Are We On Self-Destruct?

I am still mulling over the attack that sent Paul Pelosi to the hospital.

You will note that I have not characterized that vicious assault as an attack “on” Paul Pelosi, because that would be inaccurate. The maniac who invaded the Pelosi home was clearly intent upon finding and injuring or killing Nancy Pelosi. It was only because she wasn’t home that he turned his fury and hammer on her 82-year-old husband.

It’s bad enough that the crazy media outlets have responded by doing what they do–inventing weird and exculpatory stories entirely remote from any evidence whatever. (One “explanation” making the rounds suggests that Nancy Pelosi attacked her husband and the entire episode as reported was a cover-up. Other rightwing fantasies are equally bizarre.) But coverage from the sources we like to believe produce legitimate journalism hasn’t been much better.

As several pundits have reminded us, this was an attempted assassination of the Speaker of the U.S. House–the person who is third in line for the U.S. Presidency. Think about that.

In his newsletter, Robert Hubbell minced no words, asserting that the attack “has struck at the heart of America’s political dysfunction and mass delusion.”

Major media outlets are going out of their way to caution that “the assailant’s motives are unknown” and limiting their description of what occurred to “an attack on Paul Pelosi” without acknowledging that the intended target was the person third-in-line for the presidency of the US. Right-wing media is in full conspiracy mode, trafficking in wild and baseless claims that are insulting, defamatory, and offensive to a grieving family and a severely wounded victim. Elon Musk inflamed the situation by tweeting and deleting a bogus “opinion” article from a media outlet known for peddling bizarre conspiracy theories, e.g., that Hillary Clinton died before the 2016 election and her “body double” debated Trump

Apparently, Elon Musk tweeted a link to an “opinion” piece that was admittedly pure  speculation about what “might” have happened. According to Hubbell, Musk deleted the tweet shortly thereafter, “but not before it was exposed to his 120 million followers.”

The damage was done. No amount of truth-telling or retractions by reckless Fox affiliates will overcome the momentum created by Musk’s tweet. See NYTimes, Elon Musk, in a Tweet, Shares Link From Site Known to Publish False News and WaPo, Paul Pelosi attack prompts Elon Musk and political right to spread misinformation.

 In short order, Elon Musk and a reckless Fox affiliate converted a near-miss national tragedy into a cesspool of disinformation and delusion. In the process, the Pelosi family is being subjected to a second trauma that may be greater than the original assassination attempt and injuries suffered by Paul Pelosi.

So here we are. An estimated third of American citizens get their “information” from sources so distant from fact and reality that the term “propaganda” seems inadequate. If, as the Founders’ believed, democratic self-government requires an informed citizenry, the United States is in big trouble.

A commenter to a previous post on the state of our information environment pointed out that the ability to spread disinformation and confusion has grown with each “advance” in communication–newspapers, radio, television, movies, and now the Internet. True. The question we face is: what do we do about it? No serious person wants to abandon the First Amendment–and for that matter, we couldn’t totally suppress manufactured garbage if we tried.

And to be fair, it isn’t just America.

We are at a place in human history where a substantial portion of the population simply cannot cope with the realities, constant changes and uncertainties  of modern life. Those humans are a ready-made, eager audience for the purveyors of hate and division–and so long as there is an audience, there will be self-promoters to prey on that audience, either to make money (Alex Jones) or acquire political power (Trump/ fill in your favorite example).

My middle son has a theory that the reason we haven’t detected evidence of superior alien civilizations “out there” is because, at a certain point in the evolution of a civilization, it self-destructs. I hope he’s wrong, but the trajectory of humanity right now sure lends weight to that theory.

In less than a week, Americans will go to the polls and choose whether to continue down the path of conspiracy and theocracy–a path that will continue to facilitate the fascist fantasies being spread by Elon Musk, Fox News and their ilk, and will likely signal the end of the American Idea as we have understood it.

Even if we manage to avoid that result, we will be left with a conundrum: what do we do about the prevalence and appeal of invented realities–lies– and the people who believe and act on them?


