The classic beauty pageant has served as a popular pastime for spectators as long as I can remember. Before the Bachelor(ette), it might have been the best TV had to offer as far as ocular experiences are concerned. Few competitions are more addictive, stealing the attention of even the strongest willed among us. There’s nothing better than parading across a stage in a revealing outfit, while the audience with a drooling gaze judges your value as a human in a format so shallow it fits on a punch card.
Of course, I’m talking about the coming midterm election season. This is when elected and want-to-be elected officials will prance across our screens, social media included, presenting themselves as idealistic versions of us, with a nice set of virtue signals, and of course our best interests in mind.
Of course, politics is not much with the punditry that takes place on the various virtual stages. Sometimes we get the two mixed up, mistaking the message of the liberal media for the message of the liberal elite. Journalists in my view are dedicated to bungling and boiling down messaging into a series of headlines and soundbites. Enough of these sound bites, and the general public is left confused on which point was the message of the politician and which was the conjecture of a journalist. You might call this the swimsuit competition because this is where everyone’s personal matters get exposed and criticized unfairly.
Word travels fast these days
It seems like the memes and reels are driving the news cycle as much as the news itself and it appears to be shaping worldviews as well, but information is information in whatever form you get it. I totally understand the modern day need to scan and move on because there’s just so much to process. That’s why “Let’s Go Brandon” is a more effective message than, say “Let’s go economic liberalism, and the championing of laissez-faire markets!”
It really is a privilege to live in a time when information travels as fast as it does. What I feel less privileged about is the part that isn’t traveling far. Instead of listening to what someone has to say, someone’s already strutting with pomp and circumstance to shut down the opposing view and distract us from its merits.
Case in point, while we have been talking about the doom befalling Ukraine, the Ukrainian President has been telling us to back off so he can get his red carpet pictures taken with his completely relaxed troops. Meanwhile Russia says “pay no attention to the 100,000 troops we’ve just mobilized” while claiming the US is the one igniting tensions with Ukraine. The message sways from "war is imminent" to "You're overreacting. Leave us alone while we hack some elections."
This could be a more important matter to us here in the US if we weren’t facing more pressing issues at home. We’ve got music playlists to rebuild. Our Canadian rock idol of the 70s, mister stick-it-to-the-man himself, Neil Young has yanked his music off of Spotify because he insists they cancel Joe Rogan. He's insisting that the Spotify cannot have Neil Young if they are also going to continue having the Dark Web podcaster Joe Rogan publishing conversations with doctors that push an anti-the-man narrative. Translation "you can't keep on rockin in the free world that particular way".
Neil Young's fit throwing didn't force their hand, but James Blunt did. The singer of “You are Beautiful” fame threatened to release more music onto Spotify if they don’t act swiftly to take Joe Rogan down. The threat of another James Blunt song endlessly streaming itself onto our every playlist has finally gotten Spotify to act. Their response was swift and decisive. They’ve published a policy and a warning label. Spotify didn't yank Rogan's opinion podcast, so Neil is out, and so are a chunk of their customers. Customers with better opinions evidently.
On the topic of school children being used as pawns for political jockeying, a lot more is being yanked. And that’s any book with the word “damn” in it, or something that could possibly contain any American History about race. Obviously, for fear it might make a kid cry under their mask (that is, if it’s even legal to require someone to wear a mask, especially while crying).
Not only are books being banned from schools, but laws are being written and discussed in State Houses across the country (and most concentrated in the bible belt) to block such books legally. Because It’s an understandable fear that things could get out of hand if teachers try to pull a fast one and teach a kid about history. As we all know, knowledge is dangerous.
If they’re smart, they’ll block the internet next, which is even easier to use than a book.
Pageantry instead of honest debate
What we’re seeing here is a ceremonial display of “my information is better than your information, so take down your information or I’ll tag you with a warning label and a state law.” The protocol is to present your idea and criticism as publicly as possible to ensure that everyone knows how much more righteous you are, and how dangerous opposing ideas are to our safety. I'm not going to say "China much?" but I have seen this kind of censorship somewhere else. We just happen to have two sides vying for the crown.
Each side is parading across a proverbial stage, claiming to be more virtuous, and more beautiful, but on the inside, they’re all ugly.
The judges are you and me, and while we’re hoping their answers to our toughest questions are "work to bring about world peace”. Unfortunately, the answers to the really important questions tend to be abysmal, and unless we're looking for good television, it doesn’t look like we’re getting the answer we were hoping for.
Because of that, we’re all going to vote. And by “all” I mean, all of us whose vote isn’t conveniently carved out by a novel election law implemented just in time to lower turnout. And when we vote, we’re going to vote our conscience. And by “conscience” I mean whatever inspires us coming from the voices we trust. If the critics are shutting down the voices they don't trust, it will serve to only increase the distrust in return. The real story sometimes tells us that the people we don’t want to agree with actually have a point.
So when we find out who wins this year's Miss Information USA, let’s hope we are comfortable with our choices for the next few years.
Here’s to honest debate and a happy mid-term election.