Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 2-Aug-2010
2-Aug-10 News -- The rise of political and journalistic acrimony

Web Log - August, 2010

2-Aug-10 News -- The rise of political and journalistic acrimony

US military has a plan to attack Iran, if necessary

Political and journalistic acrimony - Why it's happening, and how it will end

Anyone who's been paying attention for the last ten years is aware that the level of public acrimony has been increasing steadily. This applies to acrimony in politics and journalism, as well as to surging xenophobia in many countries around the world, involving Jews, Catholics, Americans, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, French, Mexicans, and so forth.

I've written about this many times on my web site, over the last eight years. The one time that I got a big chuckle out of all the political bickering and acrimony occurred in 2007, when I wrote, "Today's Schadenfreude: The Congressional pay raise is blocked," because of political bickering. If bickering prevents a Congressional pay raise, then it can't be all bad.

Journalistic acrimony was the subject of CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday. Moderator Howard Kurtz began the program this way:

"We [journalists] have been called everything from patsies to pinheads, blamed for bias, skewered for sensationalism, ripped for recklessness. The atmosphere is just plain ugly.

What accounts for these mean-spirited attacks on the media, and in many cases perpetuated by the media? Why are journalists being called not just wrong, but dishonest, racist, corrupt? ...

It's not that the criticism is not legitimate. The media did perform badly, by and large, in the sacking of Shirley Sherrod. Liberal journalists did say some awful things about conservatives on that off-the-record discussion group [the Journolist]. Conservative commentators did accuse the mainstream media of shilling for Obama by not getting exercised about that New Black Panther Party controversy. There are serious questions about what Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings did with General McChrystal.

But never in my professional lifetime has the media bashing been so deafening, so personal, and so much of it carried out by some pundits against other pundits."

Here are quotes from several of the clips that Kurtz showed to illustrate the point:

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann appearing in a video clip on CNN's Reliable Sources <font size=-2>(Source: CNN)</font>
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann appearing in a video clip on CNN's Reliable Sources (Source: CNN)

The rise of the acrimony culture

Kurtz said that "never in my professional lifetime" has it been so bad. And that's true, since Kurtz is too young to remember the 1930s. Bickering is a part of every culture during generational crisis periods.

In the 1860s, the acrimony got so bad, we actually fought a Civil War over it. In the 1930s, the acrimony was turned first on President Herbert Hoover for failing to stop the stock market crash, and then President Franklin Roosevelt was the target of many scandal accusations, some of which still haven't yet been settled. (Just google the term "FDR scandals" and get thousands of hits.)

Generational Dynamics theory explains why this acrimony is occurring, and also explains exactly how it's going to end.

I like to start by reminding people how different the world was in the 1980s.

At that time, the people in charge were from the generations that had survived the Great Depression and World War II -- the great GI generation, that had fought the war, and the Silent Generation, the children who grew up during that period, and suffered a kind of generational child abuse as a result. These people understood the importance of putting political differences aside and reaching compromises, for the good of the nation as a whole.

Thus, in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill could get together in a bar in the evening, tell jokes, and drink Irish beer. The Republicans and the Democrats could cooperate with each other to change the Social Security system to make it a sounder system. After that, they could cooperate again to specify new rules to control the budget deficit. Compromise was still possible in 1996, when Democratic President Bill Clinton, saying that "the era of big government is over," cooperated with the Republican Congress to eliminate the welfare entitlement.

I doubt that anyone will argue with me when I say that NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like that is possible today. The only argument will be that Democrats will blame Republicans, and Republicans will blame Democrats.

Since the 1990s, the GI and Silent generations have all but disappeared. The Boomers came next, and now Generation-X is pretty much in charge of things. The result has been the dot-com bubble, the real estate bubble, the financial crisis, and an unlimited amount of acrimony.

Here's a quote from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on CNN on Sunday:

"And to the American people, immigration is broken and will never be fixed until we change our laws. Our laws are broken. If you want to fix immigration, allow Republicans and Democrats to get in a room and do some good old-fashioned horse trading to -- to get this thing fixed. If we keep yelling at each other; if we keep just saying no to each other's idea, we're going to have one thing in common: we're going nowhere together."

The problem is that this is literally impossible today. It was possible in the 1980s, but "horse trading" between Republicans and Democrats on anything but trivial issues is impossible, because the mood of the country is acrimony.

The acrimony will keep on increasing, and will only end when something forces it to end.

Regeneracy events

The word "regeneracy" is a technical term in generational theory. It refers to a point in time when the political bickering ends, and civic unity is regenerated because the survival of the country is at stake.

What kinds of events cause a regeneracy? In the Civil War it was the Battle of Bull Run, the first battle that made everyone aware that the country might not survive. In World War II, it was the combination of Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March.

What kinds of regeneracy events might be in our future? It's impossible to predict, or course, but there are some obvious possibilities. One possibility is a massive terrorist attack on American soil, such as a nuclear explosion somewhere. Another possibility is a big military defeat, such as the sinking of an aircraft carrier or two by Chinese missiles. When an event of this kind happens -- and it WILL happen -- then the regeneracy will occur.

The good news is that the bickering will be reduced, and the nation will be unified once more behind its leaders. And I would expect the Tea Party movement to play an important role in that.

The bad news is that we'll be in a world war.

Additional links

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the military has a plan to attack Iran if necessary. Iran promised a "firm response" if an attack takes place. Associated Press

The United Arab Emirates has threatened to terminate BlackBerry's Messenger, e-mail and web browsing services on October 11, unless RIM, the vendor, agrees to supply the UAE with the codes that will allow the country to intercept and read e-mail messages. Bloomberg

Two South Koreans were killed when they picked up boxes containing land mines that had apparently floated downstream from North Korea in heavy rain. JoongAng

New online services are available that let you learn a foreign language from native speakers in other countries who wish to learn English in return. NY Times

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, 86 years old and emotionally disturbed, told the European Union to "go to hell" yesterday at a funeral, because of the EU's refusal to lift travel sanctions and bank freezes of his ZANU-PF Úlite. Mugabe has turned Zimbabwe, the breadbasket of Africa in the 1990s, into a starving, disease-ridden country. where torture and murder of his political enemies are the norm. Scotsman

A new surgical robot being developed at Duke University is able to perform certain kinds of surgical procedures with no human assistance. Duke University

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Aug-10 News -- The rise of political and journalistic acrimony thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Aug-2010) Permanent Link
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