The competition for public attention of image over substance has been almost completely lost in today’s political world. Image has won, hands down. The profession of “spin-doctor”, which specialized in image over substance has been so successful that, as a profession, it is now redundant. Every politician/public figure, it seems, has become so good at it themselves, they don’t need any help from anyone, anymore. AND, in the process, the public has been brainwashed into accepting image over substance in almost all aspects of their lives.

      The specter of Hollywood, and what’s on television or films has become today’s reality for most people. In terms of information, Instagram and Facebook have become the new “trusted” sources for much of the world and, worse, much of the youth of the world.

      As we move into the U.S. Presidential election year of 2024, I listened to a program recently where the Editor of the Economist magazine stated that, worldwide, over 70% of the democracies will undergo elections this year. A fellow strategist, on the same program, stated another worrying fact; namely that statistical trends show that only 30% of incumbents will be re-elected, against the traditional rate of 70%. Negativism, fueled by uncontrolled social media exploitation of the public airwaves, was the underlying cause, he stated.

      The U.S. Presidential campaign in the U.S. is a perfect example of image over substance. Joe Biden has been one of the most successful presidents in U.S. history, both in terms of domestic and international policies and achievements – the two glaring exceptions, in my opinion, have been his blind support of the Israeli Government and his chaotic exit strategy from Afghanistan.

      His knowledge and experience have allowed him to pass major legislation at home, and to coordinate cohesive alliances with Europe against Russia and, in the Pacific, against China. Yet, he has the lowest approval ratings of any president in the recent past.

      Biden is 81. Social media is out-of-control, and the regular media are slaves to sensationalism. Neither will leave the fact of his age alone. To hell with what he has achieved, let’s show him stumbling on the steps of Air Force One – it sells more newspapers than the unexpected strength of the economy, and the equally unexpected and sustained growth of the job market, including the reduction in unemployment. One is tempted to say, “That isn’t fair”, but that’s a stupid comment where politics is concerned.

      It seems that the major focus of all political movements, and politicians, these days is “How many minutes of airtime can I get”, rather than how can I achieve something useful. Getting your face on television to say something sensational is the joint primary focus of both politicians and the media. It is a symbiotic dream and goal, which satisfies each other’s cravings. We, the general public, have been blackmailed/coerced into craving the same depraved state of affairs. Image over substance, always.

      Where does that leave us as a nation? We are heading towards a situation where we will have no idea what substance is and, what’s more, we won’t care. Whatever political nonsense is served up to us by the media, politicians, and social media, will become our reality and, far more important, the basis on which we will vote. Maybe democracy is doomed, if this process continues.

      I have traced the path towards autocracy in a previous blog, where I pointed out the almost identical paths that Julius Caesar, Hitler, Mussolini, and now Trump, followed, and are following, to achieve dictatorship – that is, getting the population to accept violence as a normal political process, followed by dehumanizing the opposition/enemy. I would now add that the concept of image over substance is the third, and perhaps the most insidious, element of this path towards dictatorship.

      We, the public, don’t stand a chance against this combined onslaught. We will have lost democracy, and freedom as we think we know it, before we even realize what’s happening. Will we, and the media, wake up in time to stop this downward trend?

      I have seen rumblings in the media, notably the January edition of the Atlantic magazine, that might give us some hope that they will wake up to the fact that their historical and relevant role as a guardian of public interest, and of democracy, is critical. For all of our sakes they must realize that they are not just another enterprise out to make money, ergo, “Sell more fucking newspapers”.

      Regulation of social media would be another possible way of curtailing this downward slide into dictatorship, but the only groups that can do that are politicians who are a culpable part of the problem.

      My conclusion is that it maybe the media, with the possibility of them resurrecting their fundamental mission and role, that can save us, and I wouldn’t bet the farm on that happening.

      My doomsday blog for the week!

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