By LRon Brooks
THE UPSIDE-DOWN—In an AP story featured on page one of this week’s edition, random Atlanta school board member Charisse Davis asks—one assumes rhetorically—“What is holding our country together?” People like Ms Davis always ask these existential questions to make themselves feel like they’ve done something, and then fade back into the woodwork without waiting to hear if anybody fields a good idea. And by ‘people like Ms Davis,’ I mean Earthlings. Us. The species. Face it, apathy in the face untenable circumstances usually seems like it’s gonna be so much more endurable in the moment than resistance or even calculated self-restraint, and what is life but a series of moments? Oy.
My brother read last week’s column and pulled out a line about how the Zeitgeist has ‘momentum’ and that even after the Jaws Of Life® have been deployed to relieve the Oval Office of its current occupant on Jan. 20, ‘things-as-usual’ aren’t gonna just snap back into place. We are on an altered journey now and enough water has passed, unnoticed, under the bridge the last four years to make sure the maker’s mischief remains afoot long after the maker has moved on to spread his odious mischief elsewhere.
But my brother pointed out that momentum was also what brought us through this crisis in governance. Over 200-and-some-odd years of (mostly) moving (too damn slowly) in the right direction, we’d built up enough steam to just barely survive four years of the current administration deliberately gumming up the works with our small-D democracy intact.
(I hope I don’t speak too soon. Every day the man remains in office continues to put American lives in active peril and he still has three weeks left to get his coup act together. I comfort myself remembering that yes, America did knowingly elect a con man and career criminal as leader, but at least he turned out to be really super bad at criming. Imagine if we had elected Michael Corleone instead of Fredo?! I think we can agree the country dodged a bullet on that one.)
I was mulling that over, that idea of continuation, of shared heritage and unity having an energy all its own, while the TV—on Channel 200 [Fig. A]—did its 4-channels-at-a-time thing in the background. As always, I admired the BBC’s no-narrative-to-sell approach to reporting the news… when a little ding chimed in my bell tower. Britain clearly didn’t devolve into internecine anarchy and chaos over covid or I would have heard about it on the Beeb. Got me to thinking, did any other country on planet earth—besides ours—have an extended domestic pissing match with each other about the pandemic? Nothing came to mind. Now I was more than curious. HAD any other country in the world has taken up sides—amongst themselves—over it?
I snatched the closest Googleator and dialed up “pandemic controversy + U.S.” and got in excess of 144,000,000 hits. Sounds about right, right? Then I changed the search parameters to “pandemic controversy global MINUS the U.S.” and that search, looking for controversy about covid anywhere else in the world but America… returned a whopping 317 hits [Fig. B].
Three hundred-and-seventeen total internet searches about covid conspiracies outside the U.S.; 144 million here. I had my son do the math, it’s insane.
But it’s not insane, is the thing. It’s big business. If you follow the money it looks less and less insane all the time (sociopathy excepted). It takes on the aspect of some crazyquilt Frankenstein monster of Capitalism, roaming the land unfettered, invited enthusiastically by its victims into their homes to give them the ‘Fire Bad’ talk before it kills them.
Numbers, like facts, are pesky things. 317 global searches against 144Million domestic ones? That kind of wild imbalance doesn’t happen by accident or coincidence or even randomly in nature. It reeks of having been engineered and wrought by the avaricious hands of greedy men, not any benevolent god nor pantheon of same.
And even come the change in administration in DC soon, we will not be out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. These entrenched, well-connected men and women of wealth and power are part of the mischief that will remain, and they have been emboldened by the freedom from oversight they have been granted and have so rapaciously abused these last four years.
I don’t think I’ve reported anything new or controversial up until this point. I just wanted to establish a common baseline that almost every reader could agree on—a rare commodity today indeed—before I whipped out my last Modest Proposal (In The Wind) of the year. The Google searches convinced me I was on solid empirical ground; we’d ALL been played—extreme right to radical left, even the tiny dmz inbetween—for international fools by our own social and Big media behemoths, and still are.
THE CALLS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!
As I noted in a piece earlier this year, this unholy hornets’ nest of division, provocation-loops and learned ill-will we laughingly refer to as society could never have come about if two key pieces of regulatory protection were not signed away by Presidential fiat in the 1980s and ‘90s. One of the regulations considered so expendable at the time was a broadcast-standards rule, literally named the Fairness Doctrine.
Eliminating the “Honesty” requirement for broadcasters just as satellite communications and the Internet were taking wing? Wild cards like Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch being among the pioneers of this new communications-platforms Wild West?
What could possibly go wrong?
I would argue that, like the now-infamous ‘90s-era crime bill which All The Right People thought was a good idea at the time, their unintended consequences have proven to exponentially outweigh the projected good the era’s legislators intended. In other words,
GET IT OUT OF THE HOUSE!!
Since it was legislation that brought us to this hellish hootenanny, legislation ought to be the proper venue by which to redress it. New legislation needs to be crafted that reins in the manipulators of the original bill’s unhelpful unintended consequences without imperiling First Amendment rights to free speech. All we need is a handful of cleverly-chosen new words to replace the ones that have grown old and stinky. We are the country that gave the world doozies like, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is” and “There were a non-zero number of people in the room.”
Come on people, we’ve got this! Why have we not got this?
In a perfect world, maybe. But remember? Money.
It’s a pipedream to think that our elected lawmakers are ever going to put their cushy after-office lobbying/pundit careers in jeopardy by rocking the money-boat and actually fixing things. The money machine/outrage industry only works when society is broken; the more broken society gets the better the money machine operates. Politicians are still just people, and people do what people do: they stand on their differences and reveal their human weakness instead of their common humanity.
Well, as George W Bush and Pete Townsend said, “Fool me once, we don’t get fooled again.” Now that we know how this part of the story ends—or will in a couple weeks—and that the people we’ve elected to save us are financially incentivized to not save us, we have to put on our Big-Kids’ Britches and fix it ourselves, and we can. We could.
Here is how we, as citizens—ordinary small-town rubes like me and… say that guy, over there having a beer after work—can fix what’s wrong with our society that our government is too feckless to. Legally, passively and virtually immediately. From our phones.
We can STOP.
Can’t we? We could all stop arguing if it means we save America, right? We’d be heroes!
Let’s pick a day—maybe April Fools Day?—and just not-use social media. Just 24 hours. If everybody did it, nobody would be missing out on anything.
And take the same day off from Mother Jones and Fox News and all the rest, too.
Think about that: A one-day media boycott. Just to prove to ourselves—and them—that this is still a citizen-led democracy, not a tech billionaire-led plutocracy. Think about Zuck’s blood-pressure skyrocketing after the first 5 seconds of no one using his platform. Flop-sweat at 60 seconds. Two minutes in and paramedics are summoned. At sixty minutes of deafening online silence, Zuck is spotted trying to use wheelbarrows full of Facebook stock to buy himself a better spot in line at the food pantry.
We don’t have to continue to be patsies. We can take all that momentum I was talking about and use it to slingshot ourselves around the sun and take America back from the commercial predators who have made it their unclean brothel. Seriously, with all the money at stake, does anyone think Facebook could survive a 24-hour boycott?
And does anyone doubt that they could survive without social media for a day?
…oh. Seriously…? Okay.
LRon Brooks is an author, cat fancier and amateur woodchipper enthusiast, living far from the home he loves.