A Manifesto For The Modern Political Junkie
Do you know someone who’s unemployed? A veteran? Struggling to maintain the illusion of middle class? Forget them as a person. They are a statistic, an oddball collection of contextual crises and predictability. The number one rule in obsessively following politics is Respect The Game. It is all a game, and if you allow the emotions that come with knowing a person and their struggle and their personality to collude the callous way in which politicians attempt to ride their vote, you will fail as a political junkie. Drop emotion. Drop attachment. Welcome to your new life. Narratives are crucial. Realize David Axelrod and Roger Ailes are the same person with different goals. Politicians are characters in a tragedy, and the media is the inept and loud Greek chorus which places it all in line for you. A politician is a combination of two caricatures: one painted by their own campaign and another created by the opponent. The winner is the one who is the most convincing or at least the most entertaining. The most crucial skill a candidate can learn is faking sincerity. Realize the faking of sincerity and actual sincerity are the same thing. Some smart guy said a long time ago that Perception Is Reality, and when a loose camera can catch them endorsing redistribution or writing off 47% of the nation as freeloaders a candidate must realize there is no moment they are not being perceived. There is no reason to see what casts the shadows; only the shadows themselves. Forget everything you know about objectivity because Perception Is Reality.
Dissolve the difference between a fact and what is best received. Don’t bother pouring over academic papers and Bureau of Labor statistics. Government reports and nonpartisan studies are for engineers and the weak. The only statistic worth knowing is a poll, because it confirms Perception (which, again, Is Reality). Every time a statement is made, forget bothering to fact- check it. In fact, the whole paradox of “news” organizations being separate from “fact-checking” organizations is only a reflection of you, the viewer. When Greta or Chuck talks about the effect of a statement on polls instead of its actual accuracy, be proud. Respect The Game. The Game is to win at all costs, be it defrauding voters or telling any crowd exactly what they want to hear. If someone says they’d rather be right than president, realize they will never be either. Lying isn’t corrupt or morally depraved; it is merely a good tactic as long as it is done convincingly. How a statement feels is much more important that what a statement says because Perception Is Reality.
Drop any political view you have ever had. Only the love of drama and predestined stories can invigorate you to pay attention. Slow news week? No such thing. Remember that every story counts. The silly season is year-round. A single hit to a campaign will be used as examples for future campaigns to live by. Every crises, whether it affects millions of actual people or merely the Pol-Sci majors running your nation’s fate, is a learning opportunity. Observe what builds on a poll and what does not, what builds on perception and what never matters. Respect The Game. All those people who bother to answer the phone when Gallup or Pew or Quinnipiac call are the sole basis of facts, the Higgs-Boson of the political world. If the President kills a fly or is told by an egotistical rapper he doesn’t care about black people, it is the most important thing to ever happen because it is. What would be a disaster and what is actually a disaster are the same thing.
Watch this. Realize you have been lied to, will continue to be lied to. Get comfortable. Consume. Develop hardcore relationships with 10 different blogs and stuff information into your distended head. If Perception Is Reality (and It is) then the moment you stop Perceiving you have left Reality. The weekend at your friend’s cabin is not Reality. Neither is the cat in your lap or the Lykke Li concert you went to. Reality comes in bits and bandwidth which exist in the air until perceived. Do not hold out hope for truth because there is none; at least none that matters. Do not hold out hope for logic. Do not hold out hope for your friend the unemployed, the veteran, the single-mother. Your only hope is the next story, the next news cycle. Become depressed at every hour the top headlines do not change. Make the refresh button your girlfriend. Lucky you, however, because the world is constantly measured in units of 140 characters at a non-stop pace. Cable news channels have largely abandoned the bottom scroll of facts and figures in favor of tweets because Perception Is Reality. Hit refresh. Nothing new? Find a pundit you disagree with and yell at invisible airwaves of pomposity and self-importance. Realize their motives, the cold truth they must compete in a war of consumerism with Kim Kardashian and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns. Realize they are losing. Respect The Game.
Realize you are not alone. You are now within the huddled masses yearning to be the author on whose comment board you are being far more fair and articulate than anyone else. Realize there are millions like you. Take comfort in their rationalizing that this circus matters, these arguments matter, someone must be telling the truth. What politicians believe are being handled by families at kitchen tables is actually being handled by you and those like you becoming furious at strangers, separated by thousands of miles of steel cable. Debate what you saw. Debate what you heard. Debate as if the universe is the anarchic existence it is and Perception Is Reality. You are as likely to change your mind as you are to change their mind, but the relentless pounding of your Perception is clearly more valuable than their Perception. You can bring a horse to water but if it refuses to drink, drown that fucker. Now kick that deceased equine. Separate people and ideas because people are only their ideas, never their actions. Welcome to your new life.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”