A.) This goes without saying, but the politics of reading and discussing Plato, The Federalist, Marx, STA’s defense of Mosaic Laws, or even the untelevised statecraft that horsetrades and hears people out is not the politics I’m talking about. And no, it’s not always easy to divide this from televised politics, but I think we can all manage.
B.) Part of this is simply personality – my “A” score is zero. No, seriously zero.
1.) How can everyone not be disgusted at the vanity of it all? Shift a news cycle, and everything one cared wildly about is deleted and replaced with a new outrage. Weren’t we just at war with Eastasia?
Coheleth’s word vanity was hebel whose first meaning was breath or smoke. The analogy is perfect: smoke oppresses and dominates the senses of everyone in a closed room but floats off harmlessly out of doors. In an artificially restricted consciousness vanities so dominate that they are the only things on your mind, but they’re meant to float off as the harmless waste products that they are.
2.) True political thought (cf. A) is at its best when, holding to a clear principle, it is capable of seeing multiple points of view, presenting them in the best light, and attempting to articulate the justice that each side anticipates. If anything, it is an immunization against televised politics. I can’t imagine anything more opposed to Plato or Publius than pre-packaged totalized ideologies or “arguments” resting on appearance and taboo.
3.) The centerpiece of televised political “thought” is the prediction. It’s been demonstrated that these predictions fare worse than chance, i.e. it would be more rational to base your political predictions on the entrails of birds or flipping a sacred coin than to trust your own cogitations about them. But the deepest problem with these is that they confuse insight with self-fulfilling prophesy. Mary “predicts” that Bill is “coming to take her rights away” because she can see Bill’s character and understand his motiviations. She’s probably partly correct, but she’s also creating conditions that make that action more likely: cutting off solidarity with him, upping the antagonism so that neither side can resolve conflicts except by violence, forcing Bill to find friendship and companionship with the other people Mary thinks are coming for her, etc..
4.) Just as the prediction has found an all but impossible combination of stupidity and fallacy, the gaffe found an all but impossible way to combine irrelevance, uncharity, and lack of imagination. Obama makes an off-mic comment to a donor at a rally and ten years later people still incant it as though it were the deepest, most telling insight into his personality (as opposed to, I dunno, him making conversation, telling someone what they want to hear, a crack made in frustration, a lame attempt to be funny or smart, a momentary emotion that he had no strong desire to act on, a needle in the haystack of even the words he said that day, etc.) ditto this for Dan Quayle reading a cue card with the word “POTATOE”.
5.) I’ve mentioned many times before that what was called politics until about a century ago can’t be compared to what we call politics now since politics is not scalable. The 10,000 citizen association that Aristotle was thinking of when he spoke of man as a political animal, or the Friary or 300 member parish that St. Thomas had in mind when speaking of the common good as the highest good can’t be scaled up six orders of magnitude to the 300,000,000+ modern USA. I take a great deal of pleasure and fulfillment from the smaller social networks I’m a part of, but I’m quite sure that I’m closer to the common good by going to a public debate about a traffic semaphore than in voting in a national election.
6.) Look, on average people buy more stuff when they’re fearful or outraged. The news isn’t informing you, it’s prepping you for commercials.