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Upheaval Roils the Social Media World »

Troubles beset Musk and Zuckerberg well beyond TikTok Nov 12 2022

Two of America's otherwise hugely successful entrepreneurs have discovered that they are not immune to the consequences of hubris. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, who swallowed up Twitter, is finding it indigestible. Mark Zuckerberg, convinced he sees the future, has embarked on… Read More »


Trump’s Parting Advice? We Need a Patriotic Education »

Feb 2 2021

One could hardly imagine a greater dichotomy than Donald Trump setting up a commission to espouse "patriotic education" to restore American reverence of the nation's fundamental mores, versus same Donald Trump a few months later inciting an insurrection to overthrow… Read More »

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poles apart

We’re Stuck in Grand Mal Myopia »

It seems we are all living in 'bubbles' and can't see out Dec 17 2022

article illustration

Not the subject at first, but we'll get to it.)

Barton Swaim is a sometime columnist at The Wall Street Journal. He writes longer pieces than the rest of the opinion crew and a week ago came up with a near 2,000 word piece titled, "Why the ‘Smart’ Party Never Learns". Its premise is that "Democrats are increasingly the party of educated urban elites; the GOP belongs to the white working class" — nothing new to that — and worse, that Democrats and their Progressive cohort live in a bubble, a bubble so vast and prevalent that conservatives are enmeshed in it wherever they go.

They are captives of CNN at airports, they can't go to "a concert by the local symphony orchestra" without first having "to listen to a four-minute lecture about systemic racism or climate change before the music starts", and so forth. (Symphonies and travel so frequent that CNN gets on their nerves says Swaim's working class is doing very well).

He then gets to his point that for fellow conservatives, there is no escape, because for them "There is no bubble, no silo, for such a person".


Two days after Swaim's essay appeared, Talking Points Memo (TPM) launched a week-long series that promised "the definitive, real-time record of a plot to overturn an American election". The online publication had "obtained from multiple sources" all text messages from the personal cell phone and email accounts that Trump's final Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had turned over at the end of last year to the January 6 House select committee. You may recall that in April reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa got hold of 29 email and text exchanges between Meadows and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in which she fervidly implored Meadows to do everything in his power to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 election victory and hand Donald Trump a second term as president.

But now, in filtering the trove of 2,319 messages, TPM had identified 34 members of Congress, all of them Republican, texting Meadows in the days after the 2020 election up to the assault on the Capitol and beyond with much the same messages as Ginni Thomas's. “Fight until hell freezes over than [sic] fight them on the ice”, said one. "Mark, When we lose Trump we lose our Republic", said another. A third wrote, "Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall [sic] Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO.” This last was sent 11 days after the insurrection.

The 34 sent a total of 364 emails to Meadows. Besieged with exhortations to overthrow the government, Meadows very much echoed them in the 95 responses he managed to send out.

Let that sink in: 34 Republican members of the Congress of the United States urged that the Constitution and the vote of the American people be cast aside in a coup d'état to keep Donald Trump in power. When January 6 arrived, the number was far larger: 147 Republican Congress members voted to reject the choice of voters in key states with the intent of substituting fraudulent slates of electors that had their states steal the votes from Biden and switch them to Trump.


Swaim's claim that there is no bubble on the right manages to forget the enormous bubble (or “silos” or “echo chambers” or “information cocoons” that he lists) that we have been living in over the past several years in which some two-thirds of Republicans believe Trump's contention that the 2020 election was stolen from him, compounded by the truly frightening percentage of them who have been beguiled by QAnon conspiracies that began with the belief that Democrats conduct child sex-trafficking rings. The latest: Trump confidant Roger Stone believes that a "demonic portal" opened above the White House when Biden moved in. He was responding to a question about belief in the supernatural posed by conservative radio host Eric Metaxas. Stone said he and others had actually seen it floating above the White House "swirling like a cauldron."

No right-wing bubble, says Swaim. The question is how many?

Swaim's bubble is that the left-liberal outlook has saturated the American culture. It is omnipresent "in corporate boardrooms, in government agencies, in sports and entertainment institutions, in K-12 education bureaucracies, in universities and in media organizations". Swaim is irritated by…

"TV ads that subtly legitimize the latest sexual identity; the lefty sermonettes intoned at public events; the movies and sitcoms that virtually all accept trendy orthodoxies; the race-fixated version of American history promoted in public schools"

This pervasiveness has robbed especially the progressives of "any ability to criticize themselves or doubt their own righteousness". It's a valid argument with which we don't disagree but our critique has been to deny him restricting "bubble" to mean only the cultural zeitgeist when "swirling" about us are the millions on the right who cling to zealous beliefs in alternate realities.

