Which came first, Trump or the internet?

Once again, music was the canary in the coal mine for digital disruption.

Music has been disrupted, we’re at the end of the line of technology, we’ve got an on demand system where you can get everything in the history of recorded music for one low price. (As for those quibbling as to availability, these are the same people buying tracks and talking about the minor tweaks to technology yet to come…IGNORE THEM!)

So, now it’s about software, about the music.

And what have we learned?

A hit is smaller than it’s ever been in our lifetimes. The media trumpets the Top Ten, but most of the audience, the public, has not heard these tracks.

We have a codification of what is supposedly successful, the Spotify Top 50, but it does not comport with the listening habits of the public at large.

And what big media says, the newspapers, the TV outlets, also means less than ever before and has less impact upon the populace than ever before, even though those involved deny this, if they’re even aware of it.

You see the internet has turned us into a Tower of Babel nation.

In the eighties we lived in a monoculture. One story for everybody. MTV. Reagan. There was a distinct narrative, and unlike in the sixties, there were no contrary voices, none that got any real traction.

So no one was prepared for the internet and the blowing up of the paradigm, where everything became granular instead of singular.

At first only college students had high speed connections. The public at large was on AOL. And then everything splintered into a zillion factions and it hasn’t been the same since. Sure, Trump was built by television, a paradigm that cannot be replicated, but he spread because of the internet.

Not that platforms are unimportant.

Which means that newsgatherers still have power. I.e. the “New York Times” and the “Washington Post” and to a degree the “Wall Street Journal.” If any of these outlets breaks a story, it becomes fodder for discussion, but their interpretation of it is secondary to the facts. Their spin is only for a tribe, which is a subsection of the public.

Which brings us to the internet.

People always talk about the influence of the internet on outside forces, like newspapers. But more interesting is the internet’s influence upon itself. For twenty years it was about great leaps forward, in both hardware and software. What was hip today, was gone tomorrow. But then…it all stabilized. It was a game of musical chairs, and if you didn’t have one, you couldn’t get one.

Google owns search.

Facebook owns social networking.

Amazon owns shopping.

As for Apple…it’s a niche product. As for Microsoft, it’s mostly about business. So, let’s leave them out of the discussion.

In other words, Google, Facebook and Amazon are the true powers in society today. But unlike the media outlets of yore, they’re just platforms, they come with no content, how are they used, HOW SHOULD THEY BE USED!

Only a few are asking these questions, despite all the hoopla in the news. You see the questions are so big, no one can wrap their head around them, so they ignore them. Especially the public, which can understand digital, not analog. We taught to the test and now no one can think. Except for an elite, which as a result has power, which as a result is hated, to the point where the ignorant can gain traction, like the candidates running for office who believe in QAnon. And nothing is to be trusted, not a video or a tweet, anything can be manipulated, whether it was or was not, so there’s no truth.

So, Google forgot its mantra, it’s doing harm all day long. With paid search results at the top of the page, search is inherently skewed. Even worse, each individual gets different results. Even worse, it’s all about commerce, if it makes a dollar, it’s cool, even if everybody sacrifices their privacy and gets misinformation in the process.

As for Amazon… It’s competing with Google in search, it’s only the hoi polloi who don’t know this. To the point where you can’t find what you’re looking for through the sponsored products.

And then that brings us to Facebook.

All of these outfits are run by stunted people. Nerds. Educated in the sciences but not the humanities. That’s right, as you told your kids that college was about getting a job, you contributed to the death of America, as did the institutions of higher learning that served your children. College used to be about broadening the horizons of students, educating them so they could deal with any possibility. Now, if the square peg does not fit into the hole, they’re lost.

But Google just hoovers up content.

Amazon is selling products.

But the essence of Facebook, of its subsidiary Instagram, of its low-level competitor Snapchat, is user content.

These platforms say they’re benign, but they’re the problem.

Now, everybody has got their own set of beliefs. Backed up by personal research. Veracity is irrelevant. It’s all emotion all the time. And if you challenge someone’s opinion, you’re the problem.

So, how do we eliminate the chaos?

