Belmont Club

Battle of the Beams

The GOP convention has begun to the accompaniment of a frenzied news cycle. The signal to noise ratio in the presidential political coverage, never high to begin with, is likely to drop even further until coverage basically approaches the level of spam.  Under these circumstances it’s easy for public’s inbox to become saturated by sheer garbage.  Old accusations on both sides will be resurrected along with new allegations until the timeline becomes mushed.

To have some chance of counteracting low signal to noise it may be necessary for readers to take a longer baseline of observations and trace the story arcs to see whether they continue or just peter out, whether they are real contacts or just decoys in a radar display filled with clutter.  It may take 2 or 3 days for the “probable” truth of any major assertion to become clear.

The accusations on both sides are going to arrive not only in an increasing tempo but at the superlative end of the register.  But with the rhetoric so amped up, misdemeanors no longer count.  Both sides have left the arena of genteel jabs far behind.  Now the only thing that will make an impression is a major crime.  To hear the Dems tell it, Trump is no longer just dangerous he is “the most dangerous” man ever to seek the presidency.  To her detractors Hillary is no longer just crooked but the most crooked candidate in history, and traitor to boot, etc, etc.

At this end of the register, where everything is superlative, comparative measurements will become meaningless.  Already the campaign is taking on a Manichean aspect.  This is no longer a campaign between mere mortals but a fight between the eternal forces of good and evil. By November the messaging is likely to be one continuous screech.

Speaking of which the Democrats are likely to have an overwhelming advantage in the high frequency range, in issues which have a short news cycle. The GOP on the other hand (if there is still such a thing) will hold an advantage in the low frequency or long term issues; in resentments that have been building for years.

Under ordinary circumstances the Democrats will have the messaging advantage. In ordinary times large segments of the public can no more resist clickbait than Pokemon Go afficionados can resist descending on Central Park to capture an elusive Vaporeon.   However in these disturbed times the chain of detonations caused by administration blunders can provide steady drumbeat of low frequency confirmation that will overwhelm the high frequency messaging.

If events run relatively smoothly till November the advantage will be Hillary’s. If things blow up, it will be advantage Trump, or at least disadvantage Hillary.  Edward Lucas writes that “the West is exhausted”.  “The onslaught of bad news in recent weeks is giving us decision fatigue. We have to cope with Brexit, the latest terrorist attack in France, the failed coup in Turkey and racial violence in America. Looming on the horizon is a banking meltdown in Italy and a perilous confrontation in the South China Sea—plus the continuing migration crisis and the prospect of a Trump presidency.”  This restates the case precisely.

The “west is exhausted” because it has wasted an incredible amount energy on politically correct trivia: climate change, transgender bathrooms, a bewildering labyrinth of victim categories, the endless guilt of being whipsawed over feeling sorry for cops or sorry for those they shoot,  gaslighted into a near-breakdown by evil clowns.  At the same time it is now besieged by long-term issues: Lucas’ “Brexit, the latest terrorist attack in France, the failed coup in Turkey and racial violence in America”, in other words by the high frequency, low frequency campaign signals.

What makes the exhaustion worse is the self-jamming phenomenon. In nature animals have evolved filters to preventive destructive feedback.

“Echolocating animals can jam themselves in a number of ways. Bats, for example, produce some of the loudest sounds in nature, and then they immediately listen for echoes that are hundreds of times fainter than the sounds they emit. To avoid deafening themselves, whenever a bat makes an echolocation emission, a small muscle in the bat’s middle ear (the stapedius muscle) clamps down on small bones called ossicles, which normally amplify sounds between the ear drum and the cochlea. This dampens the intensity of the sounds that the bat hears during this time, preserving hearing sensitivity to target echoes.”

The problem is that the great mass of the Leftist public has no defense against their own deceptive signalling. They actually take their own political line seriously. They worry about problems that may not really exist, like the transgender bathroom crisis, the War on Women and Global Warming.  They deny the problems that really do exist.  They go to sleep thinking Iran is fixed, the refugee problem is solved, delight in the idea that the administration has made all these sophisticated deals with Assad and the Ayatollahs and Putin.

Then they wake up to the realization that what they thought fixed isn’t and are mentally defenseless against the terror attacks they unexpectedly experience. And so everyone gets exhausted.  Not a few observers have pointed out that the enemies of the West are largely sitting back and watching it blow a fuse.

Trump vs Hillary are signals converging from opposite ends of the spectrum until they meet explosively in the middle of the range.  If you have trouble understanding what it means, you can spell it out thus: what nobody ever believed was politically possible is finally here.  As things begin to ramp up and the Democratic convention opens it will be interesting to see whether the political/media complex can get all the way to November without blowing up.

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