On Monday Chris Cilizza opined that Trump is turning liberals into conspiracy theorists. This was before the Comey firing broke, but boy has that story proved the point. I have not read anything about aliens being involved, but then I have not looked for it either. Less than a year ago every liberal and most of the press wanted Comey’s head on a spike and now they defend him as if he is their sainted aunt. The firing is being touted as solid evidence for a rumor that is entirely unsubstantiated (collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.) The talking heads and written pundits are very long on opinion and very short on information.
As best as I can tell, the facts are pretty simple to summarize. The president has been discontent with Comey’s performance on the job; the why’s and what’s are greatly speculated upon, but unknown at this time. Comey’s immediate supervisor and that supervisor’s supervisor share the president’s discontent. The president asked them to document their discontent, and then based on those discussions and documentation decided to act. The much spun and speculated upon “blockbuster” piece notwithstanding, the narrative I have just laid out in those few sentences is pretty much all we actually know with certainty. If you doubt me, read the host’s interview with one of the reporters on that piece. The host is right in his WaPo column of yesterday, this thing is “pretty straightforward.”
Of course, the right was guilty of it’s own wild speculation and spinning regarding the actions of the previous administration, but at least that did not happen in the MSM. I was force-fed Anderson Cooper et. al. in a restaurant Tuesday night and you’d have thought someone had dropped a nuke given the breathless and shocked “conversation.” I recall nothing like it during the Obama years, even on Fox. Sure nobody on Fox cared much for what Obama was up to, but nobody was declaring him a foreign agent of some sort – one had to take to the internet underbelly to find that stuff. Not to mention I have never been force fed Fox anywhere, while CNN is pretty hard to escape in public places. (If you see me in an airport with my headphones on, it is most assuredly not because I do not want to talk to people.)
Facts are becoming increasingly hard to access in our media saturated world. Information comes at us at a breakneck pace, but sorting the facts out of all that data is one heck of a chore. And I find that deeply troubling.
You will recall that last fall the host and Arnn went through books by Orwell, Huxley, Koestler and Lewis on totalitarianism. All of the totalitarianist regimes those books examined relied on speculation, spin and misinformation to help solidify their control. Arnn spoke repeatedly about how we now actually have the technology to do what those books all presented as fiction, even science fiction (except for the Koestler book which controlled information by cutting off access to it.) It is easy to see the information control in those stories because we are presented in them with a world wholly formed. But what is going on around us is happening much more gradually and is therefore harder to detect.
Jim Geraghty pointed out in the Jolt this morning that if you think of Trump is out-of-bounds somehow the only reason he was able to get there was because of how hard the boundaries have been tested leading up to Trump. It is a little disingenuous to be incensed now, yet let all that has gone before pass. The state we are in now puts me in mind of a rather different book by Lewis – The Screwtape Letters. In it Lewis describes, embodies actually, the efforts of demons to tempt a Christian away from his faith. It is one of the most important Christian books of the modern era. In it, one of the keys to “success” for the demons is to move the “patient” without him knowing he is being moved. Gradualism is a key tool in that effort. The reason the book is so important is that it allows us to see that which when impressed on us gradually we might miss altogether. The demonic efforts to remove the patient from his faith come not from tightening control, but from creating a sort of spiritual and mental chaos into which they can plant what they want. At one point a senior tempter tells his apprentice:
Like most of the other things which humans are excited about, such as health and sickness, age and youth, or war and peace, it is, from the point of view of the spiritual life, mainly raw material,
It seems like the Information Age is giving us much raw material, but we are missing what is important. Michael Brendan Dougherty had a piece on National Review this morning that bolsters my point. He is examining a recent poll that is being batted around Twitter as evidence that Trump supporters are racists. In the middle of several great arguments, he makes this note:
Plus, we need to interrogate the hidden assumption in this debate, which is that anxiety about cultural change brought on by mass immigration is morally repugnant and impossible to address.
In the middle of all the discussion about polling data and attitudes, he focuses at least for a minute on the fact that there is a moral component to the discussion. Until the moral question is settled, the data is really only confusing.
In the Comey discussion it seems like there are two fundamental inquiries at play. As we know the facts, the inquiry is one of good job vs bad job and how to react to the answer to the question. On that level those that matter concluded that Comey was doing a bad job and acted. But the other fundamental inquiry, the one that is being conducted in the press ad nauseum, is not looking at things like good or bad – it looks only at political consequences. It is stuck in the raw material. That’s why what was wrong a few months ago can be right now.
The reason to be deeply troubled is because our media saturated world resembles not the carefully controlled media of the totalitarians, but the chaotic noise of The Screwtape Letters. I fear deeply what can be injected into this chaos – so should you.