Charlottesville, VA, 26 January, Year of Our Lord, 1800 -[r]epublican front runner Thomas J. Jefferson threatened to pull out of Thursday night’s Independence Hall/Fox and Hound Tavern debate if Fox’s beer-wench Regyn Skelley was not removed from the moderator’s panel. Jefferson carrier-pigeoned “It will never happen. Fox will drop Skelly if it means no T.J.. Nobody will watch w/o Jefferson.” Fox’s head hunter and brewmaster Roger “Golden” Ales retorted via the Fox illuminated sandwich board. “Regyn Skelley is an excellent wench, and the entire tavern stands behind her,” Ales said in a statement to The Federalist. “She will absolutely be on the tavern floor on Thursday night.” This is the third time Jefferson has threatened to bail on a debate. In December his top rival for [r]epublican nomination, Aaron Burr, hinted he might play the “duel card” if Jefferson challenged his “likability” again.
The above reads like a satire from The Onion but if the political class of 1800 behaved in the child-like manner the class of 2016 is behaving in, my money is on Burr. But Jefferson’s tawdry contest was conducted in what would amount to secrecy today, principally among the elites actually involved. Ours is conducted as a contest to see who can generate the most headlines in the shortest span of time. Add to this the ubiquitous, obsession-like attention these contests generate among the public now and you have to hold complicit the social media consumed hoi polloi who must react with lightning speed and wooden knife sharpness in order to be first to “post” the “truth” of the matter. Truth that they just happen to be in sole possession of. Consider the state of being that we are witnessing, where every man or she-man or man-she has their own “truth” (lower case intended). Though it is impossible to convey consistently from one day to the next, this “truth” can be projected onto the personalities of our elite ruling masters, reflected back and there, voila! the mastered becomes the master, so long as today’s “truth” doesn’t change by virtue of an opinion poll, snap-chat or stage assignment on the next GOP Debate.
It would be comforting to think the ‘Murican hoi polloi just escaped from the Bellevue Asylum for the Social Media Insane but alas, our collective slide into cognitive dysfunction seems to have its roots firmly wrapped around Jefferson’s “Tree of Liberty”; though it appears it was watered with rancid water drawn from a Scottish Locke. But I digress…
At the turn of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton recoiled in horror at the Americans’ election of the socialist, land grabbing, demagogue Republican “Teddy” Roosevelt (Ted Cruz with a beer belly).
“When modern sociologists talk of the necessity of accommodating one’s self to the trend of the time, they forget that the trend of the time at its best consists entirely of people who will not accommodate themselves to anything. At its worst it consists of many millions of frightened creatures all accommodating themselves to a trend that is not there. And that is becoming more and more the situation of modern England. Every man speaks of public opinion, and means by public opinion, public opinion minus his opinion. Every man makes his contribution negative under the erroneous impression that the next man’s contribution is positive. Every man surrenders his fancy to a general tone which is itself a surrender. And over all the heartless and fatuous unity spreads this new and wearisome and platitudinous press, incapable of invention, incapable of audacity, capable only of a servility all the more contemptible because it is not even a servility to the strong. But all who begin with force and conquest will end in this.
The chief characteristic of the “New journalism” is simply that it is bad journalism. It is beyond all comparison the most shapeless, careless, and colourless work done in our day.
I read yesterday a sentence which should be written in letters of gold and adamant; it is the very motto of the new philosophy of Empire. I found it (as the reader has already eagerly guessed) in Pearson’s Magazine, while I was communing (soul to soul) with Mr. C. Arthur Pearson, whose first and suppressed name I am afraid is Chilperic. It occurred in an article on the American Presidential Election. This is the sentence, and every one should read it carefully, and roll it on the tongue, till all the honey be tasted.
“A little sound common sense often goes further with an audience of American working-men than much high-flown argument. A speaker who, as he brought forward his points, hammered nails into a board, won hundreds of votes for his side at the last Presidential Election.”
I do not wish to soil this perfect thing with comment; the words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo. But just think for a moment of the mind, the strange inscrutable mind, of the man who wrote that, of the editor who approved it, of the people who are probably impressed by it, of the incredible American working-man, of whom, for all I know, it may be true. Think what their notion of “common sense” must be! It is delightful to realize that you and I are now able to win thousands of votes should we ever be engaged in a Presidential Election, by doing something of this kind.
Pity that Chesterton and Zuckerberg weren’t around to comment or show others how to comment, poorly, in 1800. It’s an even greater pity that we are separated from kinship by birth from Chesterton. The “madness of King George” is no longer scary as a Netflix, 1 star rated horror flick or as a system of government to live under.