  1. The good news is that many right-wing Boomers won’t be with us in 10 years time. We’ve already lost about 25% of them. As they seem to be the most susceptible to conspiracy theories and as Millenials, Zoomers and Alphas seem to have their heads screwed on right, maybe we can all focus on that which really threatens our existence: our environment.

    Meantime, Republicans should remember that what goes around, comes around. A good example is what just happened to Imran Khan in Pakistan. Khan was shot…. in the shin, so the story goes. A huge purveyor of conspiracy theories, he was voted out of office last year and has been blaming everything but his own actions for why his people don’t like him.

    What goes around comes around. Donald beware!

  2. One comment about the Pelosi attack is the house is full of security cameras placed there by the Capitol Hill police, so the break-in was captured. Still, NOBODY was watching it, and the break-in did not alert Capitol Hill police, who were then to alert SFPD.

    Needless to say, #Epstein and #PelosiAttack were trending on Twitter yesterday. 😉

    There is nothing we can do about conspiracy theorists and theories. They fill in the blanks left from the inability and incapacity to allow for the free flow of information. Our government and oligarchy have been using the press (media) to convey what they want to the people. It’s all about control which is NOT how we set up this country. It’s called propaganda and has been used for a long time. As we are learning, the oligarchy has been using Big Tech to filter information or censor voices for decades via its algorithms.

    The opposite of propaganda is TRUTH or truth-seeking, which requires scientific methods of inquiry (journalism). This is the solution to the massive amounts of propaganda. Julian Assange created Wikileaks to counter the lies and propaganda and was promptly silenced by Western democracies.

    The Transnational Elites (oligarchs) will have to give up control, or it will be taken from them. It’s where the current struggle is taking place. The socialists are organizing from the ground up and making their appeal to the working class.

    Whereas the oligarchs are furthering their control via Fascism or fascists. I am afraid we will see more Trumpism in this country because the Democratic Party does not oppose Fascism and gets in the way of true change. Their messaging sucks! Biden was the worst choice possible, considering.

  3. Perhaps money will be the key to dialing the crazy back. There are multiple big dollar law suits in the works now. People and corporations are going after big dollars from the folks who spread the lies. If telling fibs leads to going bankrupt , some degree of self control may develop. I am rooting for Dominion in the suit against Fox. One can hope.

  4. The Pelosi Family deserved better protection than they received. I pray for Paul Pelosi’s full recovery.

    It never ceases to amaze me to witness folk, mostly white males, out shopping in short sleeve t shirts and shorts, in the middle of hard winter. It moves me to avoid Fox News weather report to avoid being caught likewise. 😇 Weather deniers among us?

  5. Our troubles as a society are profound for any number of reasons. Among them is the cumulative effect of having un-qualified teachers of science and social studies over the last couple of decades. Coaches should coach and academics should teach academics. But with a grossly underfunded public education system, we will continue down the road of institutionalized ignorance. This won’t change until we fail utterly.

    Then there are wretches like Ron Johnson who want to “sunset” Social Security. He seems to have no problem with licking the third rail of politics. Why? Because his Republican constituents want that too – even though many of them happily accept their monthly checks. I don’t know of a better example of insanity than that.

    That said, it seems that Republicans would rather sell their mothers into slavery than vote for a Democrat no matter that those Republicans will cut them off at the knees. STUPID.

  6. Using the term “maniac” fits with recent news releases of Paul Pelosi’s alleged attacker’s mental instability; an “out” used by defense when there is no defense. I doubt there is any Republican at any level, whether former or sitting, is any more mentally unstable than Donald Trump. And yet he rules the entire Republican party; those who openly support him and those who remain mute and idle supporting him by omission.

    “We are at a place in human history where a substantial portion of the population simply cannot cope with the realities, constant changes and uncertainties of modern life.”

    The “reality” of some of those “uncertainties” I referred late yesterday regarding what used to be “normal” day-to-day life as we meet our responsibilities as adults. “Are We On Self Destruct?”…we are certainly at that “fight or flight” position; I choose the “fight” option regarding this Constitutional Crisis mid-term election to save democracy, Rule of Law and our Constitution. Dr. Stan has chosen the “flight” option but continues to use his freedom of speech to opine here daily as we all do, for some reason recently he found it something to pound his chest over when he was first to comment that day. Priorities have become vital in this time of “…realities, constant changes and uncertainties…” But I do not consider our situation today to be “modern life”; we are in another “Revolution”, this time battling between Americans AGAIN and facing a possible 2nd Civil War, we already have “blood in our streets” in places where we should be safe.

