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Mean Culture, Mean Politics: A New Pandemic

By Shlomo Maital

  A long time ago, I stopped watching Reality shows, because they were actually Unreality shows. To raise ratings and gain viewers, shows like Survival, and Trump’s The Apprentice purposely encouraged betrayal, lying, cheating, conflict and utter cruelty, believing this is what viewers wanted to watch. This is the culture of meanness. It is not what I practice in life, nor those around me. And at the place where I work, if you behaved like the Reality shows, you would be out on your ear in minutes.

   Trump built a career in media by shouting “you’re fired!” – in the cruelest possible manner, to humiliate the candidates, on The Apprentice. Then, as President of the United States, he did the same – to his endless parade of hapless cabinet ministers. And in his recent 70-minute speech to the Republican Convention, he honed the politics of meanness, spewing hatred to the Democrats and to protesters and anyone who in any way opposed him.

   The culture of meanness, born on TV, is now succeeded by the politics of meanness and hatred. Your politics is defined by whom you hate, not whom you support and love. You seek election and re-election by fanning the flames of hatred. The ‘law and order’ mantra is a thinly-disguised slogan for hating people of color, who dare to protest and demand their rights.

   In his recent Op-Ed, New York Times columnist David Brooks paints a terrifying picture of where the politics and culture of being mean will lead us. And I have a dire prediction. Dnald J. Trump’s son Donald Jr. excelled in his Convention speech, in applying the politics of hatred, outdoing even his father (and that is very very hard to do)…and he will be the Crown Prince and successor to his vitriolic dad. So we will have a Trump fanning the flames of hatred for many many years to come (Don Jr. will be 43 in December).

     Here is an excerpt from David Brooks’ column. It is very disturbing… the way back to sanity from meanness is long, winding and difficult. Maybe even not feasible….:

“I’ve been thinking about the two families we’ve encountered over the past two weeks. The Biden family is emotionally open, rendered vulnerable by tragedy and driven by a powerful desire to connect. The Trump family is emotionally closed, isolated by enmity and driven by a powerful desire to dominate.   Occasionally this week one of the female members of the Trump family would struggle to stick her head above the muck of her family’s values and display some humanity. But Donald, Don Jr. and Eric showed no such impulse. Trump family values are mean world values. Mean world syndrome was a concept conceived in the 1970s by the communications professor George Gerbner. His idea was that people who see relentless violence on television begin to perceive the world as being more dangerous than it really is.   By the 1990s it was no longer violent programing that drove mean world culture, but reality television. That’s an entire industry designed to give the impression that human beings are inherently manipulative, selfish and petty. If you grow up watching those programs, or starring in them, naturally you believe that other people are fundamentally untrustworthy.  These days mean world culture is everywhere. It’s a siege mentality. Menace is everywhere. We’re on the brink of the cataclysm. This week’s Republican convention was a four-day cavalcade of the mean world alarmism.   Mean world thrives on fear and perpetuates itself by exaggerating fear. Its rhetorical ploy is catastrophizing and its tone is apocalyptic. The Democrats are not just wrong, many speakers asserted this week, they are “subverting our republic,” abolishing the suburbs, destroying Western civilization and establishing a Castro-style communist dictatorship. The Democrats, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida said, want to “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.” ”

 

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital

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