We stand in awe at the power of the crowd - the phenomenon of assembly and disassembly, of unification and fracture - the power of the crowd in the digital space and elsewhere, to come together and to unleash itself for better or worse, good or ill.
We've reached the point where a seemingly evolved western democratic culture has embraced a pathology of derangement so severe that politics no longer functions at the level of rational discourse. There is a crisis of credibility and integrity. Contributing to this trouble is the fact that a previous emphasis on fact-finding and accuracy in the news media has been usurped by millions of content producers churning out free-floating opinion. The result is that truthfulness has been upended by puffed-up histrionics, fear-stoking, spin and pants-on-fire lies. You could say truth has been trumped.
It is amazing to me how ubiquitous is today's news and how everyone is a publisher.
The theorist Jean Baudrillard suggested decades ago that “we live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning."
Our shortened attention span and addiction to the novelty of the next digital stimulus leaves us open to manipulators who exploit the fissures of division between groups. Such a millieu provides a more than sufficient opportunity for disinformation: "You are FAKE NEWS!"
It also opens the door for any opinion to hold sway over the crowd, no matter how dangerous or poorly formed. Everyone can find their personal truths reflected in the iridescent patina of the web. The internet is a filter bubble. It is an echo chamber. It's is a personalized algorithm that feeds on itself and we are seduced by the glitter of our own digitized universe.
This disruption and exploitation was articulated by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci who said in his prison diaries: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."
It's easy to be smug, here in Canada. We should not be. Bend low your ear to the rumblings: hear the long-simmering cri de coeur rise up. Not just a few restless voices are emboldened. Yet the show to the south is always more alluring somehow: it is bigger, bolder, all Hollywood. Who among us will not admit to inhaling a whiff of the rarified air of superiority as we gambol and gas, opinionate and fulminate on the techtonic upheaval occuring to our south? But like any good neighbour we do this only in hope for the ultimate well-being of our friends. They are having a spat. We hope it all ends OK. It's sometimes tempting to look away and try to not watch. But then, like a witness to a car crash in front of your house you cannot avert your gaze. It's a bit like that cavity in your tooth. It's painful to stick your tongue in there. But you can't stop sticking your tongue in there.
As Andrew Sullivan observes, this inability to look away from the crisis, to detach from the emergency, is one of the proofs that autocrac rule is gnawing at the very heart of democratic institutions and values: "One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all. The president of a free country may dominate the news cycle many days — but he is not omnipresent — and because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times."
So what are we to make of this figure who occupies the centre of the cyclone from which we cannot look away? There are those who dispute it, but watching him, my own unqualified diagnosis would be narcissistic personality disorder triggered by low self-esteem. This can be measured by micrometer - you can gauge the thinness of the skin. That's because for the narcissist, like the Sultan of Delhi, there is no real communion with others. The same psychosis applies to the Jihadi narcissists who declare war in the name of God.
Elias Canetti describes the ascendancy of the manipulative power figure in his book Crowds and Power, as well as the psychosis itself: "Names collect their own crowds ... The crowd which the seeker after fame envisages consists of shadows, that is, of creatures who do not even have to be alive as long as they are capable of one thing, which is to repeat his name."
Friends, it appears to be a horses ass no matter which way you look at it. The wild ride is underway. Hence, we are keeping the internet domain name Trump.Rodeo which has been put on a loop to here until a future utility for it unfolds.
(Image - After Amano - Digitized watercolour and ink on paper - David Roberts)