Conservative extremists assert that condemnation of the President should be expressed by voting, not in the courts or through congress. The GOP’s mission is to expand presidential power, so that the president no longer has to worry about his actions being tempered by the courts or congress. Consequently, the sacred system of checks and balances that had been brilliantly built by our nation’s founders has been dealt a mortal blow. The U.S. Constitution now hangs in the absence of balance as though it has been placed on death row and is slated for execution in the morning.
Voting is now the only way the working-classes can assert criticism or condemnation of the president. Except one important detail is missing. Democracy cannot work when the American people cannot tell trash from what is true.
How do we know the difference between trash and the truth?
We can start with where our information comes from. More than looking at the newspapers we read or the TV stations we listen to, we need to pay attention to the news that we are getting on social media. We use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. We see the ads, memes, video clips and links to news websites. Not all of us know how these messages are made and who is paying for them.
Let’s take a look at who owns the media.
Uber-wealthy conservatives, predominantly white men, who have assets of at least $2 Billion, have invested their money very wisely—in the media. For example, Robert Mercer was a major funder of Trump’s presidential campaign and Breitbart News. Together with Steve Bannon, Robert Mercer also founded Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica is the technology data mining firm that breached Facebook’s terms of services by snagging our personal data and using it against us.
Cambridge Analytica learned a lot about us and our friends on Facebook: where we grew up, where we live today, our age, education, religion and race; whether we’re married or in a relationship; whether we are in good health or sick; what we wear, what we eat and definitely which political party we belong to. They used this personal information to send us messages in the form of ads, memes, video clips and links to news websites. They did this to influence us to vote for certain politicians, like Trump in 2016.
Today our data is still being used to create personalized political ads that target us and our friends. It sounds funny to say this, but the ads we receive are all different. The ad I receive is different from the ad that you receive. Even if you’re my friend on Facebook, I don’t know how you are being influenced and can’t discuss it with you, because only you can see your ad and you cannot see mine. These social media companies like Cambridge Analytica do this on purpose to keep us in the dark about what is really going on in America. And that’s not so funny. It’s evil.
It’s important for us all to know that there are lots of dark social media companies like Cambridge Analytica who create these ads to target us with trash, not the truth. These companies also unleash cyber bullies, cyber warriors, and troll armies, legions of trolls, to stalk us and humiliate us on Twitter and Instagram. Just like our President hurls insults and humiliates people who won’t be bullied by him, the dark social media companies do the same thing to us.
It is very different from when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President from 1933 to 1945. I bring up FDR because he was one of the first presidents who made it a habit to use the media while he was in office. Back then, the media consisted of print newspapers and radio. As a communication tool, the radio unified the working-classes with stories, programs, music and the news. President Roosevelt had his own program called Fireside Chats. President Roosevelt used Fireside Chats to explain his reasons for doing things and also to clear up any rumors. His Fireside Chats were so popular that 54 million people (of approximately 82 million adult Americans) listened to his chats on the radio.
FDR did have enemies. Conservatives, in particular, were not keen on his New Deal agenda that rescued America from the greatest economic crisis in history. Conservatives called FDR a socialist because he implemented social security and they made every effort to stop him from expanding benefits to the working-classes. FDR didn’t call people nasty names or talk trash on his radio show. On the flip side, Donald Trump’s hateful tweets have tested the limits of Twitter’s harassment policy.
FDR used his Fireside Chats to reassure the American people that everything was going to be okay. By the time America entered World War II, the American people had already developed a shared sense of purpose. America stood strong with our allies in Europe. FDR’s Fireside Chats did not divide America, they brought us together.
In the 1930s and 40s, radio was the equivalent of a town-hall type of gathering, where people interact and debate all sides of a controversial topic. Radio is very unlike the social media platform Twitter, where people quickly become haters screaming from the artificial bubbles of their digital tanks. Often, there is no way to distinguish a troll from a real human being. And there is little or no opportunity to reach across the digital aisle and agree to disagree.
