Archive for September, 2020

My conclusion: Trump was Trump. Biden was Biden. The moderator was not in control. The chaos was an embarrassment to our country all around the world.  

Many scholars thought that Kennedy won the first televised debate. And those who listened on the radio thought Nixon won. Nixon sounded more informed on the issues. Kennedy was more charismatic.

I suggest that “selective perception” was probably in full swing during this debate. If you started out liking Biden you probably became more committed. And vice versa if you liked Trump.

But many others probably got totally frustrated, even embarrassed at all the shouting. They might even be thinking they will not vote at all. But not voting is still voting, and that’s not a good solution. You must vote.

And there always are a few undecideds looking for a reason to make a choice. In the past, these people often found one or the other slightly more likable. So a few votes might have been decided this way.

Bottom line: Most political scientists I know have concluded that debates rarely change people’s minds. They become reinforced in what they already thought. Is that what happened to you? 

That said, this country does not need another debate like this.

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This election should not be about either political party. Voters should review the basic principles of democracy, and then vote accordingly.

That said, how can it be possible to interpret the constitution of the United States of America to mean that every president and attorney general should have autocratic control over everything?

Or put another way: How many lies or extreme exaggerations can we tolerate? Or how many cruel and personally destructive attacks on opponents will be overlooked? Or how many ways of saying “those who are willing to die for their country are suckers” will be ignored? Or how often will “only I can do it” comments be tolerated? Or how many regulations to protect the public health can be eliminated before thousands get sick or die? Or how many important allies will be threatened in public until their hostility turns on us? Or how many more promises will be made for a better healthcare program with no results? Or how many times of showing no empathy or moral compass can be absorbed without rebellion? Or how many foreign dictators can be admired before the nation realizes that his goal is to become one?

The founding fathers clearly rejected any monarchy. After all, they staged a revolution against bowing to the King of England. They openly worried about foreign influence on presidents and government officials. They built impeachment into the constitution for good reason. And they designed the Electoral College (thus, a Republic) in an effort to keep unqualified people from ever getting elected to high office.

Many of us still dream of an America where checks and balances really work; where government officials and presidents are never allowed to govern above the law; where immigration policy and management is mindful that we have always been a nation of immigrants; and where American society genuinely provides opportunities for people of all economic circumstances, all genders, and all races. 

My worst nightmare is to think that American democracy might one day only be in my dreams. 

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There are two physicians on my street that have Trump signs in their yards. I have been thinking a lot lately about how that could have happened?

Is it because they have never actually worked directly with frontline health care professionals?

Is it because they really do not want people to have affordable health insurance? Or Medicare? Or social security?

Is it because they are wealthy enough see the stock market as the primary driver of their personal worth?

Or are they connected financially with healthcare organizations that benefit from Trump’s tax breaks?

Or is it because they really think that recent tax breaks have actually helped working people?

Or is it because their patients are all at their same income level?

These are smart people. Do they simply not see the damage that has been done? In education? In infrastructure? In foreign affairs? In human rights? In climate change? In the loss of jobs?

The sad news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing came to me as I was writing this. Her career should be a lesson for us now. She was bigger than politics. She was a cultural icon for democracy and individual freedom. This election is not about making a political choice. It’s about solving a very serious national problem. Save the sorting out of political party ideology for next time.

For this election… do you want to reelect an “only I can do it,” authoritarian dictator? Or do you want to save American democracy?

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I have written about the impact of media revolutions at many times and in many different ways. Every day it becomes more and more clear how they go on disrupting so many lives.

Here is still another way of explaining the situation:  

When information implodes all around you every day, and you have a special interest or an angry complaint, it is now easier than ever to find people who agree with you. You can always find them somewhere on social media, and that discovery will very likely reshape your universe. That’s the good news, but…

If you are inclined to favor conspiracies finding so many others with the same inclination may surprise you. Your alternate universe will accommodate your underlying fantasy life.

Your universe also offers an illusion of personal safety. So you can go ahead and exercise that mean streak that has been lurking just below the surface of your personality. But eventually could become an angry person.

That mean streak can quickly become an attack weapon. Using Twitter and other social media platforms, individuals, organizations, and governments are able to attack each other spreading fear.

Many young people are able to create their own digital universe from their bedrooms. Some get so hooked that they lose interest in communicating face-to-face. Bullying originates in these lonely bedrooms.

Easy online relationships sometimes result in dangerous liaisons. Social media produces artificial feelings of safety.

Consumers today usually find and stay with news sources they agree with… avoiding other mind-stretching ideas.

Media revolutions change journalism. Digital technology enables news sources of all types and biases. Commercial TV success produces celebrity reporters, faster stories, shorter interviews, and endless ads.

Extremists in both parties are politicizing and polarizing voting districts. When they go to Washington they remain polarized and controlled by those who fund them.

Also, computers today are able to repeat the same messages over and over automatically (often called bots)… confusing entire societies about important political and social issues.

In short, media revolutions produce daily information implosions which end up dividing the public on important issues. They create a strange social media world that changes people’s beliefs, and behaviors both in our homes and governments.

Therefore, the news media simply must stop reporting wild tweets and false statement as daily news. Media revolutions have changed journalism. And it is already past time for this profession to call out lies and false statements no matter who makes them. Our democracy and world peace depend on it.    

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“I really like his policies, but hate his politics.” I hear this all the time.

After 50 years of studying communication, media and politics, I must conclude, however, that this president has no policies or even ideologies that propel him. It’s all about him, and he even says so openly. He has proven to be an immoral and insidious, “all about me” autocrat, who is creating and living in an alternate reality?   

All this was enabled by a digital media revolution. During the 2016 campaign and election, many (including the news media), were attracted by this former reality show host’s constant flow of outlandish statements, lies, conspiracies, exaggerations, and wildly confusing imagery.

Here is how this has gotten worse…

  1. The urgency of a pandemic has been simply ignored… currently with rhetoric that creates an assumption that it’s all in the past. But it isn’t. Cases and deaths continue to grow.
  2. Schools are currently pressured to open in the middle of this pandemic, but responsibility for any failures have been transferred to each school system. Many are already experiencing cases.
  3. Questionable medical treatments have been urged, even though they were never adequately tested and several produced illness and even death.
  4. Fast-track vaccines have been funded with private companies… with pressure to have something before the election. Now these companies are suggesting that widespread availability is more likely sometime in 2021.
  5. Attention on the pandemic has been diverted by wild tweets about something else … in this case, a focus on beefing up federal law enforcement, with lies about what groups are using violence.
  6. The nation has also been divided by appealing directly and indirectly (called “dog whistles”) to white nationalists… inspiring some angry followers to carry out vigilante type violent responses.
  7. Created fears about mail-in voting, and has already said he will refuse to accept losing the election.

Fooled once in 2016, shame on us. Fooled twice is inexcusable. Conservatives, liberals, independents, and all other lovers of democracy must now come together to save it.    

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