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Message Fatigue

by on June 22, 2018

Message Fatigue

by Marco M. Pardi

I suppose it is good for the body. But the tired part of me is inside and out of reach.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), responding to a friend’s suggestion that he rest.

All comments are eagerly welcomed and will receive a response.

Yes, it’s me again. Message fatigue. I’m sure all of us are familiar with the concept if not the name. As young children we read about The Boy Who Cried Wolf. We learned about Chicken Little. And, in Greek classes we followed the sorrowful fate of Kassandra, who correctly predicted dire events but was never believed.

At some point in that childhood we got first hand understanding of message fatigue; we endured seemingly endless “Duck and Cover” drills while imagining Soviet bombers targeting our schools. Well, maybe they weren’t. No, definitely, not this time. Just another drill. Now, where were we?

Through the decades the messages have varied wildly but the industry producing them has only gained pace. The next Ice Age is coming – the planet is warming. Coffee gives you cancer and heart disease – coffee fights cancer and strengthens the heart. Margarine is healthier than butter – margarine is murder on your cholesterol. And on and on. Each reader is thinking of one I haven’t put here.

While reading or doing other things I often have cable news running in the background. CNN. I will not allow FOX News, the Voice of the 4th Reich, into my home. Throughout the day there are spots highlighting a problem and requesting money, often quite effectively, toward solving it. By afternoon I frequently find myself thinking, I don’t have enough money to spread everywhere I would like to. But that doesn’t stop the bombers from flying into my family room, dropping guilt on me with precision. Recently, however, a question occurred to me. As I was watching an ad soliciting money to operate on children with cleft palates I got the sense that all the ads for this I’ve seen, and there have been many over the decades, showed children in 3rd World countries. Okay, I get it that the operations are costly, and several of these countries do not have the facilities or personnel to perform the surgery even if the family somehow got the money. But, the impression left by the train of messages is that there is a disproportionate incidence of cleft palate in these countries. If that is so, why is that so? On the other hand, I understand that children born with this condition in the top tier countries are far more likely to receive surgery as soon as it is feasible. But let’s not overlook the fact that this surgery is “elective” and may even be deemed “cosmetic” by our uncaring and predatory insurance industry.

Speaking of children, a few days ago I did my daily visit to a close friend who is fighting two separate diseases, each lethal. A tough as nails former Air Force officer, lifetime NRA member and lifetime Republican, his first gasping, gulping words as I entered his room were, “This…is…just…tearing…me…up.”

No, he was not referring to the swollen abdomen from one condition or the liquid filled lungs from the other. He was referring to the television coverage of the little children being torn from their parents and locked in cages on the Southern Border. I had seen that coverage, especially the little girl sobbing her heart out. My only child, now a woman, had looked so much like that little girl I, a person some of you know as having a career background, was bent over in tears, even less able to speak than my friend.

The administration is all over the news, denying it is their fault while claiming the government is sanctioned and approved by God. The Attorney General, a person who should know the basics of American law, quotes Paul, the man who, never having met Jesus, nonetheless created Western “Christianity”. What the administration does not know, or admit to, is that the very same bible passage was used by the Loyalists to try to prevent the American Colonial Secession (it was not a “revolution”) from England and, later, to justify slavery.

So what is the message? This administration is ordained by God? American theocracy?

Every day I receive and sign dozens of petitions for a wide variety of issues. Where some petitions ask me to craft a message in my own words I do so. Yet, there are times when, faced with another in-box screen filled with such messages, I hear my inner voice telling me I’ve done enough for a while. My one petition or letter really makes no difference. The disgusting garbage that has seized the House, the Senate, the White House and every function of government (in my case, from federal to state to local levels) will not bother themselves to read my letters. But I feel I recognize that voice: it’s the voice of fatigue. It’s the voice that awakens on those rare occasions when I get a response which turns out to be another self-serving form letter purporting to be from the politician to whom I wrote and who likely never saw my letter.

