“This current shitshow is brought to you by Roger Ailes.
“When I was growing up in the 80s, politics was more like a thing that came up a few months before a presidential election, and people would talk about who they might vote for and why, and you would freely choose whichever candidate you liked best. Totally dullsville. Not like now, where who you think you are as a person determines your vote.
“Way back in the late 80s, a guy named Morton Downey Jr had a hit talk show. The format was, Downey was an abrasive chain-smoking loudmouth asshole who’d invite people from two opposing sides of a story to talk it out. He’d pick a side and verbally abuse them and get the audience all riled up with outrage on his side. Outrage! This was the key component, the sense of you or someone like you getting screwed and there’s the guy doing the screwing, it’s one of our most powerful emotions.
“Cue Roger Ailes. He clocked Downey’s shtick, put it in a suit and tie and sat it behind a desk in a room with bookcases and flags and called it Rush Limbaugh. Of course it was a smash hit. With Limbaugh, Ailes used outrage to manipulate his audience with what appeared to be a respectable format. In reality it was as absurd a cartoon spectacle as Downey or pro wrestling or televangelism. But say what you want, they made politics a lot less boring.
“Five days a week, people would flock to ‘Rush Rooms’ at bars and cafes to listen to his radio show, and/or tune into his TV program at night. The secret to its success was that, finally, there was a person to blame for all your troubles, and it was the Liberal. Outrage! The Liberal was out to destroy your entire way of life!
“Ailes used the astonishing success of Limbaugh to start Fox News, where he cultivated an entire stable of Limbaugh clones, all working the same shtick. It, too, was a tremendous success.
“Working closely with the Republican party and Rupert Murdoch, they transformed the entire political narrative. Outrage sold like gangbusters, so much more than boring old serious policy discussions. No longer did you need to have a coherent plan for anything in government – to win, all you needed was an identifiable enemy for every occasion. Who’s to blame for what ails you? Who’s trying to destroy your way of life? It’s always going to be the blacks, the Mexicans, LGBT, Muslims, immigrants, terrorists, atheists, abortion doctors, big-city elites, Obama, Hillary, college professors, college students, Hollywood, the French, etc etc etc, but one way or another all jammed under the big umbrella of Liberal. Not the Asians because that’s the “good” ethnic stereotype you can use, and never the military or the Jews if you want to stay in prime time, but pretty much any group who’s not white, straight, Christian and rural, they could use to work their audience into a sweet, profitable lather.
“That’s why Republicans don’t really have any substantive policies to implement now, even when they control the whole works. They don’t have any ideas to actually do anything, all they know after 25 years of this is how to generate outrage.
“Now the biggest problem with hammering on this outrage for so long is, people take it real seriously. It becomes part of their identity. It’s like you root for the sports team from the area you live in. You don’t choose that team because you carefully analyzed all the available teams in a big spreadsheet, it’s just fun to feel like part of a tribe with your neighbors. And you’ve heard all these terrible stories over and over and over about all the terrible Liberals out there, so you, along with your neighbors, are simply not the kind of person who would have any truck with people like Those People. It’s got nothing seriously to do with sitting down and analyzing political policies and the best way to run things, it’s just sports and identity.
“So keep turning the screws on that concept bit by bit for 25 years, and where we are now was always inevitable. Trump says he could shoot people and not lose his base. Just today, 60% of Trump voters still say there’s nothing that could ever ever never ever turn them against Trump. Well of course. It doesn’t matter to them what he actually does or doesn’t do because it was never about that in the first place. It was only ever about sticking it to whoever caused all this outrage that day – because if Those Terrible Liberal People are all up in arms screaming about what a scumbag Trump is, he must be doing something right, right?
“And on the far side of that envelope, there’s the fascists. Implicit in the nature of authoritarianism is the use of or at least the credible threat of violence. The far right, personified by Trump, is the father archetype: what he says goes, or else. The nazis marching in the street these days are the ‘or else.’
“People like to bitch about PC SJWs and whatever, but let’s face facts, we just don’t like being lectured about not saying “retard” anymore. Nobody’s going to come to your house and burn a cross in the yard if you keep saying it, though. At least I hope not, for my own sake. There’s not a lot of vegans shooting up churches and mosques or shooting people at protests or stabbing people to death on trains or running people over with cars. At least not yet. It’s almost sure to happen sooner or later. But Antifa, as the name clearly states, is only a reactionary movement against the spread of violent fascism given increasing signal boost in recent years.
“But this is the most important and least-discussed principle behind the whole shebang: in the post-Ailes world, liberals are not just people with different ideas about what’s best for the community or country, they’re dirty dirty Liberals who want to destroy your way of life. Keep drilling that into peoples’ heads for long enough, and a few of them will start to act on it. And then those dirty liberals will start to fight back. And then the nutjobs will say, we gotta stop these dirty liberals, now they’re getting violent, and the Outrage Machine will eat that story up from both sides.
“Presto, now you’ve got a low-level civil conflict simmering to open warfare. Who’s got the power to dial it back? Doesn’t seem like anyone can at this point. The power of the state can at least keep it somewhat in check… but funny enough, the current president is doing everything possible to undermine the authority of the state, so how much longer will that hold? It’s notable that Glenn Beck had a change of heart and tried to pull back from the precipice, and what happened? His fans bid him the fuck goodbye and found themselves another outrage supplier.
“It’s possible this all bottoms out and people demand pulling back on the controls and getting out of the civil war death spiral. I mean, it doesn’t take much to look around and realize how few people anywhere in the world have ever said, ‘gosh, sure am glad we had that civil war.’ But as long as outrage sells, it will… and it only takes a handful of people captive to their chosen media who spin out sideways on it and do a bunch of damage, so… good luck with all that, America.
“Ironic thing is, the Outrage Machine could be turned around and used for good. Be outraged at the rich who actually are taking all your wealth and jetting off to their bunkers leaving you behind to die in the wasteland they created, for example. Be outraged at a system that led us straight into extinction. Imagine the possibilities, instead of this weapon being used against each other. It’s a damn shame.
“Now what this means for collapse… well, I don’t think civil war’s ever been kind to a nation’s infrastructure and development, and if we’re sliding into the peak oil climate change economic collapse future at the same time, it’s just that much more reason to be pessimistic. Although on the other hand, should the state weaken sufficiently, civil conflict may provide opportunity for more self-governing enclaves, some of which might be dedicated to surviving into the future. That may be the most optimistic scenario, really. Even if we could pull back to the pre-civil conflict status quo, our systems will come unglued some other way anyway.”