Bread & Circuses

The term is a phrase meaning a diet of entertainment or political policies on which the masses are fed to keep them happy and docile. It historically refers to actions by prelates and politicians at the degeneration period of the Roman Empire; but can easily be assigned to the declining years of any historical Empire, including some will assert, the American one.

Within the past several days the U.S. media has propagated the following news items:

  • The death throes of Charles Manson
  • Articles in The Atlantic and N.Y. Times about American Nazis
  • Trump’s idiocy of the day
  • Details of the personal lives of public people
  • A killing or crime which scares the average person
  • A pending morsel of legislation which has partisans amped-up into vitriolic pro/con orientations

Our hometown newspaper, as well as my Facebook and other online news feed mimic this dispensation of the unworthy. Our conversations are no longer about things that truly matter, only the echos of a constructed reality that is no longer coherent.

One could make the argument that the most pernicious action in the decline of reasoned public discourse was the demise of the strength, integrity, and following of newspapers and broadcast news.

The public generally understood and agreed with what was reported by Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, or the International Herald Tribune – but once Craigslist bankrupted community newspapers, and cable minimized network news, the stage was set for our current stage of dysfunction where half the population, or more, do not accept basic demonstrable facts – and instead search for angels and demons everywhere.

 

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