    “Even if we manage to avoid that result, we will be left with a conundrum: what do we do about the prevalence and appeal of invented realities–lies– and the people who believe and act on them?”

    “…the people who believe and act on them?” are heavily armed using the 2nd Amendment as their shield just as they use their 1st Amendment freedom of speech, religion and the press rights to “invented realities – lies-” and to act on them by repealing or enacting laws to benefit their personal beliefs. They are going to remain with us; as is their right due to the same Constitution they want to end to replace it with a Dictatorship.

  7. I wanted to share some good news today.
    As I canvased my neighborhood this week, I was thanked by several residents (some Rs no less) for taking time to stop by and ask them to vote for me, a mother and grandmother who is NOT a politician.
    These regular ppl, not particularly well off but doing okay, are just happy someone is taking time to ask them how they feel about our town government.
    There are 3700 residents living here and far too many have concerns that the Town Council doesn’t care about communicating with them and only wants the power and purse strings.
    One member who tried to open the lines of communication was primaried and there’s a feeling expressed by many that keeping the power is the upmost concern from the rest.
    If town members don’t pay attention, that’s exactly what will happen- those ‘others’ will not be given a voice.
    At least I am giving it my best shot.
    Fingers crossed and VOTE BLUE!

  8. I was grateful to hear Margaret Sullivan say in an interview that we can’t just report that bad things are happening, if only one party is doing the bad things. She challenges journalists to call out the Republicans for the lunacy they now exemplify.

    We can’t change course if the media are “both-sidesing.” Yes there are wackos on the left, but they don’t pose a clear and present danger to our system of government. The far right White Christian Nationalists most certainly are a danger to our system of government and to our individual liberties.

    Please don’t take that to mean that I think our system is great. It has many flaws, but the answer is to fix what’s wrong, not to burn it all down.

  9. I sometimes wonder “What the HE(( is wrong with people nowadays???”

    I wish we could go back to the days of Walter Cronkite where the news was reported with no opinions, no Hollywood hype, and nothing extra added.

    As someone else has said. Glad that I am old.

  10. If you trace back the origins of the word or idea of respect, you come across a bifurcation that gave birth to the word or idea of Honor. And interestingly, a wholesome type of fear! Not a fear of the boogeyman so to speak, but a fear of disrespecting or dishonoring your fellow man or your neighbor.

    And thank you my brother on this blog for engaging in offline conversation about this very thing. Even though at times we are on opposite ends concerning the fulcrum of secularism, I do so enjoy our conversations, because I wholly respect the deep introspections that our conversations convey.

    Along with Respect and Honor, the handmaidens of this terminology are Faith and Hope! Solitary introspection allows one to search for value using your own emotional and mental acuity.

    The circumspection takes into consideration the consequences of that introspection including others opinions, blowback, not to mention scrupulous or unscrupulous prudence.

    As Vern eloquently stated, you have individuals that go along to get along, their opinions are based on unscrupulous prudence. It’s about power and influence, it’s about carving out a place in a possible miscreant Coup De-jour!

    Human instinct is to show disrespect towards those who show you lack of that respect. So, the ability of many humans NOT to let words and actions impact them to the point of breaking bones, is non-existent, therefore, Society has already collapsed.

    When Concern for the general welfare which includes all citizens under government’s purview is Criticized and Ridicutled as being Whussy’esque, Honor and Respect have gone the way of the dodo bird.

    Searching for Respect and Honor including it’s Handmaidens, Faith and Hope, you really can’t have one without the other. There is so little Faith in anything today, and therefore very little Hope that positive change will come from this burgeoning insurrection which has historically destroyed entire civilizations.

