We are now into the second month of Trump’s presidency, although I don’t like that he is president, I do believe there is a silver lining. Mainly, that U.S. citizens became woke as fuck to politics. Sure lots of people didn’t vote, but there was a fuck ton of people who did so out of protest. I didn’t agree with this tactic, but hey fuck it at least they picked up a fucking newspaper.
I am only 29-years-old, that isn’t too old, even though I feel like I am starting to feel my age. This was only the third presidential election that I could vote in, and perhaps the fourth I paid any real attention to. I voted for Barack Obama twice, and even looking back on those elections I don’t think I paid nearly as much attention as I did in this most recent one.
When I speak to people, and look at social media I feel like that was the case with a lot of people. I’ve always been mildly interested in politics, but it was never a full blown obsession. I paid attention relative to what people were saying around me, what I picked up on from radio programs, and perhaps what might be discussed in a book or two that I was reading. I didn’t actively read the newspaper with any sort of enthusiasm, despite majoring in journalism.
My case isn’t unique, I think a lot of people took a greater interest in the world around them after this election. Mostly, I think it is because during this election we (the American people) finally saw how the sausage is made, we found out just how big a dirt bag both of the major candidates were.
This “wokeness” I think comes as a result of two primary things. The first is that we had an eccentric billionaire/ reality T.V. star running, the second is that people are more connected and obsessed with the internet than any previous election.
The whole election, going all the way back to the primaries, was a shit show. In particular the Republican primaries. Not because of the ideology of that single party, but rather they had so many fucking potential candidates that the debates had to be broken up into two events. There was literally an under card and a main event for the Republican primary debates. Depending on which event you made it on was determined by a person’s popularity in the polls. This was already a ridiculous thing.
However, add to the fact that the cult of personality known as Donald Trump was a candidate. A businessman with no political experience, and a tenuous grasp on history and facts,turned the whole thing into “Must See T.V.” His verbal jabs against his opponents, whether about menstruation, or the vague suggestions that Ted Cruz’s dad is linked to the JFK assassination, won the hearts of the American people by making the whole thing a sideshow. People couldn’t help but tune in, we all wanted to see what this damn fool would do and say next.
Next we focus on the internet, and the role it played in making American’s “woke” to American politics. The internet has been a concept, or in development since the 1950s. That is a long time, but the internet itself probably wasn’t really adopted by the mainstream until the 90s and early 2000s. It wasn’t until the last seven-years where people have been fully integrated into it. At this point every person has a smart phone, T.V., refrigerator or some sort of appliance that uses the internet.
We are all connected to the web almost 24-hours a day. You can subtract a few hours a day for sleep, but if you are wearing a Fitbit or some sort of wearable fitness tracker you are still connected. So the point is, we are really fucking addicted to the internet. Barack Obama was maybe the first president to really utilize the internet and social media to help him win an election. He is after all the first president to have a Twitter and Facebook page.
That being said, social media and its integration into people’s lives was still in a nascent stage for both of Obama’s elections. Now, the use of social media has been fully realized. Everyone is using it, and it’s even on our phones. People can instantly swap stories and information in seconds.
So when unsavory details about a candidate comes to light it is then instantly shared all across the world. In previous decades this would be completely unheard of. This can be both a positive and a negative.
The negative is that the American people just get the raw data, and it hits hard and fast. There is very little time to shape and interpret the information coming at us. No one really has a fully realized opinion about any of this, because there is virtually no time to work out just what the hell is happening. It is a race to be first, the turnover for news is really fast, and people are left using the news equivalent of a Snapchat filter to view it i.e. Breitbart, Salon, podcasts etc.
Before the internet, stories were like clay, they were molded and shaped as more information came trickling in. Sure there were deadlines and even breaking news alerts, but most reporters had at least a day to figure out the story, now they have mere hours to get it to the web. Even still with things like print, television and radio there was no guarantee that everyone was being exposed to the same information. There still isn’t, but the reach of a news story is much greater than what it was previously.
Now the advantage. The internet connects (almost) everyone, and serves as the greatest archive of knowledge humans have ever created. With things like Youtube clips, podcasts, and blogs people can now consume news in a variety of ways, and in the way that is most convenient for them. With social media people can share that information with a hundred or so people they know at the speed of light, then those people can share that information with a hundred or so more people, and it spiderwebs from there.
So when dark and dirty secrets about Hillary Clinton came to light, people were exposed to it the moment it happened, and didn’t have to wait for the explosive expose in the newspaper or the tell all book to be printed.
With this election already blurring the lines of what is very serious politics and entertainment, any piece of unflattering information about a person was shared amongst 300-million plus people by the end of the day. And with the internet acting as an archive, details from the past could be brought to light immediately to be used in debate.
Obviously, this didn’t work in HIllary’s favor given the result.
The end result though is that most people became instantly interested in politics, and continue to remain so even after the election. Now whether most people have the ability to accurately interpret the raw data on the internet is another question. Most people can barely make a case for why they voted, and simply “I like their attitude” doesn’t really mean much in any intellectual sense.
Where the issue lies is that most people either don’t have the training, education or the interest to understand information in its proper context. I don’t encounter a lot of deep thinkers out in the world. The people that never harbored intellectual curiosity prior to the election, also don’t have the ability to digest the shit sandwich that is American politics. Some of these people are playing catch up, others just react. Reacting at its most benign is just reposting a dumb ass fake news article. Reacting at its most extreme is a violent protest over what is perceived as oppressive speech.
Personally, I don’t know if I have the training either. I’ve never studied logic or read Aristotle’s “Organon,” but I did study journalism, and I work as a reporter. I think that gives me a leg up, because I naturally am curious about things, research, and ask questions. I recognize loaded language, as a reporter you get training on how to try to remain unbiased in your reporting. Now, there is no way to completely divorce yourself from bias, and ultimately a publisher is going to have the ultimate say in the leanings of your news outlet. Journalism, in its purest and most ideal form, should be unbiased and based solely on the facts and the quotes given.
Either way people are more woke when it comes to the news, and that might be a good thing.