Putting social media aside for a moment, it is good to look at other forms of media, especially newspapers and TV, to understand who owns them. Australian Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal…just to name a few. The mammoth Sinclair Broadcast Group owns or operates 193 stations in over 100 regional markets. The Group is owned by the sons of Sinclair’s founder, Julian Sinclair Smith. The Smith sons have given the majority of their political donations to the Republicans.
In the Age of Trash or Truth, the Sinclair Broadcast Group is infamous for having forced its regional anchors across America to deliver a one-minute-long script that railed against “irresponsible, one-sided, Fake News.” A media conglomerate showing solidarity with Trump’s ongoing war against our free press is scary in and of itself. What is truly scary is the danger of mixing genuine community news with deliberately deceptive messages. According to the Pew Research Center, almost 85 percent of Americans trust their local news stations more than they trust their families and friends. From this standpoint, Sinclair’s messaging is unconscionable and disgraceful.
I have a friend on Facebook who is largely conservative and a Republican. She frequently mutters, “I want the facts. Just give me the facts, so I can make up my own mind.” But facts do not matter when black and white is made grey, and grey is made black in white in the new America that is being buried in alternative facts. The truth becomes whatever we say it is, depending on whom we choose to listen to. One thing is certain, when a lie is repeated over and over, it becomes its own weird version of the truth. Case in point—some people believed Trump when he repeatedly said Barack Obama was a Muslim who was not born in the United States.
The current GOP leadership composed of Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr and Senator Mitch McConnell seek to gain maximum control over the working-classes by minimizing the disclosure of relevant or accurate information, i.e., the truth. Their intent is to undermine the credibility of the truth. It’s like Steve Bannon said, “Put a lot of shit out there.” The constant onslaught of lies being dumped on us makes us question what is real from what is not real. Once reality is distorted, we cannot distinguish between the trash and the truth. When the American people cannot tell trash from the truth, it’s not possible to sustain our Democracy.
Be forewarned! The storm clouds will gather in 2020! We will witness chaos, confusion and lies of epic proportion. Don’t be fooled. Put your ear to the ground and listen. Our future depends on it. There are good reasons why dark social media companies like Cambridge Analytica and conservative media outlets want to control our hearts and minds. Some uber-wealthy white conservatives believe that the working-classes do not have money because they are moral failures and inferior. They believe the working-classes in the city and in rural areas are stupid. And finally, they worry that one day the masses will rise up against them. That might very well happen if America cannot develop a shared sense of purpose and come together as one people under a strong leader who has integrity.
Let’s always ask ourselves as a sort of test: Does our leadership say things that divide us or unite us? When the going gets tough, keep in mind the words that one man wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. It will help us to stay on track to remember what is real, good and true about America.
Letter to the White House following the first fireside chat on the Banking Crisis, eight days after taking office (March 12, 1933)
2232. 78th Street Brooklyn, N.Y.
March 13, 1933.
Secretary to the President
The White House
Dear Sir: Being a citizen of little or no consequence I feel the utter futility of writing to the President at a time such as this, but I trust you will accept this letter in the spirit in which it was written. For me to sit down to write to any public official, whoever he may be, it must be prompted by a very special and appealing occasion or personality. That happened last evening, as I listened to the President's broadcast. I feel that he walked into my home, sat down and in plain and forceful language explained to me how he was tackling the job I and my fellow citizens gave him. I thought what splendid thing it would be if he could find time to do that occasionally. Needless to say, such forceful direct and honest action commands the respect of all Americans, it is certainly deserving of it. My humble and sincere gratitude to a great leader. May God protect him.
About Patricia Vaccarino
Patricia Vaccarino has written award-winning film scripts, press materials, content, books, essays and articles. She is currently writing a collection of essays NOTES FROM THE WORKING-CLASS. She has written two works of fiction about Yonkers: YONKERS Yonkers! A story of race and redemptionand its sequel The Heart of Yonkers (release date April 2020). Book Three in the Yonkers series is in development. She has an audience, of 40,000+ followers on social media. She divides her time between homes in downtown Seattle and the north coast of Oregon.