Anyone who has read a substantial number of my posts, especially during and since the election cycle knows I have written often of the impending, and now de facto Fascist takeover of the United States. I was most certainly not alone in doing so. Some of the finest minds spoke out in various media to explain the nature of the threat. But, perhaps that was the problem. The more these people spoke out and the closer in tone their messages became the more they looked like a special class, an “elite”, to the average reader (I include “reader” generously because I think most Americans do not read past the headline) or viewer. So it became not a variety of messages from qualified people but a staccato repetition from what seemed to be a monolithic source, the “Clinton people”. (The name Clinton appeared far more often than the term Democrat throughout most of the race, an indication of how the contest was perceived)

The Russians, on the other hand, had mastered not only audience segmentation but also source segmentation, a relatively new phenomenon in mass communications. Indeed, the Democrats could have gone down the list of Republican Tea Party Conservatives one by one to show how they had obstructed meaningful progress but, careful to avoid anything too cerebral for the public, they remained married to the principle of message repetition. Of course, repetition, especially in America, quickly leads to fatigue. The Russians, on the other hand, launched a blizzard of different, short, and emotionally provocative false and misleading stories and “fake news” items – the real fake news Trump endlessly trumpets about. These stories and “news” items came at the public through a variety of popular media and, while crafted to appear distinct, were leading the public down the desired rabbit hole of post-fact – “They say, so it must be true”. Trump himself campaigned heavily with this technique, constantly saying “Many people tell me….folks are saying….” without ever having to produce the people or the folks.

The mantra “fake news” is not just the ravings of a demented man. It is laying the foundation for actions currently under study by the administration. The Federal Communications Commission issues and renews the broadcast licenses for media outlets. Trump himself has repeatedly threatened to cancel the license renewal of CNN, MSNBC, and NPR, outlets that have dared to expose and challenge the daily avalanche of lies coming from him and his administration. I have repeatedly written the FCC and the White House, citing my birth in Fascist Italy and informing them that centralized control of the media is a pillar of Fascism. I have the form letter responses to prove it.

Honestly, I have wondered how many people have turned away from my blog thinking it was just an endless rant. But self criticism is healthy, to a degree. And being somewhat negative pays dividends; few people are disappointed by not being disappointed. To paraphrase Bob Gates, a man for whom I developed great respect, “When CIA officers stop and smell the flowers, they look around for the hearse.”

I liken my braided careers then and now to watching a porpoise swim along the seashore, briefly visible above the surf only intermittently, and then gone. I continue to spend daily hours clicking away on this keyboard, sending petitions and writing letters. I care very deeply for what’s happening on shore, though there will come a time when I’ll never see it again.

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12 Comments
  1. Mark Dohle permalink

    When reading this, it seemed to get faster and faster, as if you wrote it in one breathe. I understand much of what you have said, but you are so politically attuned, while I am not at all. I have tried to understand politics, but it all seems so self-serving, both the left and the right. Today, politics is a career, not a service to the people, at least in my opinion. I do know that I have prejudices against politicians, so I am most likely being unfair to many of them.

    I ignore most things now that I see on the internet. So much of it is based on getting us afraid, and then spending money to make it go away. Technology has us, we don’t have it. Instead of making our lives easier and more manageable (which it sometimes does) just gives us more to do, or to watch, or to listen to, so that we can be overwhelmed by a great deal of garbage. So I am slowly backing away from it all. At 70, or very near to it, I think it is time to back off a bit. I have been slowly doing it over the last year or so……just tired.

    Also all the scams, the con’s the spam phone calls, has led me to not trust anything I get on my email or that comes over the phone. I just tell the spam callers that I no longer trust anything that comes over the phone, or in my email that I don’t know. Perhaps if enough people tell them, it could slow down.

    Though my life is quiet compared to most. I have time for reading, prayer, and meditation. Yet I get fatigued. In any case, I have learned that cultures after a bit of time get on a trajectory that has to be ridden until the end, not sure we can do much about it. Just hold on, pray ;-).