    Romans the 13th chapter gives a blueprint to respecting government, respecting the institution. Unfortunately, for a majority of individuals, they have lopped off an entire path of discernment, to make a case for a more amiable outcome. When the finger pointing and rhetoric far out pace rationality, the fulcrum of ignorance is balanced because ignorance on one side balances the ignorance on the other. The way to refute ignorance is not to counterbalance it, intellectuals must tip the scales using discernment with some form of compassionate empathy to walk in the others shoes bypassing the self-aggrandized political power players.

    You can see the would-be dictators like Elon Musk who could only become the head of this government through an insurrection because he was born in Pretoria South Africa and not in this country nor were his parents born in the United States. If you pay attention, you can see him nibbling around the edges to see if he can gain any traction. Another Donald with even more Money and Power!

    Humanity truly has no direction whatsoever, there is no foresight, no discernment, and as Sheila’s middle son said, maybe civilizations that tend to be what we would consider advanced are too Petty to survive. Pettiness and disrespect, lack of Honor and faithlessness, hopelessness and enmity are all part of the human condition. There is no recipe for success in that primordial soup so to speak.

    Jesus Christ said to love God, love your neighbor, and, honor and respect your enemy! But those who claim to be intellectual, just laugh at that notion! How is that working? Like I mentioned it to Ormond, the bible, I.e the scriptures, are not religion because religion is philosophy that was purveyed by the Elon Musks, the self-aggrandized narcissistic pseudo intellectuals of their day!!!!!

    And yet, these pseudo intellectuals are given much more credence than anything else on the written page!

  11. The January 6 hearings revealed that even members of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies participated in the insurrection or did not do their jobs in trying to prevent it or stop it. I believe those people should be fired for dereliction of duty, no matter what their past performance record is.

    In regards to the First Amendment, I believe Congress needs to pass a law requiring all media sources to be openly and visibly labeled as either ‘news’ or ‘opinions’. If they are actually reporting news that has been vetted to be factual, they can label it as news. If they are just speaking their opinions on subject matters or are actually creating lies, they must label it for what it is. In either case, the labels must be extremely visible so they cannot be missed. With regard to tv, podcasts, radio or any other form of spoken media the correct label must be clearly spoken before any segment.

    Requiring all forms of media to provide accurate labels for their content would not be an infringement on their right to free speech at all and would help people discern what the real truth actually is. It would definitely put a damper on all of the right wing hate mongering.

  12. John,

    Thanks for the mention. Yes. Respect should be earned, not just given away for free. Honor stems from the character of the individual. If a person has weak, destructive, greedy or immoral character, they should NEVER garner the respect of even one vote.

    From what this particular election season has shown us – with over 300 election deniers on ballots across the country – is that the Republican party has completely lost what little social character it once had. There are no more Bob Doles or John McCains in the GOP. Instead, the party is now rife with corporate whores who do NOTHING for the good of the people at large. The hijacking began with the fetid likes of Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. Lest we forget: Murdoch was given “emergency” citizenship by Ronald Reagan after Australia kicked him out of that country for seditious broadcasting. No problem with that in Republican America!

    So, the scum is now floating happily at the top of our soup pot of civic character. That scum includes the evangelicals who’ve made a science (LOL) out of hypocrisy, the above-mentioned employees of the corporate/banking America and the gun crazies who use Jesus as their shield. You can’t make this up.

    Even though I may not accept the dogma of religions, I think it’s fairly easy to follow the rules of citizenship that are based on doing the right thing. The Sermon on the Mount and other bits of the books of Matthew and Luke capture the essence of things that a harmonious society needs to survive. Republicans follow NONE of these rules.

    Marx was right: Capitalism, left to its own unregulated devices, will destroy itself from within. Revolution. Naw. Just social cannibalism.

  13. Reading the above (and this blog, daily), it is clear we believe things are OOC (out of control). Maybe “control” leads us toward a root cause. Think about it: the rich and corporations pay little tax because “uncontrol” is built in with loopholes and defunding IRS; hundreds of people in Congress trade stocks on insider info and a bill controlling it dies; billions are paid out in PPP funds to those who weren’t supposed to get it with a small percent chased down; TV and movies are full of foul language, rampant sexuality and continuous violence and few care; etc.

    Why should any individual have “control” when their world doesn’t? OOC is now normalized.