Swaim could claim that the text messages from the 34 Congress members are out of date, but the right-wing bubble, also spoken of as a cult, still exists in force. When Donald Trump just recently complained that articles of the Constitution that have proved vexatious for him should be "terminated", one after another Republican in government affirmed devotion to the Constitution but could not bring themselves to criticize or even mention Trump. The few exceptions were those leaving office who got up their courage as they went out the door. And to bring up to date the 138 House members who voted for overthrow two years ago, what did Americans just do? Showing not the slightest misgivings about that criminal action, blind inside a Fox News/Newsmax/OAN bubble that next-to-never shows video of the Capitol assault, Republican voters sent just about all of these insurrectionists right back to Congress in the 2022 elections.

One of them, North Carolina representative Ted Budd, an avowed believer in the stolen election, Trump's backing thus bestowed, was even promoted to senator. He had texted Meadows that there were links between Dominion Voting Systems and billionaire George Soros (false, but right-wing doctrine requires bringing Soros in on every plot).

Then there is the bubble in which Americans in the tens of millions live who came to distrust science and refuse life-saving vaccines, instead trusting fringe websites that tell them that COVID vaccines have killed more than they have saved. Early on, the documentary "Plandemic" spread conspiracies that undermined the use of vaccines and masks. In red states resistance became a belligerent insistence that yielding to vaccine and mask mandates was an infringement of their constitutional rights of individual freedom. Choosing to fight a killer virus with the Constitution is an idiocy that has cost several hundreds of thousands of the more than one million Americans who have died from COVID. A significant percentage of the population still refuse to be vaccinated, with rates along the southernmost belt of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana hovering at about 50% as do rates in other rural states such as Wyoming. And now one learns that paranoia of government and public health mandates is fuelling a movement to abandon all vaccines — decades of their huge suppression of childhood illnesses jettisoned – a movement that promises the return of polio, whooping cough, chicken pox, mumps, and Rubella (measles). How is the rebellion against health science not a bubble, Mr. Swaim?

In a bid to win over the base that holds these suspicions, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now making a show of investigating vaccines. He personally doesn't believe this – you can see video montages of him extolling the vaccines and urging everyone to be inoculated in the early days of the pandemic – but now he is making an irresponsible play to the Trump "base", and at a time when the coronavirus is again gaining a winter foothold. On the right he is celebrated for getting COVID policy right, for defiantly "opening" Florida – the schools, public gatherings – which skirts the fact that nestled among all the Deep South states that have the worst COVID death counts per capita is Florida at #12. Whereas reviled by conservatives is California at #40.

Dinesh d'Souza's film "2000 Mules" became for a large subset of the stop the steal adherents proof that the 2020 election was won by fraud. The film was based on analysis of cell phone data that identified some 2,000 phones that had passed by drop boxes in battleground states too many times for them to be – in an Olympic jump to conclusion — anything other than "mules" dropping off phony ballots, all of which must of course be for Biden. That belief requires its companion that someone out there had enlisted 2,000 people – a "mule" is a drug deliverer — to stuff those fraudulent ballots, yet to our knowledge not one of them has come forward to reveal the plot. But the conspiracy bubble lives on.

Finally, at week's end, we were treated to Citizen Trump's "Major Announcement", his NFT (non-fungible token) series of "digital" trading cards he introduced in an unimaginably Brobdingnagian display of narcissism. Like a pitchman on the old QVC shopping channel, he offered for $99 each ("which doesn't sound like very much for what you're getting") artist renderings of "hopefully your favorite president of all time, better than Lincoln, better than Washington", slimmed down as an astronaut, out-west marshall, jet pilot, Nascar racer, action-film super hero, and of course an addition to Mt. Rushmore. These themes somehow "pertain to my life and my career", he says, secret lives we never knew about.

It was too much embarrassment even for Steve Bannon ("I can't watch it again. Make it stop") and one-time general Mike Flynn ("Whoever advised him on that, I'd fire him immediately"), but for our purpose here it is proof of the ultimate bubble, those who go on idolizing Trump. The entire limited collection of 45,000 cards sold out in a single day, according to OpenSea Data, which tracks the NFT market, which would come to almost $4.5 million. The New York grifter turned carnival barker was once again fleecing his own supporters.