Slouching Toward “Bethlehem”

Photograph Source: Gerard van Honthorst – Public Domain

…but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

– W.B.Yeats, The Second Coming

Hive-mindedness seems to be growing — at the same time that bees are heading towards kaputzville. DARPA’s got a fix for the bees, they say. Then again, (D)ARPA gave us the Internet, which is where the hivemind is located. On the other hand, Al Gore ‘claims’ to have invented the Internet. Some people say he invented Climate Change, too. Riddle me this: If a guy can be that clever, then how come he can’t win his home state in 2000, without the need to blame Nader? And how come Watergate felon Charles “Dirty Tricks” Colson can be given back his voting rights by Jeb, but not all those Black voters? Is there a koan in a haystack locked up in all this? Or is it all rhetorical?

End Days thinking really, isn’t it? You gotta tamp that bong shit down. Anyway, I was thinking if Christ came back to Earth today, all swaddled again, which three Wise Men would show up in Bethlehem to report on it. Would it be Old Schoolers like the New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post? Or would it be the Upstarts — Amazon, Google, and Facebook?

Some things are certain: they are all pushers, dealing in cut info, trying to slide you into that crystal blue persuasion dream; and they are all in it for the frankincense and myrrh, baby. And all of them are spies for the Mighty Whitey, either directly or in- in- indirectly. And God help us if He came back black: They’d up and lynch Love all over agin’. Eternal recurrence, amor fati, my ass, Mr. Nietzsche.

All of which led me somehow to Bernie Sanders — a Jew, (hey, like Jesus!) and some say a messiah for democracy, who has been lashed 39 ways to Sunday recently for criticizing the Fourth Estate, who now want the public to wash their hands of him, it seems. They’ve called him out for his “Trump-like” assaults on the press. The equivalent of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” How Trump rally-like.

What’s Bernie done? Well, he’s criticized, in general, the poor quality of the MSM’s work in recent times, and, specifically, called to attention the problematical conflicts of interest Jeff Bezos has presiding over Amazon and the Washington Post. He also does very serious business with the CIA. Jeff is the only one with a foot in both Wise Men scenarios (see above). In his various, mostly tax-free ties, he heads an information cartel; he is Tony Montana with a Joe Montana personality; he is the Mightiest Whitey of them all. He will make infomaniacs of us all. He deserves more scrutiny.

Bernie, for all his faults and foibles, has a right to be pissed after the way the MSM handled the shenanigans that fellow Democrats got up to during the 2016 presidential run. Debate questions were secreted to Hillary. The donkey party worked to undermine Bernie’s campaign and was ever the elephant in the room. Had he been more favorably treated by the press, he might have been the populist who won.

So Bernie fought back. He wrote an op-ed for the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) the other day. If one role of the MSM is ostensibly to Keep the Bastards Honest, then the CJR is there to keep the MSM honest in how they report stories, especially ones of national public interest. In a typically cogent, feisty and practical-minded op-ed, “Bernie Sanders on his plan for journalism,” makes the obvious point: reporters on the national scene aren’t doing their jobs any more; they’ve become shills, stenographers, and partisan mainstream trolls who, rather than mediate between those in power and the public, shape and push selfish agendas in ways that leave issues entirely obfuscated.

It’s an excellent op-ed. Bernie notes, “Real journalism is different from the gossip, punditry, and clickbait that dominates today’s news. Real journalism, in the words of Joseph Pulitzer, is the painstaking reporting that will ‘fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, [and] always fight demagogues.’” He expands on what he believes is the role of journalism in a democracy and recounts all of the changes that have taken place in the industry over the last three decades to reduce its role and effectiveness — money: mergers of media corporations and massive job lay-offs. “Today, after decades of consolidation and deregulation,” he writes, “just a small handful of companies control almost everything you watch, read, and download.” His observations are accurate, fair and innocuous.

CJR reserves op-ed space for presidential candidates to unveil their view of the media and to outline how they will face them as president. The MSM largely ignored Bernie’s piece (only TNR dug into it). But the New York Post didn’t waste an opportunity to baste the Left’s lamb of god in an op-ed. In unfairly flippant prose the editorial board accuses Bernie of being upset with the media because of unenthusiastic coverage of his “pet subjects” on the campaign trail. They rebuke him for his ‘socialist’ fixes for the media’s problems. And they chide him for citing Joseph Pulitzer, now the rarified name associated with prize-winning journalism, but once a pusher of “yellow journalism” — the kind the Post puts out now — to its hive-minded junkies.

But it’s pretty much all yellow journalism right now, sensationalism for a buck — as Matt Taibbi points out in his new book, Hate, Inc: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another. Cheap shots, low blows, sucker punches — that’s the order of the day. And Trump further divides and already divided and captive audience. He is both mad King George and his own court jester in one. Says Taibbi, “Few seem troubled by the obvious symbiosis between Trump’s bottom-feeding, scandal-a-minute act and the massive boom in profits [my emphasis] suddenly animating our once-dying industry….”

Even the latest and absurd media contrivance of likening Bernie Sanders’ criticism of the media to Trump’s has the ring of profit-making. Ironically, in their own ways, each is absolutely correct when they talk of the “failing media,” who deflect, and repackage the criticism: two cartoon wrasslers mauling the referee between them, while the hivemind audience goes berserk. For a journalist like Taibbi, steeped in the gonzo tradition, and well-read in Chomsky, what’s happening seems less episodic than it does a crisis. “This is a profound expression of political instability at the top of our society,” he writes in Hate, Inc., “There is a terror of letting audiences think for themselves that we’ve never seen before.”

There’s something surreal and genuinely evil about what’s happening, like some shape-shifty scene from a Black Mirror episode — or worse, you find yourself looking at a hivemind, split between politically left and right hemispheres, just moments before a free-fall collapse into their own mind-prints. As if you were the observer in the space between paradigms, before and after, waking with shudders from a disturbing dream about a dystopian world — only to find yourself living in a dystopian nightmare you can’t escape, except by going back to sleep.

Not long ago, I saw a headline in my local paper indicating that there is an epidemic sweeping the nation — people hooked on receiving mobile updates while driving. It’s a worldwide epidemic.. A DSM entry is bound to follow, an appropriate psychotropic assigned. We are ripe for hive-minded manipulation — mere Citrix drones stripped of independent thinking, our realities provided by a central server. A pandemic affecting human consciousness (if bees suffer from ‘colony collapse syndrome’, why not we?). Waiting for Wise Men, or something else more apocalyptic. Imagine Trump president for five more years. Pass the bong.

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.