Is This Sentence Too Long For You?

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One hundred and forty characters. That is the new delineation between acceptable political discourse, and incomprehensible gibberish, according to the new world order. Twitter me this: Are we so limited in our attention span that we can only understand concepts described in 140 characters or less?

 

The simple answer is, yes, we have regressed back into simplicity. We are so immersed in the shallowness of thoughts induced by our addiction to our electronic devices, that we now find it uncomfortable to concentrate for longer than a single tweet. And, appropriate for a nation addicted to fluff, we have selected a celebrity leader who epitomizes our shallowness.

 

When did we begin to worship "the cult of the celebrity?" Certainly in the 1800's, the emergence of celebrities began. Fostered by the development of mass media (newspapers and magazines), and the growth of cities, a critical mass coalesced whereby people could become familiar with famous people, even if they never had the possibility of seeing these people perform. Think of Jenny Lind (supported by one P. T. Barnum). Think of Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West show. Think of Samuel Clemens and his touring lectures. Certainly in the late 1800's, it became possible for individuals to become famous for being famous.

 

By the early 1960's, the cult of the celebrity was well established. In 1961, Daniel Boorstin wrote in his seminal book "The Image, or What Happened to the American Dream", "The celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness". At the time he wrote those words, it applied to a much smaller group of people. Zsa Zsa Gabor comes to mind as exemplifying celebrity culture in the late 1950's, and even then she did have some accomplishments as a movie actress. Boorstin was definitely prescient in foreseeing the direction of the culture.

 

America has also harbored a strong anti-intellectual bent. One of my favorite movies, Bringing Up Baby (and it's '70's remake, What's Up Doc), personified the attitudes towards intellectuals and scientists in popular culture. Cary Grant is the hapless paleontologist who inexplicably becomes the pursued object of the alpha female Katherine Hepburn. It is Hepburn as the mob moll, spitting out the end of a cigar, who rescues the scientist from incarceration. Small point, maybe, but except for film biographies of noble scientists struggling against society, movie culture rarely pictured scientists at all, and if they were pictured, more often than not they were objects of ridicule. They were the Nutty Professor instead of the rugged individualists portrayed in hundreds of westerns.

 

Today, anti-intellectualism is worn as a badge of honor by many in our society. In our schools, those who excel academically are derided and bullied by those who do not value scholastic achievement. In government, our politicians state, "I am not a scientist, but..." just before they explain why they are against scientific consensus on an issue, usually climate change. Anti-vaxxers who couldn't describe the functions of vaccines in stimulating the immune system, claim that the cost / benefit ratio of vaccines has been miscalculated ever since the invention of the smallpox vaccine. And since the latest Presidential election, the scientists of the Federal government have been demeaned, threatened with slashed funding, and have been removed from any position of power and influence. Indeed, as of early July, no one has been nominated for the position of National Science Advisor.

 

Science and scientists have taken the brunt of the anti-intellectualism of the Trump administration, but other intellectuals are the victims of his misguided philosophy of dismembering government as a ruling strategy. Why rely upon professional diplomats who have spent decades studying issues and learning about regional and global political issues? Let's just go to a meeting of world leaders and wing it. What could possibly go wrong?

 

So now we have the Tweeter-in-Chief using stream of consciousness to posit the latest birth of a thought (A cyber-security cooperative between us and Russia!), only to come back 12 hours later saying, "Not gonna happen!" My question is who is going to end up running the Trump empire once all of the key players end up imprisoned due to their actions during the campaign and subsequent time in power. Maybe we can get a remake of the First Wives Club (or first and second and third wives club) with Ivana, Marla, and Melania? I'd pay to see that.

 

Back to 140 characters. It is so deeply ironic that when NPR decided this year to not only recite the Declaration of Independence, but to tweet it, that many in the twittersphere took the words of our founding fathers as disrespect against the dear leader. Can you imagine that happening in any time other than the present, that such profound ignorance would display itself in a public medium?

 

I am reminded of the wisdom of the National Lampoon back in the early 1970's for their parody, Deteriorata. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ey6ugTmCYMk ). They, too, foresaw what was happening, and where we were headed. One of my favorite lines in this piece is: "Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls would barely get your feet wet." What an appropriate metaphor for government of the tweet, by the twit, and for the twitted.

