Context does matter

In our sound bite age, where context cannot be squeezed into a five or ten second bite, we tend to only hear or see someone say sensational things. Someone who is provocative and uses slogans will get on the air twenty times before someone of substance can get any footing. We are seeing this in the presidential race in America, where one person dominates the news.

The sad truth which this candidate knows, it does not necessarily have to be great publicity as any publicity works. And, if he said something truly awful like is his wont, he will accelerate a replacement sound bite for the next news cycle. The news stations do not have time or interest in offering context as his pace is relentless. So, in his view, give them something new to talk about.

in the US, we crave entertainment in everything. We would rather have an interesting buffoon as president, than a boring competent one. Many may be too young to remember a very smart presidential candidate Senator Paul Tsongas (pronounced Song-as). He was a marvelous policy wonk and may have been a good president. But, he spoke quietly in a monotone and came off as boring. It was so bad, his critics used Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Sound of Silence” and called him “Sound of Tsongas.”

Yet, context does matter. Words matter. We have a presidential candidate who is an embarrassment to our children, with his language, name-calling, bullying and narcissistic persona. How can we as parents tolerate such behavior, if we don’t want our children doing it? He does this as he is short on substance and reasonable policy ideas. Much of what he speaks of doing is illegal, immoral, infeasible, or goes against the grain of our country’s ideals. And, per our many retired generals and current and past defense leaders, much of what he says will not make us safer.

We cannot torture people unmercifully and it is illegal to go after the relatives of the captured suspects. Building a wall between Mexico would cost roughly $30 Billion and cost that much to maintain. Plus, it would do little to stop immigrants. Global warming is not a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs; it is a real problem and we need to accelerate doing something about it. We are not the most taxed country in the world, not even close. Reducing taxes under his plan would increase our $19 trillion debt by $12 trillion. Yet, he says he can reduce the debt in eight years – how?

Please ask lots of questions. Please read and watch reputable news sources. Understand the context, but listen to the words not the style. Being politically incorrect does not give someone license to lie or be a bully. Those who use name-calling tend to have the weakest argument.

Addendum: I read this morning about violence that broke out outside of a Trump rally in California. Folks, that is not what civil debate needs to look like and it needs to stop. Protest is one thing, but violence serves no purpose, regardless of who instigated it. Trump supporters have the right to assemble, just as Sanders or Clinton do. This takes the debate off the issues.

26 thoughts on “Context does matter

  1. You are right, of course. But much of the problem is that Americans have short attention spans and are unwilling to listen to the quiet, well thought-out presentation of someone who has something to say. Can you imagine an American audience today standing in the hot Summer sun in Illinois to listen to a presidential candidate speak for several hours??

    • I cannot see that happening. On the flip side, one reason Bernie has grabbed the attention of so many young folks is he is saying it plainly and speaking truthfully to real issues (but not for two hours in the sun). His candidacy has aided the process as he has focused on issues, whether folks agree with his solutions or think them workable. This runs counter to a loud talking narcissist who says global warming is a hoax among is 75% untruthful statements. Young folks know that not to be true, by in large.

      • Trump senses that Bernie will lose the nomination and is trying to win his followers over. Ha!! But I do worry that they will abandon politics altogether if Hillary wins the nomination — which appears a sure thing. The Party wants her to run against the Trumpet even though the polls show Bernie would beat the Trumpet hands down. Is it possible they own her somehow!!??

      • Hugh, I agree that Trump wants Bernie’s votes, but if he cannot have them, he wants Hillary not to which is why he is encouraging Sanders to run as an Ind. The GOP wants to run against Sanders in spite of the numbers. They will paint him with higher taxes and communism. The latter is unfair while the former is true but they will gloss over the big caveat of binational healthcare. Keith

  2. The longer this goes on, the more terrified I become of him. He feels very much like a dictator to me. His emotional immaturity, his narcissism, his utter lack of morality make me afraid.

    I’m mostly afraid that people who think he’s awful won’t vote. It insanity.
    I do think that Clinton, while not providing much in the way of change, is at least mildly palatable to moderate conservatives who find Trump too horrible to stomach. And I hope, against hope, that they will swallow their bile and vote for her rather than not vote.

