A recent article by Joe Katzman illustrated the maturity level of modern politics, by explaining the true nature of the war raging between Donald Trump and the American media. And what it showed was that winning and losing in politics comes down to the same kind of insults that work on a fifth grade playground.
The article (from a political-right perspective) defines a core principle of politics: That status and identification are fundamental, and that reasoned arguments are to be assiduously avoided. But it goes on to explain the power of the news media:
Why do the media have power? Because they have social status with ordinary people… How many movies seem to exist just to show journalists as heroes? … What’s the attraction of such a low-paying profession? Status given by the profession, and status from rubbing shoulders with high-status people.
This is important. Fast and cheap status has been the road to serfdom since ancient Mesopotamia, and it’s still feeding upon human weaknesses… using the news media as a status provider.
What Donald Trump is doing, the article argues, is attacking the status of the news media. Katzman writes:
Trump also acts in ways that cause journalists to fulfill his pre-suasion labeling. He makes “outrageous” statements, which many people outside the Beltway Bubble agree with. Those statements receive over-the-top media attacks, which make his enemies look ridiculous. Then events swiftly show that Trump had a point. Trump rubs it in, using the media’s own “Fake News” term against them and pouncing on every sloppy and dishonest mistake.
Notice that from the standpoint of a fight on a 5th grade schoolyard, this is the perfect strategy. Notice also that it works brilliantly in politics, which functions, necessarily, at something like a 5th grade level.
And it’s not just Trump. The left used to employ a man named James Carville to make the same kinds of attacks on the right.
We may not like playground bullies at the highest levels of government, but this is what politics produces. Reason loses badly in almost any political fight. Base instincts are what win: Fear, status, tribal identification, and so on.
Last year I wrote this:
…if we’re very, very lucky, the [winner of the] Donny and Hillary circus may break the stasis of our time.
If Katzman is right, the news media may be shoved from their high-and-holy perch, which may help break our era’s frozen status quo. Let’s just hope that our current batch of young people can mature better than their forebears.
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