Comments

Jeff Michka Added Jul 10, 2017 - 9:30pm
Deteriorata's: "Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls would barely get your feet wet.-Sounds like a scroll through WB. Glad the piece has been recorded and spared.  It was really a hoot at the time, and still is!
wsucram15 Added Jul 11, 2017 - 6:24am
I think twitter is the best form of social media. Quick to the point and you are done. Unless you are streaming video...which is cool. I get some live news from people on there.   Now I dont agree with the President tweeting, especially incorrect things, but he is the top cop.  What are you going to do?
Dino Manalis Added Jul 11, 2017 - 8:51am
Twitter is more interested in ads than words, that's why I prefer Writerbeat and Facebook where I can express myself in more words!
Cuckoo o'clock Added Jul 11, 2017 - 6:46pm
If that is true, why bother writing an additional nine paragraphs?
Paul Austin Murphy Added Jul 12, 2017 - 11:38am
The worst thing about Twitter is how important it's become for newspapers and Internet news outlets. Almost every piece features a tweet or two.... or more. Tweets have become the main focus of political debate.... Britain's Metro, for example, includes a tweet in nearly every news piece.
 
Just today a person has been imprisoned for a "racist tweet". It was meant to be a joke. The anti-racist vice police didn't find it funny.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jul 12, 2017 - 11:43am
EABC
 
Yes we are. At least the net generation is as far I've noticed. No wonder. There's too much information, and no background on it readily available, so people just repeat stupidly the mass media bits and pieces. I mean that's ok, but when they start to REALLY think that this is an OPINION and even defend these slogans meaning that a slogan IS an opinion it starts to be frightening.
 
Keep them working until they collapse on the weight of their debts as a result of low wages and the desire to be "part of it" by having the newest iShit. Shuts off the brain.
 
The recipe to keep the herd together.
Nancy E Head Added Jul 12, 2017 - 7:50pm
I read a suggestion on Facebook--more than 140 characters--a social media fast every weekend. Turn away from the screen for 2-1/2 days every week. Can we do it?
Even A Broken Clock Added Jul 12, 2017 - 8:12pm
Thanks to all for your comments. Jeff, thanks for your note on Deteriota. If you haven't clicked on it or are not familiar with it, I strongly encourage you to see it. The National Lampoon was Saturday Night Live before there was a Saturday Night Live.
 
Nancy - I'm one of these luddites who only got onto Facebook in order to enable folks to read my blog there. Now that I'm there, I'm beginning to use it to keep in touch - but I'm definitely not addicted to it. 2 1/2 days is probably my mean time between logins.
 
Cuckoo - thanks for the laugh. That's one reason why I was so glad to be exposed to this forum (thanks, Autumn). I can't function in 140 characters.
wsucram15 Added Jul 13, 2017 - 12:02pm
Well if you use social media correctly , not opinion media, you can research the data and collect information from that or add it to data you already have.
ITs a source and in most cases can be followed up on interestingly enough.  Just this week, look how its exploded.
Jeff Michka Added Jul 13, 2017 - 2:50pm
SEF a notes: the desire to be "part of it" by having the newest iShit. Shuts off the brain.-They've lost their souls buying into it. Ishit is built, in part, by slave labor centers in the PRC, made partly with "recycled" metals, gathered by scraping circuit boards in Bangladesh or India, despite laws in both countries against these practices that are not enforced, and these Millennial sucker cases pay through the nose for the experience, too, that could be spent elsewhere a tad more "wisely."
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jul 13, 2017 - 5:26pm
LOL...true.
Dr. Rupert Green Added Jul 14, 2017 - 1:07am
I am one am arguing  about the dumbing down of individuals with "LIKES." I, therefore, tell my peeps not to like what I write but to respond with a word or two. I can envision social media as the tool for preparing the lower class of people needed in the Brave new World, or is it 1984? Such is inevitable as was the change from OLDE English to the current one. Can you imagine how those proper Olde Englishers lamented when they saw the change being made to their language?  Are we, the enlightened, similarly lamenting?
 
I am aware of the awful fate of the one who escaped in Plato's Analogy of the Cave, got enlightenment, and tried to bring it back to those left behind. We can see similar responses here in one who asked about your writing nine or more paragraphs beyond a tweet.
 
Yes, Americans are anti-intellectual pragmatics. With regard to the celebratory worship, it evolved in the early conception of our need to be different from colonial Britain. We changed their language to American English and we began to worship celebrity instead of royalty. Note. We will give individuals celebratory status and we will tear them down in a flash. Thus, a President Trump trying to be a dictator will face the people and the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution, who appears not to have been mental Micky Mouses.