Thursday, June 02, 2016

Why I'm Concerned about this Election

What concerns me about this election is the direction the Internet has taken us.

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way in which we gather information. When I was growing up there were only a handful of reputable news sources.

The primary sources, and the most trusted sources, were the major newspapers. A distant second were the major radio networks and generally pulling up the rear were the TV networks.

Of course there were always exceptions to this order. If Walter Cronkite on CBS television told you something, you believed him.

Today, between the Internet and Cable Television the places from which people can gather information has sky rocketed. You don't have to look too hard to find an information source that puts precisely the spin you like on things.

At the same time people have become insulated in how they gather information. Conservatives go to Conservatives sources and Liberals go to Liberal sources. Crisscrossing and going to a source that runs counter to your preconceptions has become rarer and rarer.

As a result there has emerged what I'm going to call the Internet Populist.

These folks are convinced they know everything and what they know they know with absolute conviction and absolute certainty. The fact that so much of what they know is just flat out wrong doesn't even seem to matter to them. To the Internet Populist facts are a matter of opinion.

They will leap to conclusions based upon the flimsiest bit of information. That wouldn't be so bad if when it turned out they were being premature in their judgement became obvious they would accept that they had been wrong. Unfortunately more often then not they "double down" on their original assessment using some rationalization as to why they were right anyway.

It's enough to drive an engineer crazy.

They're also either incredibly ignorant or incredibly naive. They have no understanding of how the political process works; they have no understanding of how economics work; they have no understanding of how science works; they don't understand the federal budget, Social Security or Medicare but they are absolutely convinced they're experts because they read an article by some asshole on the Internet.

They are the perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger effect. They're utterly incapable not only of recognizing their own limitations but refuse to even consider the opinions of experts if those opinions contradict what they "know" to be true.

They populate both the right and the left but the fact is there appear to be far more on the right. Those on the left often have the disadvantage of an education which prevents them from going too wack job.

There is also a big difference in that the Left Wing Internet Populist is usually recognized as being out on the lunatic fringe. The Right Wing Internet Populist now appears to represent the conservative mainstream.

But there is another aspect to the Right Wing Internet Populist.

They're also convinced that everyone is ripping them off and especially people who are even worse off than they are. None of their problems are their own fault. They're all due to people who are getting free stuff they don't deserve while they. who DO deserve everything because they're special, are not only not getting it, but are paying for those other lazy bums who are getting it.

As a corollary, those undeserving bums weren't getting that free stuff until Obama raised taxes on everyone else so he could give those bums free stuff. Yes, I've actually been told that on several occasions.

Of course 98% of the Right Wing Internet Populists seem to be Trumpettes. Not only don't they understand why what Trump says is wrong, and in some cases even dangerous, they don't seem to care because somehow big daddy is going to make everything better for them and get them everything they deserve. It's the ultimate vindication fantasy.

Now here's the bad news. I'm concerned that these nut cases make up a big proportion of the people who normally don't bother to vote but they're going to make it a point to go vote for the Donald this time around.

That's more than enough to turn this election into a disaster.

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