    PS – you have diagnosed the human condition – our need for entertainment. It maybe our undoing yet.

    • I agree. Look at my response to Linda about the G20 and Russia. As for Clinton, one thing to her advantage is she is very experienced and has been vetted. As I have mentioned before, newcomers to politics, do not know when the criticism from the past has merit, and when it has been unfair. She needs to learn from Bernie and stick to the issues which are steeped in truth. And, Bernie needs to stay in the race as a reasonable voice on the issues. Trump and Cruz are not talking about real issues, sticking to platitudes. Trump’s foreign policy speech had no substance and some experts called it naïve.

      As for the entertainment, the author of The Hunger Games may not be as off the mark as first appears. Thriving cities who glut on entertainment, with rural areas in disrepair. The latter are the folks who are mad at the GOP and have flocked to Trump, as they have only been used for their votes by the GOP. The ACA would help them, minimum wages would help them, asset based community development and investment in infrastructure would help them, but the GOP has not supported these at all or like they should.

      • What I find most disingenuous or perhaps naive of the GOP is that the policies they actually publish are not workable. The tax plans both Trump and Cruz propose do NOT work. They will only increase deficit. They are vague on cuts while pledging to keep popular social welfare like SSI, Medicare and Veterans benefits but that makes up the VAST majority of the budget so eliminating things like the IRS or dept of Education is just not going to make a difference even were it a good solution.

        I despise that we don’t discuss policy we talk about rhetoric.
        I hate that we don’t dispassionately consider these candidates in the same light that we would consider hiring an employee or a contractor.
        Are they qualified and will their plans work?

        Instead we listen to ridiculous platitudes that are not designed to do anything but manipulate our emotions. We keep hearing soundbites rather than substance.

        But of course that is your original point – we want an entertaining short attention span sentence that can evoke an emotion. We don’t want facts. We want entertainment. So we are to blame for the Reality Show called the Presidential Election.

    • You write below, “ So we are to blame for the Reality Show called the Presidential Election.” Being a know it all smug mug I very much would like to diss me some hoi polloi, but “ We The People” are being main-lined this populist authoritarian revanchist via a coaxial cabal of cash and carry at any price cable news capitalist, and the country be damned.

      But you’re so right concerning Brothers Cruz and Trump’s economic solutions, but that just speaks to how strong that right wing shibboleth of trickle down Laffer Curve remains in the Church Of The Poor Will Always Be With Us. Seems we can’t get back to Feudalism fast enough.


      • Doug, always enjoy your coin of phrase. I think we have a two-sided coin. We are not working hard enough to make our democracy flourish. We are choosing to not pay attention. On the other side of the coin, the funders are buying their way to the oligarchy that is alive and well, which includes the orange haired narcissist in their count. Shallow and biased news makes it liking shooting fish in a barrel. So, Stephen Colbert termed it perfectly with “truthiness.” Your comments are welcome. Keith

  3. Of course, you know you’re preaching to the choir, here. But I also agree about the violence. If people dislike the Dumpster, they should simply stay away from him and his rallies. Frankly, he thrives on their negative attention, just like a little boy acting out for the attention of his peers and elders.

    • Linda, we need to expand the choir. I agree that he relishes the negative attention, as it gives him one more day he can stay away from substantive issues. I saw a report of a survey last night taken of the G20 countries. Every country but one, supported Hillary Clinton. The one who favored Donald Trump – Russia. What is interesting to me is Putin controls the media and the TV shows, so even in normal sit-coms, they make sure that criticism of Putin is light and of the opposition, heavy. This comes from a former director who fled. He said he Putin knew there needed to be some criticism, but by making it light, he is able to paint a picture in his favor any way he wants. This is the man Trump admires. Keith

      • It makes sense that the G20 favor her. They know her. She was secretary of state. Also she’s not much change from the current president.

        I feel like Putin and Trump are just the same person in different skin. The narcissistic, shallow and power hungry stereotype. Its not a good feeling to have about a potential president.