    Peace
    Mark

    • Julie permalink

      Hi Marco, Mark Dohle literally spoke the words that I wanted to say but couldn’t articulate. I hope you are well and enjoy reading your regular blog entries even though I don’t always get to reply.

      • Thank you, Julie. I’m glad to see you are still reading the blog, and I assume you are well. Marco

    • Thank you, Mark. Actually, I was surprised you were as involved in current affairs as you are. Still, I understand your position, and think of adopting it myself at times. But I have three primary drivers: my daughter and grandchildren; the sentient life all around us on this planet; and – a very personal one – the long running attitude in one particular political party that people are just simpletons to be manipulated for their votes.

      By the way, you are almost correct: I took several breaths along the way writing this.

  2. Maybe it’s just me riding the sound-bite train, but it seems that lies, told long, loud, or emphatically enough, begin to be accepted as truth. I think maybe we want to believe that what we hear or read is true, but that simply cannot be accepted as reality in today’s world. We hear so many lies that we can’t tell the difference any more; unable to believe anything, we just shut down. I care about the world, but I doubt sincerely that there is anything I can do about what’s wrong with it.

    Like you, and quite possibly everyone else, my email is full of pleas for money to support whatever cause or candidate has originated the request. Like you, I don’t have money enough to help even those in which I believe. I have shut down emotionally, and maybe that’s what the current administration wants; numb people don’t react even to the worst of the horrors that surround us.

    We are indeed living in a Fascist country; that takeover may be complete if/when Drumpf puts his own “news” channel on the air. Hatred abounds; it’s as if someone ripped a hole in the space-time continuum and shoved all of us back a few decades, somewhere between six and eight would be a good guess.

    In the sixties, I swore I would never bring children into such an awful world. In today’s world, I hear my grandchild echo the same sentiment.

  3. Thank you, Rose. I think you are exactly correct in your self assessment and in your critique of the motivations behind the drumbeat of lies – make us numb and compliant.

    The danger, growing stronger every day, is that more people will simply tune out of the larger picture while processes such as Trump’s “news channel” get put in place and become the everyday “what’s on the news”. I suspect most people did not even know this plan is in motion.

    • While I was writing my story, I immersed myself in the political news of the day, so much so that I became increasingly depressed. This is the primary reason why I had to stop writing. Who could know so much and not be affected by it? I am not so much numb as cauterized.

      As for that “iconic photo” people are talking about: how could anyone see it and not know it was photo-shopped? Even if you discount the lack of background… it’s all too fantastic. That such a fuss is being made over the fact that this particular child was not ripped from her parent’s arms at the border, are we meant to forget that so many others suffered that fate. I read that about 500/2300 children have been returned to their parents; good, but not good enough. This is an experience that has changed their life forever. And they’ve stopped separating families, at least until after the mid-term elections. I HATE politics.

      • I can well understand it. Your story was so precise, up to the minute, and insightful.

        As far as I’m concerned, that one child stood for all the children in their various degrees of suffering. People say the adults should have known better. But, there were no signs or messages in those countries telling people what the Reich had waiting for them.

  4. Marco, I’m glad you wrote about message fatigue. I don’t ever want to become complacent. As you know, sometimes I retreat to the “bubble” for mental health reasons. The onslaught of emails and petitions to my inbox from so many organizations sometimes overwhelms me.

    I used to feel guilty for not signing as many petitions as I could; other times I would awaken during the night, check Gmail on my phone, and begin signing petitions in bed. I’m trying to find balance. I do worry about the future, especially for my two adult children. For them I keep plugging along when I’m able, and for them, I’m ever grateful for your dedication.

  5. Thank you, Dana. Withdrawal is a great temptation, and exactly what the Reich wants. I’m glad you are carefully active. We need you.

  6. Kathy O. permalink

    I am fond of Sinclair Lewis. A favorite Lewis quote: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.”

    Thank you for inviting me to your blog.

    • Thank you for joining in, Kathy. Your experiences, and your views are most welcome. I think we can all review Lewis’ words and consider our current situation. Thank you for bringing them to us.

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