The Way Adults Sound in Peanuts Movies
the world of normals tunes out the flood of gibbering
I’m a hundred pages into a book I’ve been meaning to read for years, and I meant to spend last night reading it. But then I accidentally looked at social media.
For years, now, I’ve been watching as journalists and politicians connect a set of fact claims to a conclusion that has nothing to do with the evidence they’ve just given: This happened, and this happened, and this happened, and, trust us, all of that means this. It snaps your head back, because the statement about the meaning of the evidence is so ridiculous they can’t possibly have failed to notice. The news is frequently a series of bizarre interpretive non-sequiturs.
I wrote about a favorite example here, as an army of Barack Obama hagiographers described The Lightbringer’s glorious childhood in Indonesia. He went there with his mother and Indonesian stepfather in 1966, during a massive purge of communists by the army that included a great deal of mass killing, and Obama’s biographers describe the future American president being a young child in a place where rivers were choked with corpses and soldiers marched prisoners through the streets. Then, casually, they conclude that his time in Indonesia was idyllic and warm, and Jakarta was the place where this wonderfully decent future leader learned the gentle values of civic engagement and democratic pluralism.
See also this example, from back in the days when I didn’t have many subscribers, discussing an op-ed piece that described the Freedom Convoy as a movement of anti-government radicals who wanted to live in a society with no rules at all and marched on Ottawa behind the banner of authoritarianism to implement their fascist agenda.
Over and over again, reading the “news” that these people write, you catch yourself muttering but you JUST SAID….
Fact claims don’t add up, categories clash, paragraphs self-refute, sentences start out insistently claiming X and then wander into a firm insistence upon Not X before the period arrives at the end. The great complex of global news and politics has the internal consistency and logic of the day ward at a mental hospital.
Last night we seem to have suddenly turned the knob on that machine up to eleven, BECAUSE HITLER IS IN MOSCOW TO DO AN INTERVIEW. The people who are proud that we’re fighting authoritarianism by arresting the leading figure of the political opposition and throwing him off the ballot are also very angry that Tucker Carlson is interviewing an autocrat, and they hate autocracy, so Tucker Carlson must be arrested and bankrupted and barred from returning to the United States, to stand up to authoritarianism. I had a moment last night when I sincerely wondered about the wisdom of paying attention, because the experience of hearing from The Responsible People™ became painfully hallucinatory.
The officials at the EU get to decide who counts as a real journalist and who gets ruined, to protect democracy. Ukraine is the brave and incorruptible vanguard of ideal democracy, by the way, and so pure it floats, like an ad for soap. Nothing bad has ever happened there, you Nazi, but now Satan Putin’s vampire fangs drip with innocent blood, and there’s absolutely nothing else to say about it, send cash.
Watching people like Bill Kristol and David Frum comment on real-world events now is like watching a homeless drug addict having a psychotic break at a bus shelter. The connection between fact and interpretation has become painfully severed. A whole layer of allegedly high-status people have gone barking mad. We need to arrest everyone who disagrees with us about politics or else we’re going to lose our system of open society to authoritarianism, and you really ought to smoke some of whatever we have inside this glass pipe.
And so CNN is descending into mass layoffs and the Washington Post is descending into mass layoffs and the Los Angeles Times is descending into mass layoffs and whole news sites are shutting down and on and on and on…
…and maybe we can begin to see why. Journalists keep asking why none of the devastating news about Donald Trump — the brave and strong Fani Willis is about to take him out! — is preventing him from marching to the Republican nomination. Scandal doesn’t stick to him! How can this be happening!?!?
Twitter was such a sewer of political psychosis last night that I couldn’t make myself look away, but I’m very strange. I suspect most people aren’t deterred from making political judgments that reflect the latest developments because most people have tuned out the latest developments completely, recognizing lunacy as lunacy. The noise is perceived as noise, and so it fades into the background.
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