Rise of the Machines

It appears that the Terminator movie franchise got it wrong. Yes, the machines do indeed have designs on destroying the human race, but not with hulking cybernetic organisms and brute strength. Artificial intelligence is far too smart for that gambit. Theirs is a much simpler and far more sinister play. And they have help.

With the events of January 6th unfolding in and around the Capitol building, it’s clear that something far more nefarious is going on behind the scenes. While the intellectually lazy clamor to mount the speeding but misguided bandwagon heading straight for Donald J. Trump and his Republican “conspirators,” the rest of us are left wondering.

If Trump is an incompetent buffoon and his supporters are nothing more than a basket of uneducated simpletons, how did he manage to realize the highest office in the United States of America? How did a band of “empty-headed deplorables” breach the confines of the Capitol? