Noted historian John Titor predicted that the new American revolution would start in 2004. He didn't explicitly mention Harry Knowles as one of the causes, but it was implied.
by Dr. Albert Oxford, PhD.
Revolution does not begin with spilled blood and falling buildings. It begins in the minds of the countless uninformed dumbasses required to fuel any good uprising. If you were to go back to see the seeds of revolt germinating in any of history's rebellions, you would need only to listen to the contentious conversations of the common man, in the pubs and at the university and in the bath houses.
But today we have the internet, wherein millions converse in virtual pubs and universities and bath houses and here is where we see the first tendrils of smoke on the American meltdown fuse.
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We out here in the rest of the world knew it was just a matter of time. Your country was born, after all, over a bloody revolt based on a tax on soft drinks. Violent defiance is etched into your DNA. You long to be the Luke Skywalker that destroys the Death Star, the Neo who brings down Skyynet. You do not look for common ground and compromise; you hunt for the one irreconcilable difference that will justify becoming the gun-slinging Diehard Mclean of your dreams.
Do a Google search for terms like "Bush" and "message board" and "Haliburton" and "fuck you" and browse the hundreds of thousands of internet forum postings that result. There is an acidic ocean of online screaming matches out there boiling as we speak, Right vs. Left, Bush vs. Anti-Bush, being conducted by millions of apoplectic web surfers. And everywhere you see that imaginary line on which every American thinks he must stand to one side or the other, like picking teams for an American game of Freedom Ball or whatever it is you play there in your country.
I see seven Information-Age factors behind the brewing conflict that will ultimately undo America:
1. The Online Confederacy of Dunces:
or How the Web Killed Journalism and Then *%#&¤?§*ed on Its Corpse
There was a time when the average American's TV news intake consisted of one of three nightly newscasts, each hosted by a grizzled old journalist who had tasted mud clots with foot soldiers in Korea. Their print news came from their local newspaper. You see, back then not just any Harry Knowles* could take to the keyboard and command a gargantuan audience.
*Note: For the purpose of this discussion, a "Harry Knowles" will be defined as any uneducated new-media opinion jockey with a massive American following rivaled only by the author of the McDonald's Value Meal menu. I could have easily referred to this person as a Matt Drudge but have chosen not to for arbitrary reasons.
There was a sort of stupidity filter back then, so that the fringe rantings and Conspiracy
theories could be pushed to the margins where normal people were ashamed to tread. You all had your differences, but all sat down to watch the same news and thus were fed the same worldview.
With the birth of cable and talk radio and, most significantly, the internet, the sphincter of news has been stretched wide to allow a torrent of bad journalism to flow forth. It turns out that, after all, Americans were better off with no information than this flood of bad information in which you now float. The ignorant citizen was content in the knowledge that he was ignorant. Today's American, on the other hand, spends much of the day reading blatantly-biased ox droppings and then thinks he is well-read as a result.
The ignorant can be trusting and thus can be governed. The misinformed are impossible to govern because they cannot be talked out of the skewed rubbish they think they know. For example, by 1998 I was receiving e-mail forwards declaring that Bill Clinton had commited 49 murders. A great many of my educated American colleagues forwarded me this message with the subject line, "makes you think, doesn't it?"
No, it does not. Now, I shall not engage in some partisan bicker over the moral character of your former president. For the sake of discussion, let us assume that Mr. Clinton was more ruthless and bloodthirsty than Vlad the Impaler. It would still be a physical impossibility to so perfectly cover up that many killings disguised as "suicides" and "accidents" under the eyes of local law enforcement and federal investigators and scandal-hungry journalists and opportunistic Republicans in your Parliament.
Or, to put it more simply, Mr. Clinton was unable to keep the wraps on the tongue-lashing of his Minority Whip by an intern, but he was able to perfectly silence a crime 1,000 times as large and involving 1,000 times as many knowing parties? And it was kept absolutely hidden from all of the hundreds of rather powerful men who were desperate to see him led from the Oval Office in handcuffs? Everyone, in fact, except some anonymous e-mailer?
In the bizarre hall of mirrors that is the internet, it is difficult to catch flying dung. In a culture where 20% of the people get their news exclusively from late-night talk shows and Saturday Night Live, the concept of what is or is not a credible source of news vanishes. On the internet, it all looks the same.
I have a double doctorate in American Historical studies and Internet Analysis. Could I not also write this if I were some 14 year-old masturbation enthusiast or a ranting homeless man posting from the public library whilst flicking lice out of his beard? How would you know?
Even worse, the internet disease has spread to the actual paper pulp publications. They were losing readership to the New Media and had to market to this new demographic of "stupid" readers. A wonderful example of this emerged in the Summer of 2004 with the Swift Boat Veterans controversy, wherein a group of John Kerry's comrades from Vietnam came forth and alleged that Mr. Kerry's war medals were won, not based on valor in combat, but on a single victorious pie-eating contest.
This is a story that would never have seen the light of day in the old days of actual journalism, but was pushed by the Drudge Report and talk radio until the ink-press publications were forced to acknowledge it. The new pseudo-media dragged the old media to a place that, right or wrong, it had no desire to go. Which brings me to...
2. The Online Confederacy of Dunces, II:
The Oliver Stone Factor
The phenomenon that will form the first real cracks in your Democracy begins here. There has begun a strange sort of anti-cynicism where the average American will believe nothing the politicians from the opposing party tell them, but will believe any piece of rubbish they read on a website ("Socialists are building concentration camps to imprison American patriots!" "The 9/11 plane that flew into the Pentagon was an elaborate hoax!") as long as it supports the political party they have aligned themselves with.
Now, a storm of talk radio jockeys and a herd of bloggers on both sides of the aisle and have brought the craziness into the main arteries of the politicial zeitgeist. Thus, today one can also crack open an issue of a Florida newspaper, settle in for a boring article about the electoral college, and then run into this proverbial turd in the punchbowl:
"After Bush's theft of the 2000 election and his clear swoon in the electoral vote tabulations, he is widely believed to have a dirty trick up his sleeve. Pakistan may have trapped Osama bin Laden in an Afghan cave and be planning to help Bush produce him – three years late – just before Nov. 2. A few months ago, there were press rumors that trucks hired by the United States were shipping weapons of mass destruction into Iraq, for timely discovery. And the way has been prepared to postpone the election if we suffer another major terror attack."
Again, let us assume that George Bush is a supernova of evil. And let us assume that he is the most cunning genius ever to have walked the planet. This journalist would casually have us believe that the same man whose people cannot keep the UK press from filming him undressing by a window can keep what would be this century's most explosive secret (the capture of the most important world figure since Adolf Hitler, or the buying and smuggling of WMD's, the single most illegal and monitored substances on the planet) to the point that not a single person involved speaks out.
Never mind the hundreds of people involved in such an operation. American military and civillians at home and in the Middle East, Pakistanis living in the area, Afghanis living in the area, journalists from America and Al Jazeera covering the war, politicians in all of the involved countries. Hundreds of people, many of whom detest Bush like a vampire detests the sun, all safely holding in the one secret that could undo his presidency and change the course of human civilization away from what many see as a one-way train to Destructionburg.
On top of all that, Al Queada doesn't release a tape proclaiming that their leader has been captured and that Bush is keeping it secret? The one revelation that could bring down their nemesis more effectively than an assassin's bullet?
Of course I know that your opinion on this matter is based entirely on which side of the Imaginary Line you stand. This is my point; to dismiss any rumored charge against Bush in the presence of certain opinionated people brings a response of, "that man's capable of anything!"
Anything? What if I told you he was capable of flying? That Bush can, in fact, fly around the Earth so fast that he can reverse time itself, so that he could go back and, say, stop left-wing civil rights leader Rudolph Gunderson from being born? What? You've never heard of Rudolph- OH NO! It has already happened! Go e-mail your friends!
3. The Division Bell
Rise of the bloggers
Let us say that tomorrow one of your good friends mentions that the people in the next town over are all thieves, and tells a story of how his spinning rims were stolen off of his SUV while he was still in it. Then, another friend relates a similar story, having his wallet stolen while walking the street. Your Uncle, the next week, says he won't even travel to parts of said town any longer, because he had his shoes stolen, and he was running at the time.
Would you or would you not lock your doors when travelling to this other town?
Did you buy your first DVD player because you read about it somewhere, or because one of your friends got one and thus made you want one? Does not the first real urge to buy the newest video game console come only after you play one at a friend's house?
Americans are sponges that absorb the opinions of their peers. The more popular the peer, the more you are influenced, the more you admire and adopt their opinions as your own. My American goth nephew did not pick out his clothes by chance. He picked them out because they are what other goth teens are wearing.
He picks his opinions the same way.
Who is influencing the opinions of American youth today? It is a core of cyber peers, massively popular untrained and uneducated writers on the internet that, together, command an audience of tens of millions of future voters and leaders and fighters. They do not have editors or real publishing costs. They answer to no one. They relate to the web surfers as friends.
And, they are morons.
They are an army of Harry Knowles. Together they have a readership that dwarfs the New York Times. So let us eavesdrop on the Harry Knowles who best symbolizes the Harry Knowles phenomenon: Harry Knowles. His is only a movie fan site, right? Well let us see what he is telling his followers about the big-budget Will Smith vehicle I, Robot:
"So, of course the liberal in me appreciated and enjoyed the parallels as just another in the constant subtle and not-so-subtle attacks on the future un-President and his mandates."
That's right; while high off the crack of his own self-importance, Harry turned his review of a zombie movie starring CGI robots in place of zombies into a treatise on the evils of the Bush administration. And he did it for a horde of readers who do not watch Meet the Press. For hundreds of thousands of them, that review was the only reading they did about politics that day.
Now observe how Harry divined a "vote Democrat" message in The Village:
"The leaders of the village create monsters which they use to scare people into doing certain things and behaving certain ways. They use colors to indicate whether the villagers should be afraid or if they should feel safe. If anyone starts to question the leaders, they arrange for the monsters to attack, reinforcing the fear. Sound familiar yet?"
...or the obvious anti-War On Terror message in The Matrix: Revolutions:
"Neo is for his people... basically, he’s Bin Laden living in a cave somewhere… and the Machines… they’re drilling to put a stop to it all... What is Agent Smith? Essentially, Agent Smith was Communism."
(And lest I be accused of bias, here's a helpful gent explaining how Spider-Man 2 shows us why we should vote Bush.)
No reader would admit to being influenced by Mr. Knowles' comments, just as no one will admit to being influenced by advertisements (interesting how all of you Americans decided you needed SUV's all at once). Their opinions show the influence, however. Do they know what background Knowles has in politics? Do they know if Matt Drudge has a journalism degree? Is this man a doctor of Political Science
with 30 years in the field, or an angry teenager? What are the credentials of Scott "my website wasn't allowed into a screening of The Passion and thus I'm writing a column about how all Christians are masochists and suicide bombers" Holleran?
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A Hall of Mirrors, indeed.
It would be sad, if it were not so amusing. My web search turned up hardly a non-partisan bit of reading material. One random example is this from the long-time satirical newspaper The Onion, which has completely broken format for the first time to issue bone-dry, joke-free diatribes on the importance of voting Democrat:
"Why do we purport to be fighting in the name of liberating the Iraqi people when we have no interest in violations of human rights--as evidenced by our habit of looking the other way when they occur in China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Syria, Burma, Libya, and countless other countries? Why, of all the brutal regimes that regularly violate human rights, do we only intervene militarily in Iraq? Because the violation of human rights is not our true interest here. We just say it is as a convenient means of manipulating world opinion and making our cause seem more just."
Goodness! I have injured my sides from laughing! I cannot type because mirth shakes my fingers as if I were infected with Malaria! Ahem.
Note that I did not link to the actual article which rests in the for-pay archives of the newspaper. I linked instead to one of the many, many bloggers who quoted it as if it were profound insight from an expert. My children, the person who wrote that is a comedy writer. They likely have no education on the subject beyond the intelligent-sounding phrases they have memorized from the partisan websites they read, also authored by writers who are not in any way experts. And so on.
Go ahead, browse around. A Google search turned up this inconsequential parody movie review site called Mr. Cranky, a one-joke premise based on a fictional cartoon critic who dislikes every film. Or, at least until Farenheit 9/11:
"Given the amount of controversy this film has generated, it seems wrong to attack it with the usual Mr. Cranky disdain, rather than addressing some of the issues it raises and leting the members of our little online community debate them."
This is the atmosphere; this is the intellectual air the American youth are breathing. Comedians large and small are terrified of skewering their own side for fear that it could swing the precious few undecided voters, turn the election, and end the world. Make no mistake; when even the satirists proclaim the current situation too serious for satire, your society has lost its pressure release valve.
The needle is hovering in the red and I am slowly stepping back. This is a new suit.
4. The Wrath of the Cyber Mob
or "Attack of the Talkbackers"
The problem, of course, does not lie solely with the Harry Knowleses. For every Harry Knowles, there are ten or twenty thousand message board prowlers who slurp up his every word and then spit it back on each other's faces in long mis-typed discussion threads. A Harry Knowles would not be Harry Knowles without them.
Understand, in the phenomenon of the Internet Message Board we have nothing less than a fundamental and momentous shift in human evolution. The diverse American races and social classes and idealogies are meeting each other on a personal basis, across land masses and at little expense, in a way not possible in the prior history of our planet.
And what we have found is that you hate each other.
Sure, you've always had ignorance and racism and xenophobia. They are as American as apple pie. But the vague, long-distance fear and loathing of stereotyped caricatures (the inner city gangster, the Mississippi redneck, the Canadian rapist) is a sort of lazy, passive hate. Many Americans will tell or laugh at racist jokes on one day, then play golf with an African-American friend the next.
But this new kind of intolerance is based on interaction, based on actually meeting the person and finding their ideas truly despicable on a personal level. And everywhere, you find the Imaginary Line. Try shopping for a book on Amazon.com. See how long the customer reviews go before they break down into partisan catfighting. Try not to snicker as you watch them dance to one side of the line or the other, like iron filings between two magnets.
5. Skipping History Class for Wrestling Practice
"We've got to save the world! Like Buffy!"
At each mention of the "Imaginary Line" some of you have shouted at your monitor, flecks of spittle landing on your screen, that this line is hardly "imaginary" since your nation itself is at stake with this upcoming election. After all, the whole world is aflame with bloody warfare! The American economy is in ruins!
Never mind that, around the world, the last calendar year saw the fewest people killed by war in 60 years. Never mind that the American unemployment rate is at 5.6% while the average European country is hovering at twice that or more. Since when have you Americans allowed information to ruin a perfectly good outrage? Was it boxes of anthrax that were dumped in the harbor during the Boston Tea Party? Was it censored Bibles? Child slaves? No. It was tea.
The truth is that not a single one of your current problems is new. Your country has been at war or preparing for war pretty much every minute since 1772. Your country has always been clumsy and oafish in its foreign policy. Your country has always had sharp, bitter differences on just how much your police are allowed to beat minorities in order to gain a confession.
No, this new, violently sharp contrast between one side of the Imaginary Line and the other is purely an invention of the herd. And no wonder; America's public schools have vomited two generations' worth of children who think the Ottoman Empire is a very specialized furniture store. Thus every disagreement that arises is amplified because both sides think it is new and unprecedented and that the fate of the world rests solely on its resolution.
Your country reminds one of a young married couple two hours into a screaming match that originated over who forgot to put the toilet seat down. "But...I could have fallen into the bowl! And gotten an infection from your rancid feces! And the infection could have spread until I died! You TRIED TO KILL ME!"
6. Jaws IV
Now it's personal
Perhaps when historians look back on the origins of the Second American Civil War they'll unearth this Ted Rall column, giving instructions to New Yorkers about how to treat the visiting delegates for the Republican National Convention:
"Like the hapless saps whose blood they sent to be spilled into Middle Eastern sands, they will be given intentionally incorrect directions to nonexistent places. Objects will be thrown in their direction. Children will call them obscene names. They will not be greeted as liberators... some groups are encouraging liberal-minded New Yorkers to volunteer for the city's squad of official greeters. Creatively altered maps of streets and subways will be handed out to button-clad stupid white men. Other saboteurs wearing fake RNC T-shirts will direct them to parts of town where Bush's policies have hit hardest. Rumor has it that prostitutes suffering from sexually transmitted diseases will discourage the use of condoms with Republican customers."
Is Ted Rall an analyst with decades in public policy? A well-known Sociologist? A Senator from Nevada? So was he joking when he wrote the above? Who can say? Maybe we should ask the man who decided to attack a delegate on the sidewalk near a New York theater.
Above: Cartoonist Ted Rall offers thoughtful criticism
This is an important but fine distinction that Americans are no longer able to make, between political disagreement and active personal animosity. Also realize that more and more Americans are unable to draw the line between personal animosity and spraying their neighboring cubicles with an assault rifle. Could the concept of Road Rage have been invented anywhere else?
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And do not be fooled; to proclaim openly in mainstream publications that you must seek out followers of the other side and hurt them, even if in small, petty ways, is a very significant step down a very steep slope. In upcoming years, this will become the rule. Democrats, if you see a Republican on the side of the road by a stalled car, do not stop to help them. Republicans, if you are a doctor and a known Democrat comes into your waiting room, make them wait. Send them home without pain medication. Give them knotted stitches that will form an ugly scar.
Democrats, ask applicants subtle questions that will allow you to weed out Republicans for employment. Republicans, leave the brake line loose on the Democrat's car when it's in for repairs.
The rationalization for all of this will be easy. "He was a (Republican/Democrat)! He was actively supporting an agenda that would destroy the nation! In harming him, I discouraged him and others from being (Republicans/Democrats) and thus helped save the country."
I know you believe I am melodramatizing here. After all, he was joking, right?
That's okay. Your inability to smell the smoke from your own burning basement is part of the fun, and I don't have to live there.
Look around you. Turn on the television. Comic Larry David was joking, of course, when his character on Curb Your Enthusiasm (named "Larry David") refused to have sex with a willing girl after he found out she was a Bush supporter. She supports an evil agenda, thus she is personally loathsome and should be treated accordingly. He was joking, in exactly the same way your grandfather was joking when he said that he loves blacks and that everybody should own one.
7. Electile Dysfunction
"Well, I'm picking up my Democracy Ball and going home!"
Here, my friends, is where the end begins.
Quantum scientists say that in the alternate parallel universe where Al Gore became president, it turns out that things are no more tranquil than they are here.
There, the Republicans have spent the last four years decrying Gore's illegitimacy, and the Democrats have been the ones pointing out that, after all, your Supreme Court has the power to rule in such matters by your very constitution (not that any public-educated citizen can quote it) and that the Republican rabble should abide by their decision as good citizens and rally behind the new President for the greater good of the country.
There is only one reason why in the last few bits of this article there were more examples of angry leftist fury than right. They are not in power. If Mr. Kerry is elected, the right will lash out with the exact same Moore-ish fire (or did you miss Ann Coulter wishing that John Kerry had served at a time when "fragging" would put a stop to officers like him). In the event of a Kerry victory I could then come back and display many examples of their shrill and mindless anger, if not for the fact that your nation will be in ashes by then.
No election will make the Imaginary Line go away, because the upcoming election will be close enough that the losing side, whichever it is, can claim shenanigans. This is due to the purely coincidental fact that there are almost the exact same number of Democrats as Republicans in your country.
The upcoming election, regardless of the result, will not spackle the cracks in the Statue of Liberty. The winners this November will declare that a great wrong has been avoided and that indeed Democracy works. The losers will simply say the results are not valid and will declare that Democracy itself has failed and that they do not consider the man to be President (see the banner ad to the right).
As proof, I offer the most chilling piece of information in my arsenal. A recent survey showed less than half of the people were confident their vote would be counted in the upcoming election. Guess which half. If that half sees their man win this time, then it will of course be the other half who claims the voting was rigged.
And there it is. The end. In a Democracy, only the belief that you can boot the bum out of office keeps the guns safely in the Gun Box. In America, half of the voters believe their vote will be stuffed into a stranger's anus and farted into the river. Their belief is based entirely on whether or not their candidate wins.
For example, witness this, from the same Florida newspaper I quoted earlier:
"...even scarier – 98 million U.S. ballots will go into computers which could be used to falsify the results, leaving no paper record available for recounts. It is widely believed that Republican operatives hacked electronic voting machines in Georgia and Minnesota in 2002, giving their party control of the Senate. A week before the Georgia vote, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed popular Democratic Sen. Max Cleland ahead by five points, but he mysteriously lost to his GOP foe, Saxby Chambliss, by seven points. Georgia was the first state to use electronic voting devices almost exclusively.
In Minnesota, Sen. Paul Wellstone was a shoo-in for re-election when he died in a plane crash. Democratic former Vice President Walter Mondale, who led significantly days before the election, replaced him. Shockingly, Republican Norm Coleman was the recipient of an unexpected 11-point vote shift on Election Day – but no one checked the vulnerable chips that tabulated the votes."
Sure. I mean, think of all the Republican hackers you know. I am quite certain that it would be no problem at all for Mr. Bush to pay a team of them to crack the tens of thousands of ballot machines and thwart the American democracy in what would literally be the biggest Presidential scandal in history. After all, it's "widely believed." And again, as long as none of these shady money-under-the-table cyber mercenaries never, ever confide in a single person about it, ever, the plot will forever go uncovered. Oh, and as long as none of them are ever arrested and no Democrat computer expert examines the- ah, forget it.
I know that many of you believe this is hyperbole. After all, a rational and level-headed and civilized people such as yourselves will not resort to violence just because you believe that Satan himself rules from a throne in Washington D.C. and that the system has been altered to prevent you from overthrowing him. You'll probably calmly take steps, working through the system, to repair the situation through peaceful means. That is, after all, the American way.
Understand, this is not written as a warning in hope you Americans will pull through and heal your bitter wounds. I do not believe for one moment that is even possible. I say it only so that I may come back later and boast that I predicted it.
The truth is that for generations we have had a running bet going in England on when exactly the United States would implode. I had 2006 in the pool so I admit I have some motivation to see the bloodshed begin quickly. And when America falls, if you are lucky, perhaps your piece of land will be resurrected under the new flag of the European Union.
Gentlemen, it is not "if," but "when."
-Dr. Albert Oxford, PhD
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