Just now, the nation is highly exercised about the Vegetable-in-Chief’s “Soul of the Nation” speech of a few days back. Why? Yes, it was a dark and threatening bit of rhetoric, but rhetoric was all it was. Why allow it to upset us?
Couldn’t we just ignore the senile old crank and his teleprompted fulminations? It would certainly be more healthful for us. It might even have a chance of coaxing his handlers a bit closer to reality.
Of course the press is a large part of the problem, but the Fourth Estate is not beyond correction. In his excellent 1974 book The B.S. Factor, Arthur Herzog recommended a technique for retraining them:
The press could be challenged to present a daily Thought Pollution Index—not that it would, but at least reporters could be encouraged to attend the Platitude Recognition Training Sessions, the object being to raise cliche-consciousness and overcome the serious problem of cliche-deafness that settles over crowds when a speaker mounts to the podium. In these sessions, platitudes will be flashed on a screen, and if they are allowed to pass unchallenged the participants will receive electric shocks from wires attached to their skulls….Audiences skilled in Platitude Recognition can deliver a crushing blow: the mass yawn. This quickly forces the speaker to take stock of himself.
Getting the press to ignore politicians’ words and focus solely on their deeds would be a tonic for the country. Among other things, it might persuade the BLEEP!ing nuisances to shut up. That alone could drop the national blood pressure by twenty points.
Astrophysicist Sir Frederick Hoyle was quite dismissive of politicians generally:
“Has it ever occurred to you, Geoff, that in spite of all the changes wrought by science–by our control over inanimate energy, that is to say–we will preserve the same old social order of precedence? Politicians at the top, then the military, and the real brains at the bottom. There’s no difference between this set-up and that of Ancient Rome, or of the first civilizations in Mesopotamia for that matter. We’re living in a society that contains a monstrous contradiction, modern in its technology but archaic in its social organization.”
That was Hoyle speaking through his fictional protagonist Dr. Christopher Kingsley, in The Black Cloud. He echoed the sentiment in his later novel Inferno. I think he had the right of it. Unfortunately, the mass media, starting with radio, have brought them into our homes, along with a large number of other irritating lowlifes we’d all be better off knowing nothing about. If we were to kick them back out, perhaps we could have peace again.