Plato Hated Democracy. So Do Most Journalists.

Status games in the crab bucket

We hear and read so much in the media about X is subverting our democracy, Y is destroying our democracy, Z is demolishing our democracy, ad infinitum, especially from journalists who were not hired for their knowledge (they basically have none), but for their ability to express outrage opinions designed to get clicks to drive the advertising revenue of their employers. Oh the outrage! Oh the clicks! Oh the advertising dollars flowing in!

Perhaps that’s what really ruining our democracy.

We idealize democracy, or at least the Athenian concept of rule by the people, direct democracy. The United States is a constitutional republic, with representative democracy (i.e. the people don’t actually participate in the government but elect representatives who do).

It seems every time there’s an election, the media, academia, and other so-called elites go into panic/hysteria mode about the imminent collapse of democracy. BTW, this is nothing new. I was an undergraduate when Ronald Reagan won the election in 1980 and I remember my professors throwing tantrums in class and predicting the end of the world in a nuclear Holocaust (obviously we’re still here). Also, remember that John Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in 1960 by less than 1% of the vote. The problem with the crisis in democracy media narrative is that it only flows in one direction.

So, it seems that one of the characteristics of democracy is that every election signals the imminent collapse of democracy, unless we vote for the candidate that journalists/academics/elites want us to vote for.

It will be interesting if Biden wins this election, because the “crisis in democracy” narrative will quickly disappear and the blue-checkers will spend the next four years in a lotus-eaters golden utopia narrative like they did in the Obama years.

Journalists, like academics, are focused on playing zero-sum status games, in competition with each other because they’re all doing exactly the same things. In other words, journalists are writing and opining for other journalists, for status rewards. Just watch how when the talking point goes out, they all mimic each other in their quest for status within the monoculture. Twitter and other social media sites amplify this effect, but the net result is more advertising dollars for their employers and more “status” for the journalists in the crab bucket.

One could argue that it’s pointless to rely on knowledge-less journalists, whose job is increase the advertising dollars of their employers, for information on the imminent collapse of democracy into the abyss. They’re obviously only in favor of democracy when their favored candidates win; otherwise, it’s the “crisis in democracy”narrative all over again. The only thing that would shut them up (and given the amplification powers of social media, probably not) would be a 49 state, 525 electoral college rout like Reagan over Mondale in the 1984 election.

[That’s what the current media polls are predicting for Biden. If that happens, unsurprisingly, none of the journos will be calling for the end of the electoral college. If it’s the other way around, well, crisis in democracy!]

I think the one book that every citizen should be required to read in a democracy is Plato’s Republic, which is the foundational text of political science. Plato was for rule by elites, aristocracy, and being a philosopher, of course, was in favor of a philosopher-king. I’m surprised more journalists aren’t quoting him, since they all seem to be in favor of rule by elites (thinking themselves part of the elite, of course); however, I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that most journalists are incredibly, poorly read.

Plato hated democracy. “Democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, while to the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and powers; and this is the form of government in which the magistrates are commonly elected by lot.”

His problems with democracy are 1) that it ignores the qualities of a statesman (as defined by the philosophers, of course) and promotes to honor anyone who portrays themselves as the people’s friend and 2) its actual qualities are “the freedom and libertinism of unnecessary pleasures.”

Not only that, but according to Plato, tyranny actually has its origins in democracy.

Basically, democracies tend to OD on freedom: when the slave is as free as his or her purchaser and equality of the sexes exist, then this extreme liberty leads to anarchy. “The truth being that the excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction…and so tyranny arises out of democracy.”

In a democracy everything is managed by drones (Plato likes bee analogies), with the drones feeding on the wealthy class, and the workers making up the largest and most powerful class. The workers, tormented by the drones, turn to revolution, “impeachments, judgements and trials of one another.” And thus the crisis of democracy ends in tyranny.

We’ve seen this every single day over the last four years as journalists/academics/elites portray Trump as the tyrant who has ended democracy in their never ending quest for high status in the journalist/academic/elite bubble. The other day when Trump returned to the White House from Walter Reed hospital, stepped outside on the balcony AND removed his mask, all the blue-check journos, like lemmings, tweeted that he was Mussolini on the balcony (after years of tweeting that he was Hitler); unsurprisingly, none of them ever accused one Democrat president who’d also stood on that balcony of being Mussolini.

Ah, status games in the crab bucket.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States states that Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech, or the press.” So even as the journalists and the academics and the social media companies and other elites press for limiting freedom of speech (but not, of course, their freedom of speech), there will be an election on November 3rd, and either it’s once again the end of democracy (Trump re-elected) or the golden utopia (Biden elected) as democracy chugs along.

Plato hated democracy. So do many journalists. And yet we have freedom of the press, so opine they will, arguing for limits on who is able to speak, arguing for rule by elites, all in the name of democracy. The second handers, the looters, the moochers, the favor seekers, (as Ayn Rand called them) projecting their self-loathing onto the rest of us via legacy media and social media.

Thankfully, we drones also have freedom of speech. For now.

Writing. Literature. Philosophy. Culture. Ph.D. University of Arizona. Author of The Kingdom of Absurdities and other novels. BTC/ETH: brucegatenby.crypto

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