Tuesday, August 23, 2022

This and That: Social Media, Jane Austen, the Project, Watergate


This and That: Social Media, Jane Austen, the Project, Watergate

Peter Schultz


            Social media will never usher in a new age. Social media displays of violence, say, police violence, do not show us who we are. Rather, they immunize us to what is actually going on, that is, what is going on officially, as a matter of policy.


            Graphic displays of official violence allow us to think: “Oh, that’s not us. That’s not what we approve of because otherwise we wouldn’t be shocked and we wouldn’t be showing it on Facebook.” But it is behavior that is approved, and these videos hide that fact, along with absolving us of responsibility for them. Then we can say, “Oh, it’s a few bad apples.” And, thereby, once again we have absolved ourselves of responsibility for the racism, the savage racism that has characterized the United States for more than 200 years.


            Other ways of absolving ourselves of responsibility: Critical Race Theory, taking down statues celebrating racists, and even apologies. And along with absolving ourselves, there phenomena fortify the status quo, just as voting fortifies the status quo.


            The Project: The guardians are protecting us. We have little to fear, we’re told, besides fear itself because the dangers are external, the threats are exterior. No real threats are internal, e.g., the assassins of JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, or Fred Hampton. And, hence, Assange and Snowden must be silenced, delegitimized like Gary Webb.


            Watergate: Had to be transformed into a morality play, with the good guys combatting the bad guys and the good guys winning. As a morality tale, we the people are absolved of responsibility for that scandal. The immoral ones are to blame; not legitimate institutions like the CIA or the presidency itself. To what extent was Watergate systemic? But because we caught the criminals, we really don’t care. To what extent is the Trump phenomenon systemic? A question not all that many are willing to ask.       


Jane Austen: was Jane Austen writing about Great Britain or about the human condition? To do the latter, Austen would have had to be persuaded that there is “a human condition;” that is, that there are unchanging, fundamental alternatives offered to human beings.

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