The internet is the best thing and world and the worst thing in the world. If you have this view and maintain this perspective, then it’s pretty easy to navigate through the minefields of online battle. Everything on the computer is extreme; political viewpoints, cultural outrage and the definitions of important words like love, hate, good and evil. Thus, perspective is so lost, no one even bothers looking for it anymore.
In one-hundred-twenty-five days I’ll cast my vote for President of the United States for the eighth time. I voted for my first one in 1988. This is the craziest, most bizarre, and culturally damaging election of my lifetime. Remember, we’re on the internet, I can say this without even being fact checked.
Seriously, I think 2016 is worse than 2000 because at least sixteen years ago, you had two qualified, traditional candidates who seemed respectful from the outside and the vote was a tie, then we got crazy after the election night, The campaign itself, save for George W. Bush mudslinging John McCain in South Carolina with rumors of illegitimate mixed race children, was tame. The debates were boring. Election night through the final Supreme Court decision in December was nutty but it all seemed relatively civilized. But I personally wasn’t on Al Gore’s internet, then.
In a few clicks you can find out who was the MVP of the 1979 MLB All Star Game (Dave Parker, but it should’ve been Lee Mazzilli), what the capital of the Republic of Congo is (Brazzaville, also a good pop band) and who played Millicent, the girl on The Brady Bunch episode that gave Bobby Brady the mumps after kissing him (Melissa Sue Anderson). But you can also discover deep, dark corners of the world wide web that appeal to the worst parts of us. And those parts are running for the highest American political office in 2016.
My becoming a voter in 1988 also coincided with the Fairness Doctrine being revoked. The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the FCC introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to present both sides of controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC got rid of this policy in ’87 and any language binding broadcasters in 2011. The internet never had policy regarding anything but doing it without pants was encouraged.
As a result, the past almost 30 years have been a Wild West of sorts for media. I worked in the media as a reporter, producer, writer and other various positions full-time for almost 8 years before doing it freelance online for the past decade. Watching people deliver news without training or rules or pants has been scary. We are not the better for it.
I’m not sure if the Fairness Doctrine should be brought back. It would be nice to diminish the influence of talk radio, cable news and the internet on politics. But I don’t think it’s very American. And that is frightening.
This political season has seen the extremes dominate. If you were to just pay attention to the online world, you’d think Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were winning everything. They’re not. Sanders doesn’t have the Democratic nomination and Trump is 13 points behind in the polls and fading. It’s why perspective is the real world’s friend and the online world’s enemy.
Things are about to get worse before they get worse. The two major party nominees will go after each other and take us all with them. The minor party nominees may get more votes than a usual year, but they have no chance at anything but maybe creating amusing memes on Facebook.
What’s missing in this Dickensian tale of misplaced priorities and a lack of proper chill is a hero. Not a super one with powers and a cape but a regular, flawed, meaningful every-person one that can show us humanity and a good laugh.
And this is why I’m afraid of Americans. We can’t even agree on who that hero should be.
Here’s Bowie and Reznor.