The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Intensity and Amplification

There has always been an edge to political discourse in the United States. The suggestion by either side that the other is somehow ill-equipped to govern, is proposing policies that will hurt the nation, or is making claims for or against some issue that are blatantly dishonest. That was the old normal.

With the election of Donald Trump, political discourse has increased in both intensity and amplification. The left-side of the political spectrum was shocked that their slam-dunk candidate lost. That in itself, created an intense reaction, but it was amplified by the victor, a man whose imprecise language, sometimes outrageous pronouncements, and politically incorrect positions outraged his opponents. And as intensity grew, so did amplification by a main stream media that was unabashedly anti-Trump, removing all semblance of objectivity and feeding unhinged and untrue story lines that caused still further intensity. It became a classic feedback loop.

A manifestation of all of this occurred yesterday, when a mentally unstable person with unquestionable leftist affinity could take the intensity no more and acted out in a violence attack against members of the GOP congressional delegation.

Daniel Henninger comments on all of this:
Donald Trump’s election has caused psychological unhingement in much of the population. But the Trump phenomenon only accelerated forces that were plummeting in this direction before the 2016 election.

Social media—a permanent marinade for the human brain—is causing a vast, mysterious transformation of how people process experience, and maybe someday a future B.F. Skinner will explain what it has done to us.

Impossible to miss, though, is how jacked up emotional intensity has become in American politics. The campaign rallies of both Mr. Trump and Bernie Sanders often sat on the edge of violence. Reporters describe political town hall meetings as full of “angry” voters. Shouting down the opposition in these forums or on campus has been virtually internalized as standard behavior. Refusal to reason is the new normal. And then the unreason is euphemized as free speech.

Explaining away these impulses as a routine turn of the populist political cycle is insufficient. Something more permanent is happening ...

We negotiate much of daily life now in tense, parallel universes: One is overflowing with individual political and social behavior that is deviant—flights from the norm—at a time when broader norms of political and social behavior are enforced with a vengeance. Today you can get shamed, sued or fired for almost any conceivable offense.

In reaction, millions of people—including the president—seem to regard social media as a kind of wildlife refuge, where they can run naked against society’s dammed-up personal and political opinions.
Henninger may be on to something when he suggests that "broader norms of political and social behavior are enforced with a vengeance." Slowly and inexorably, political correctness has limited the ability to express true feeling about everything from gender dynamics to race to the proper use of pronouns.

The Left is trapped in a web of PC rules that can become suffocating. There are those who yearn to escape the trap but also avoid the group shaming that occurs if they utter something politically incorrect. So they pick a convenient target—one not protected by PC rules of engagement, and they attack with surprising intensity. Trump and his supporters are that target. On the right, the same thing happens, but in this case, the attack is (at least today) directed at the attackers on the left.

You would think that yesterday's act of "political terrorism" (I think that term is extreme, but it is being bandied about) might cause both sides to turn down the volume, focusing on political difference, rather than personal attacks.

Sadly, I don't think that will happen. My guess is that by tomorrow or the next day, the intensity will be rejoined and the amplification will continue.

And by the way, if the #Resistance gets its wish and Trump is removed from office, the thing they can't seem to process is that another form of intensity and a frightening level of amplification will follow. None of that can be good.


It's taken less than 24 hours for the trained hamster in the mainstream media to circle the wagons to rebut allegations that a true progressive somehow perpetrated a mass shooting aimed specifically at those with who he disagreed politically. James Freeman writes:
A violent assault can leave far more than mere physical scars. And it appears that Wednesday’s attack on Republican lawmakers and their associates has proven to be particularly traumatic for the editorial page staff of the New York Times [and many other left-leaning media sources]. Symptoms exhibited by the afflicted Timesfolk include the making of assertions that have not been established as facts and a refusal to accept those that have.

To be sure, the last 24 hours have been highly stressful for progressive leftists. Creating conditions of extreme psychological discomfort are the published writings of suspected shooter James T. Hodgkinson. Among the revelations is that Hodgkinson appears to have accepted as fact virtually the entirety of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ over-the-top rhetoric about U.S. political and economic systems.

Perhaps as a coping mechanism, the New York Times now editorializes that Hodgkinson “was surely deranged, and his derangement had found its fuel in politics.” One can argue that anyone who seeks to assassinate politicians is by definition deranged. Some people might even argue that Hodgkinson’s proposal to lift marginal tax rates to “70% or more” was insane. But Hodgkinson’s mental condition has not been established.
Hodgkinson was very likely deranged, but what was the catalyst that drove him to try to commit mass murder? The left is making much of the Gabrielle Giffords mass murder in which an apolitical nut-case gunned down the Congresswoman along with six others. They were quick to grasp the flimiest of threats, accusing their demon de jour, Sarah Palin, of placing targeting gunsites on a web page that identified congressional districts that were in play. Their claims that Palin, along with other Republicans created a climate of violence were, shall we say, tenuous at best. But the media amplified their argument and it became conventional wisdom.

Freeman continues:
Because Sarah Palin is a well-known former politician, she’s in a category of people who face enormously high legal barriers to winning libel cases. This is as it should be. We want a vibrant free press to vigorously hold politicians to account and when people step into the political arena they understand that rough treatment from the media is part of the gig. But if Mrs. Palin were just another private citizen, she would sue the New York Times and she would win. As this column’s most celebrated alumnus noted in 2011, politicians of both parties were publishing similar maps about each other. And despite the New York Times’ fondest desires, it turned out Loughner wasn’t a conservative at all but a babbler of nonsense who adopted a mish-mash of views from both the left and the right and whose tastes in literature ran the gamut from Ayn Rand to Karl Marx.

If the Times followed its own unfair standards, it would now be blaming Mr. Sanders, not dredging up long-discredited smears against Mrs. Palin. But correcting the Times’ journalistic flaws can wait. The first priority must be treating the victims on its editorial page.
Sadly, we'll be back to the new normal in 24 hours. You know, the one where the unhinged Left demonizes its opponents with a level of viciousness that could very well drive other deranged followers to acts of violence. But then again, the rules for public discourse and political criticism are different for #Resistance because they reside on a higher moral plane than the rest of us.