        However, I refuse to project his win. I am afraid of it, but I won’t feed the feeling of its inevitability. I will not accept it. America does not need to step down such a dark road.

      • Agreed on all points, but the real story must be told and told again about what he would do to out country and planet. Also, the biggest variable is for Bernie’s fans to vote for her.

      • And, by association, I guess, all those poor fools who thing the Dumpster walks on water. It’s crazy. I’m sure most of those people have seen his performances on The Apprentice. Do they think he will treat them any nicer than he has people who supposedly work or want to work for him?

      • Linda, I must confess never having seen The Apprentice. His reputation as a narcissist was built long before that show. But, I am not surprised given what you say. I know it is a faux reality show, but as a manager, I have never relished having to let someone go. It bothered me to the point the person affected noticed it. He seem to relish in saying “you’re fired.” Keith

  4. You are so right, Keith! How can a president like Trump ever be a role model to what we actually want to submit to our children! I really appreciate your clear statements. Although I am watching this (more or less updated) from afar I (and the rest of the world) is scared if someone like that would rule a big and important nation like the US!

    • Erika, thanks. He would make the world less safe with his naivete, thin skin, loose lips and narcissistic nature. Note my remarks to Linda about the survey of citizens of G20 countries. Thanks for your thoughts, Keith

  5. I was distressed to hear about the protests turning violent also. It’s as if they are playing into his (tiny) hands. Best to protest with counter-arguments and education, although it may be too late to change the minds of his ardent supporters. And, what is their GOP alternative… Cruz? Yikes!

    • Janis, there really is no alternative in the GOP. Boehner may have sealed Cruz’ fate, although he has reached desperation. If they went with Kasich or Cruz should Trump not get the votes or the nod, he would run as an Independent. So, the GOP will be stuck with an absolutely horrible candidate who should not let anywhere near the White House. Keith

  6. Another nice post Keith, on target and well put. But with the choir assembled, you know I’m going to sing off key. But while I…me.. to warm up let me say in full voice that I think climate change valid, happening now, and urgent.

    Yet, I saw a story this week, that may better help explain how Trump and others can push back against climate change and science. It’s a BBC story concerning a two hundred page scientific study by health and medical professional of the risk and benefits e-cigarettes portend for England’s heath care system and British society at large. Any fair reading of the report suggest, that the Brits have come to the exact opposite conclusion from their cousins across the pond.

    And that would be us. In fact scientist and medical professionals on both sides of the big drink are now throwing limes at each others’ scientific reports. In fact the Brits are now claiming that those who use e-ciggerettes to help them quit smoking, are 50 precent more likely to do so, and they have found no scientific evidence to suggest that e-cigs act as a gateway for young people to move up to the tar and carcinogenic ready rolls. Uncle Sam has found the exact opposite.

    Now Keith, excepting population number differences, these two very similar, sophisticated, and scientific societies have reached, again, exact opposite conclusions. How can that be? One was study politicized, the other purchased, or both. Either way, for climate change deniers, stuff like this is gold. Pyrite maybe, but certainly a tool for persuasion.

    Again Keith, fine post. And hows ‘bout those Cubs.


    • Doug, did you expect the Cubbies to do so well? What a great start – let’s play three says Mr. Cub.

      Science is constantly questioning things. The e-cig is likely working its way through the better data. There is scientific consensus on climate change. If this were a sporting event it would Michael Jordan’s Bulls winning 72 games and the title. The world is moving on and the GOP is being left behind. By the way, I thought you would appreciate the Bulls analogy more than Golden State. Keith

  7. More people are hearing you and that is a great thing. It took a long time to get to the bottom to leave a comment. Yes it ugly that a presidential canidate can anger people so that they riot. Our leader should be one to promote peace. You know I agree with you 100%.

    • Thanks Kim. I was thinking today on a long drive, if someone says he wants to “unite us,” doing things to unite us like a real leader would be a place to start. Oh, something simple like giving credit where credit is due, speaking truthfully, stopping the violence rather than enflaming it and stop name-calling. That would be evidence of leadership.

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