We can’t, because our institutions are not prepared for it, they are not addressing it, they’re just moseying along like nothing’s changed. Look at music, media keeps printing a Top Ten, which is ridiculous. Not only does the Top Ten not mean what it used to, it’s oftentimes different every week. And let’s take the strange case of Bob Dylan’s new album. All this hoopla, #2 on the chart… But is anybody listening? OF COURSE NOT! Did you try? Once was enough for “Murder Most Foul,” as for the rest of the new album…only three of the cuts have in excess of one million streams on Spotify. And despite the number of subscribers, it’s a well-known fact that streams on Apple are less, as for purchases…only old people buy music and they don’t have time to listen to it! So what we’ve got here is not even a turntable hit, but a press hit, that has absolutely no impact on the culture. Come on, just try to listen to listen all the way through to “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” I DARE YOU!

But you’ll blow back anyway. Without even listening. Because you need something to cling to, Bob Dylan, the past…you are unaware of the present and all the problems it presents.

Sure, Facebook can say it’s just a conduit for information. But that’s a problem when it’s the ONLY conduit for information, the way MOST people get their information, in a world where people go ever deeper into their own, self-reinforcing silo. Most people get their information online, which is the wild west, and instead of being tamed, it’s growing ever wilder.

Meanwhile, those in power, in the old game, say it’s all about the election, and voting, when the actual process is so antique and untrustworthy any digital native does not trust it, whatever the result.

Do you get to vote?

Are the voter rolls public, can they be analyzed?

How many polling places are there?

Can you vote by mail?

How is the vote counted?

This system worked in the pre-internet era, but not today. Voting is digital in concept, 1’s and 2’s, but analog in execution, and the public just can’t accept that, no way.

So, what happens?

Well, many vote for a strongman, they can’t handle this dissonance, they want to forget about it, give the power to someone else so they can live their lives, as they sacrifice their privacy and other rights.

As for those who don’t want to concede power…

Many are just plain ignorant. Even worse, they can’t hear the truth. They literally don’t hear it, they’re on different sites, or they don’t want to hear it.

So what’s the way out of this?

Well, let’s be honest, the baby boomers are the problem. They say they’re digital natives, but despite having all the hardware they’re usually digitally clueless and just want the present (or the past!) reinforced when the truth is we don’t live where they used to and never will again. Can we stop trying to save record stores and bookstores and newspapers and…what next, film cameras, buggy whips?

So, the switch has flipped, now it’s no longer about the hardware, about the pipe, but the software, and we’re patently unprepared to address this. It’s murky, and in a digital era we expect it to be black and white. There’s the opposite of consensus. And since the almighty buck is paramount, there can be little change.

So, companies are boycotting Facebook. Good, it brings up the question. But Mark Zuckerberg is unprepared to answer it. It’s like asking an art history major to program a computer. Zuckerberg doesn’t know enough about the humanities to take the right course. And, since Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp are businesses, we look at them as business constructs, when they’re much more than this.

Do we allow falsehoods?

Do we allow manipulations?

We’ve got to have a code, anything can’t go.

But right now anything does.

So, you think Trump is the show. You think all the problems can be solved with an election.

But the problem is the internet.

How do we deal with the effects of this edifice we’ve built? Which we thought was bringing people together, but in truth was driving them apart!

That’s the question of our age.

But the end result is we all live in these United States, but in our heads we could not be more distant.

This calls for the best and brightest unfettered by constructs like the past and dollars and cents to address. It is not going away. It is getting worse. We’re all alienated, and therefore we are susceptible to niche tribes, which may be purveying falsehoods.

The internet has huge benefits, enough with the boomer naysaying about screen time, etc., if nothing else it leaves them out of the discussion…if you’re not participating online, you’ve got no idea what is going on.

But let’s just admit that traditional institutions have lost power. That at no time in history have individuals felt as empowered as they do now. They’ve got access, but they haven’t got smarts, because their information is tainted.

Are we going to start printing science books that say the earth is flat?

Are we going to start printing Shakespeare plays that are really written by Ben Jonson?

Are we going to continue to allow mislabeling and misinformation to the point where truth cannot be established and forward progress cannot be achieved?

In the past, we lived in a top-down society. The few media outlets and the elites dictated. Now just the opposite is happening, and those who ruled in the past cannot accept this, if they can see it at all, they believe they and their old precepts still rule when they do not.

I’m not saying these questions are easy to address.

But we’ve got to start.

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