By Mark Fishbein – Honorable Friend
Oh if the customers like it then they’ll keep on paying
If they keep on drinking then they’ll end up staying…
Like a finger running down a seam
From a whisper to a scream
Elvis Costello, “From a Whisper to a Scream”
In the mid-1990’s, my buddies and I joked about “road rage” as a novelty term when it first entered the popular lexicon. Today it is an epidemic and not really a laughing matter. People gun each other down over slights and perceived slights. Manners and common courtesy come off as pleasant surprises instead of cultural expectations. A person with whom one disagrees is more likely to be de-friended on Facebook and socially ostracized than engaged in heartfelt discussion without deep personal animosity. This is an unflattering picture of our societal evolution, if it can be called that.
In the inseparable world of politics and media, information no longer filters through a few major networks and newspapers. The public wins big by having access to additional information and differing viewpoints it otherwise would not have. But in a free market, multiple cable news and opinion channels and dozens of print and Internet news and opinion sites must constantly battle for survival. If it sounds a bit like a reality show, in some ways it is. Sensationalism, one-upsmanship, trickery, and spotlight grabbing, however unseemly, is crucial to the formula for success. As much as we might say we don’t like the noise, we prefer kindness and manners, we wax nostalgic about a more genteel time… Do those programs survive? Do those papers sell? Do those people advance?
Do those candidates get noticed?
Our culture has coarsened in competition for attention. The Western virtue of reason is at times drowned out by natural human instincts of passion and emotion. All have a role to play, but hopefully we strike the right balance.
The artwork above graphically fuses Messers Sanders and Trump. Both know how to make noise and rattle the cage to be heard. They make it look easy, but it isn’t. Ask the nearly 20 other candidates who began this primary season screaming from mountain tops yet barely spitting into the wind. It’s not for lack of intellect, message, or substance. Some of these folks have been at it a very long time, probably speechifying since heading up their elementary school student councils.
We live in an age where loud is proud. Too often quiet confidence is deemed as no confidence. TR once said speak softly and carry a big stick. Now too many talk and talk in the hope that in the next news cycle nobody remembers what was said. I’m from 5 generations of Chicagoans but Texas educated. There they believe in action. “All hat, no cattle”, describes the empty talkers. But noise is playing well in 2016. I’m curious to see how Mr. Trump does down at the border in the Great Republic of Texas.
Have we become all about the scream? Or can a whispered message still be heard?