she handle any crisis, in any place, at any time, with clear strategic thinking? And when in the oval office, will I once again be very proud of my United States of America?

Make no mistake, it will take a rare blend of unflappable personal strength and second-nature empathy to pull all this off. And just liking a candidate will not be enough. If this current crop of candidates remains an indicator, by 2020 you will probably still like most of them.

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It was a typical Trump address. Nice parts were written for him to read. The rest continued with his same divisive positions on issues, often with a threatening tone. In the end, nothing changed.

It’s clear that we still have a president who double-speaks most of the time, and continues to shamelessly make false and exaggerated claims. Simply put, the state of the union remains unstable and frightening.

So what should people of good will do now?  Here are my thoughts:

  1. Support candidates in 2020 who honestly champion liberty, justice, and equal opportunity for everyone, no matter their political affiliation. And don’t be fooled by false claims and olive branches.
  2. Support and get involved with institutions that relate to your expertise, experience, and values. Strong institutions are the foundation of American democracy, and we must rescue them from daily abuse.
  3. Speak out when people around you appear to be supporting leaders with autocratic tendencies. That is what the American Revolution was all about.
  4. Never forgive lies, vulgarity, bully tactics, self-admiration, cruelty, friendships with dictators, angry rants, name calling, and preoccupation with building personal wealth... just because you may like some of his policies. Bury your head in the sand, and our democratic republic will be lost.

The situation we face now is dire. It’s not a matter of examining each presidential action to see if it possibly makes sense. Rather, it’s about what the sum total of the president’s daily contradictory pronouncements tells us about the true state of our union.

When it is all said and done, nothing has changed. Chaos continues. National security is at risk. And character matters now more than ever.

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The president first took ownership of the government shutdown, and then shifted blame to the democrats. Then he gave false accounts of where and how most drugs are coming into the country. He also grossly exaggerated numbers of everything, as well as the threat of central American caravans. Then he threatened declaring a state of national emergency. And more recently he proclaimed that wall funding had already been allocated by Congress and major wall construction is already underway. Referencing all this, one pundit referred to all these communication inconsistencies and obfuscations as “word salad.”

I never realized that the description “word salad” was listed in the dictionary, but I found it in my I-Pad Dictionary app.

“Incoherent speech consisting of both real and imaginary words, lacking comprehensive meaning…”

Google the phrase, and you find three related health conditions:  (1) Schizophrenia,  (2) Disorganized Schizophrenia, and (3) Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Number 3 especially caught my attention: “A disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance. Symptoms may include grandiosity, disregard for others’ feelings, and excessive need for admiration.”   

Word salad leadership is dangerous anywhere you find it. You might want to listen to the 2019 state of the union address with this in mind.

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