  14. Janice B and Peggy Hannon; Here is an example of how things can be horribly twisted by just reporting the facts. Most news coverage about inflation states factually and correctly that inflation is happening in the US. They then go on to report factually and correctly that “Republicans are blaming Biden for Inflation”. What they do not report is that Inflation is a world wide problem. They do not report that laws and policies passed by the Democrats have had minimal impact on inflation and that, in fact, the US is doing better than most G20 nations and good percentage of the world. They don’t report on the fact that Republicans have no policy to combat inflation.

    So the sound bite attack politics of the Republican party is very effective. Reporting might be better (but a lot more boring) if there was more “both-sidesing”, but I think most people don’t have the attention span to read beyond the first few paragraphs.

  15. Dan – kudos – “News” that is not inflammatory is boring. “News” that takes time to read is boring which is why a significant proportion of young people get theirs from (gulp) TikTok. Cherry on top? Critical thinking hasn’t been taught for years, so…what is true anywho?

  16. Ukrainians stand for their freedom before their stuff.

    Republicans stand for their stuff before their freedom.

    Democrats stand for Ukrainians.

  17. Media is what we make it. We are the ones buying, reading, retweeting etc. The problem is not generational. There are idiots and critical thinkers in every generation. Always have been and probably always will be.
    So what do we do to make things better? Whatever we can. Some people are working on climate change. Some are devoting their lives to education. Some are working through the judicial system. Some concentrate on feeding the poor. Some run for public office because they really want to serve the public good. Some practice ethical journalism. If you look for them, there are good people doing good work all around us.
    I remember reading somewhere that whatever we declare war on, we strengthen. Maybe that is not always true, but it is true enough to be worth considering. If you focus only on fear and anger and despair and violence, are you part of the solution or just feeding the problems?

  18. Vern,

    Yes, Again right on….


    Absolutely correct, 💯 percent! Sex is worshiped as a god.Like Vern said, “You can’t make this up…..

    It’s irrational, and it is ignorant!

  19. Yes, Sheila, we most probably are.
    If next week’s election does not show a large move away from Trumpish idiocy and delusion,
    self-destruct will clearly have arrived. I am not expecting, but will be pleasantly surprised if
    Ron Johnson is un-elected, along with Marco the Useless. I have very little faith in the voters of Georgia,
    though I think that while Abrams could win, there is the danger that Warnock will be un-elected! That will
    not be peachy!
    And the thing called Oz? Can Pa. voters be THAT stupid? (Uh, yes.)
    Trump keeps running into judicial disappointments, happily, but will try mightily to twist the election results
    he does not like.
    Will Trump be indicted in the weeks following the coming election? I have to hope so, despite the dust-up
    that inevitably follow, or else….

  20. Actually, Mitch, in the weeks following the election, The Former, will declare for ’24 seeking to squash Pence, DeSantis, et all before they even start….

  21. I am predisposed to like a post that mentions the Fermi Paradox. I tend to agree with your son. While I think life (as in living organisms) are likely to be prevalent across the universe, judging from our own experience, it can take a long time for that primitive single-cellular life to bloom into more complex organisms. It may be difficult for many otherwise-hospitable planets to have enough time between natural disasters for complex life to take hold. Surely, though, as we have shown ourselves, it is possible. But then, as your son notes, how do species evolved to have certain selfish and negative traits handle a wide and complex world where they now have the technological ability to destroy it. Perhaps many civilizations simply fail via some sort of planet-wide destruction.

    But, the less rational and pessimistic side of me still holds out a little bit of hope that there is a Federation-like organization of advanced species out there monitoring us, and that we have so far not shown ourselves to be mature enough to be included in the society of the wider galaxy.

    Or, they watch us like specimens in an ant farm or zoo. Which boils down to much the same result.

  22. The first comment blaming boomers is absurd. The person who killer Heather in Charlottesville was not a boomer. The person who attacked Mr. Pelosi was not a boomer. Most of the people who attacked the capital on Jan. 6 were not boomers. If you think the death of a generation will solve your problems, you are just being foolish. This problem crosses generations. Get real.

Comments are closed.