Inevitably when the topic of the current state of political discourse comes up, it is agreed that it’s the Internet’s fault that it’s so bad right now.
Before we get into what’s to blame, let’s rewind this shit a bit.
When was political discourse in this country civil?
In May 1856, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks nearly beat to death Republican Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor. Brooks was upset because Sumner denounced slavery the day before on the Senate floor.
This is but one example of how low our political discourse has sunk over the last 244 years.
We owned people in the country. We committed genocide against Native American people. We had Jim Crow in which thousands of black people were lynched and millions terrorized by the KKK. Our politics in this country has always been disgusting. We fool ourselves into believing that we’re righteous when we are not.
But let’s bring the conversation back to today and the Internet.
Look at what technology does in every single area that it impacts. It creates specialization and fractions the institutions that currently exist.
Take cable TV for instance.
Before cable TV there were three channels – NBC, ABC and CBS. With cable and satellite TV there are hundreds of channels. Some of them just talk about animals.
The same thing is happening with the Internet and politics. Now that we have the capacity to read more than our local newspaper or watch the national nightly news on TV, we can pick and choose the news we want to consume.
So logically people are going to gravitate towards the news organizations that tell them the things they want to know. It’s also why the nightly news used to draw 30 million viewers and now it gets 10 million.
So racists read The Daily Stormer, The Daily Caller, Brietbart and Fox News. Liberals are going to read the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Motherjones, The Nation and watch MSNBC.
Does that mean we’re all less informed now than we were 150 years ago? Absolutely not. There’s never been a time in which more information being made more readily available and accessible hasn’t resulted in a more informed populace. It’s just not how things work.
Now I know what you’re thinking. But Fox News viewers believe shit that just isn’t true. That’s true. People are being manipulated but that’s also not a new phenomena, it’s just that thanks to the Internet those ill-informed people can broadcast their ignorant ideas on Twitter and Facebook.
The fact is, people who are on the wrong side of history want us to believe that the sky is falling and we can’t trust anything. They are going to tell us that none of us knows what we’re talking about and that we’re all just sheeple gobbling up the chum that is tossed into the water.
It’s all FAKE NEWS.
However, the Internet is not the reason why our political discourse has degraded. In fact, I will argue that there’s nothing wrong with our political discourse. The reason our politics looks so disgusting is that Republicans have elected a bunch of racists, homophobes, bigots and fascists to congress and the White House.
So when these people, like Steve King or Donald Trump speak, it’s a horrific experience to listen to. That doesn’t mean our political discourse is shit. Is it horrible to listen to Kamala Harris speak? Is it horrible to listen to what Cory Booker has to say? No, because they’re not assholes like King and Trump.
What that means is that the Republican party is a dark, disgusting place. What’s going to end up being the result of the Internet’s impact on politics is that instead of the GOP and the Democratic party, there are going to be more political parties in the future.
Where we had only NBC, CBS and ABC, we now have the Food Network, Comedy Central and Animal Planet.
It’s what happens to everything that is impacted by technology.
It’s taking a bit longer for political parties to fractur because there are very powerful people who don’t want it to change and there’s no profit motive to create a new political party. In fact, there’s a strong disincentive to do so.
Eventually the Republican party is going to reap in a bad way allowing racists and bigots to capture the party. They’re going to need to form a new party.
It will happen to the Democratic party too, but it may take longer simply because the disagreements among liberals like Bernie Sanders and establishment Democrats like Hillary Clinton are much more nuanced than the differences between Steve Schmidt and Steve King.