Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Fantasy Tectonics League

      Tamara keeps sharing increasingly unhinged takes on current events that she finds on the Internet.  They worry me.  They worry me in a way that Nixon vs. McGovern or Ford vs. Carter never did, in ways that Obama vs. McCain or Romney never did.

      Because it's stopped being just politics.  It's stopped being about if this or that brushfire war/nation-building is justified* or if the fed.gov ought to try helping the poor or automakers or banks.  Those were all things about which more-ore-less reasonable people could more-or-less reasonably disagree. Both sides often had valid points to make and quite often, the disagreement was not over the notion that something was wrong, but the best way and instrumentality to go about trying to fix it.

      What's going on now is different.

      There's a split over the nature of reality itself -- and both sides can't be right.  Either the election was as fair and honest as the preceding dozen, or it was rife with fraud and cheating that changed the outcome; either there's a shadow war -- with real guns -- between branches of the Feds going on between the Deep State and its enemies, or there isn't.  The pandemic is real or an illusion with a vast, power-grabbing conspiracy behind it.  The President-elect either broke his foot playing with his dog, or he's hiding a house-arrest ankle bracelet as the result of a complicated criminal immunity deal that will result in a second term for President Trump. Either someone in the Administration has been dropping hints of a strange conspiracy and efforts to counter it, or a hoax has spawned a large-scale delusion.  These are not simple disagreements; they show a fundamental fracture over the nature of our (supposedly) shared reality.

      I'm not expressing an opinion about any of these items here.  Because opinion is so entrenched and so irreconcilable, there's no point in arguing one over the other.  But they can't both be right and sooner or later, as a society we'll have to collapse the wave function, open up the box and see what's inside.  What happens after that, I don't know.

      If you see either vision as a kind of doomsday cult, they tend to rebound from contradiction -- they recalculate, reinterpret and keep moving -- but not always.  If it's just a matter of politics, they represent incompatible conceptions of the nature and function of our federal republic.

      What are we counting down to?
* Almost certainly not, though there may be weltpolitik considerations that involve warfare as a tool -- just don't claim to me it's moral to blow up some poor slob's house and family because he happened to be born and grow up in the wrong place.


RandyGC said...

Like a lot of trends, I wonder how much of this was always out there and we just didn't know about it before the Interwebs?

And of course, the internet allows them (whoever you think "they" are) to find each other and heterodyne off of each other.

No ideas here for a solution that wouldn't be worse than the problem. Just hanging on as best I can.

Mike V said...

It’s like we’re in the late 1850s, headed for the Civil War, and no one is of a mind to put the brakes on. Churchill said “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.” I hope the national leadership on both sides take that to heart.

Roberta X said...

Of course, Mike V, unlike today, both sides leading up to the Civil War agreed on the facts, just not how to proceed from there.

There's a breakdown in consensual reality. Only one map approximates the territory and the other is a fantasy. This isn't a recipe for a civil war, it's the formula for a tragedy. How big a tragedy remains to be seen but there is no good outcome, only degrees of awfulness.

My own inclination favors the duller, least-imaginative reading of current events. But there is no prize for having guessed right.

The Neon Madman said...

Unfortunately, this all is a natural outcome of the internet. People who never would have been heard of 40 years ago now have an instant and world wide audience for their beliefs. We have created instant virtual soapboxes for anyone who has a broadband connection, and their audience is nationwide.

We can also wish for people to be careful thinkers who weigh statements logically and dispassionately, but everything today is oriented to the 30 second sound bite or the 180 character Facebook posting. Sad to say, the information overload results in people who cannot think anymore.

The signal-to-noise ratio is diminishing to pure noise, and I don't see any way to correct it.

Paul said...

I blame the normalization of people who should be locked up and under either armed guard or watchful nurses.

Mr. Engineering Johnson said...

I’d say you’re right. If you could graph the current perception of reality in the US it would look like a binomial distribution, and everyone would think it was their gnome that is the rightful president. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself).

I do think we’ve reached an unstable state where information outlets are so polarized it’s easy to distrust one set of sources and feed that with confirmation bias from the other set. Frankly, no good comes of that. Northern Ireland, South Africa...and worse. One can hope that the horrible potential outcomes would be sufficient deterrent for violent action, but I’m not sure I have that much faith in humanity.