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The Disturbing, Insidious, Negative Sound Bite Memes

Philosophical musings of Chic Hollis

I have written about memes before. They are viral type messages received by our physical senses that are automatically passed along to our thinking apparatus (whatever you want to call that) for interpretation and filing in our memory banks when an individual meme is considered important enough. The "memes" I refer to in the title of this musing are political memes.

The election season is upon us. The opportunity has arrived for releasing political messages that try to arouse our enthusiasm for a particular candidate. In California truthful evaluations of candidates' capabilities are few and very sketchy at best. The numerous, mostly negative, sound bites about an adversary, approved by the opponent's "handlers," are expected to influence the majority of voters to go to the polls and vote for the least objectionable candidate. Not necessarily the most qualified, responsible, likable, and honest person!

It astounds me to think that highly paid and intelligent handlers have convinced their protégés that responsible voters will be most influenced by a character assassination of the opposing candidate. A candidate's political advertisements that cite an adversary's "politically incorrect" comments are usually taken out of context. An unattractive photo of the opponent is another common way of "knocking" that candidate. A shameless candidate may authorize statements about an adversary that are exaggerated and inaccurate. Every political commentary is designed to paint an adversary as incompetent if not clueless.

False promises to update and correct the laws on the books are frequent memes "authorized" by ambitious candidates. These promises are the most insidious memes because they are put out to impress the optimistic voters who are seeking such changes. No matter how impossible it is to fulfill political promises, eager party affiliates refuse to doubt the intentions of their candidate to follow through when elected.

Vague promises guarantee some unidentified "change" (for the better or the worst, who knows?) The most popular promises are for less taxes even though the State of California and the Federal Government already are major deficit spenders; for more expensive entitlements like universal healthcare; and for unspecified political action that will bring about economic recovery or end an expensive war. Who is fooling whom? Is this the successful common practice of Democracy that should be exported to countries where the literacy rate is worse than ours?

Why do our political parties continue to use "mud slinging" as the accepted way to "win" a hotly contested election? By the time November rolls around, most voters are sick of political advertisements and detest all the candidates who use the negative sound bite tactic. The media doesn't care all that much about the election results because they are more interested in garnering advertising revenue. There may be freedom of speech and of the press, but that doesn't mean that the media power brokers and the lobbyists are interested in making this nation stronger and the general public happier with their government.

How long can the political stalemate in Sacramento go on, where the legislature won't touch the hard issues like balancing a budget? What sincere political messages does anyone hear today about doing that? Just unbelievable promises to take action which are laughed at by most voters. The current governor of California tried to change things, but he couldn't. He asked voters to approve sensible propositions, and they disapproved of every one he proposed that were aimed at eliminating the impasses in the legislature controlled by Democrats.

Can positive memes be circulated effectively to a distrusting public, when cynical voters, so accustomed to the general practice of promoting candidates with negative publicity, don't believe anyone's message? Voter turnout in this state reflects the apathy of many dissatisfied voters. A successful democracy depends on the participation of enlightened voters, but how can serious voters become properly informed about a candidate when so much mud is flying all the time?

Elections are six weeks away, and most of my discriminating California buddies would vote for "none of the above" if that were an option on the November ballot. The presidential election is two years from November, and one major political party has no statesman or woman identified as a potential opponent to run against the present president who is struggling to bring about the "changes" he promised voters in the last presidential election.

Memes are flying and the noise level is increasing, but the facts are few and far between. The opportunity in California for sorting out the potential effectiveness of the two Republicans who have never worked one day in an elective office and a couple of "has-been" politicians whose images need a great deal of polishing makes for a disappointing contest. Hopefully, voters will choose wisely, and the least ineffective candidates will surprise us next year with innovative solutions for our unresolved social problems and revenue shortage.

Isn't our polarized form of Democracy wonderful? Praise for our Democratic way of life is the popular political meme our leaders love to send out to the unenlightened citizens of the world who live in uncivilized countries which I won't bother to name!

Chic Hollis lived on four continents, speaks seven languages and had five children, all of which helped him gain a unique perspective on life.

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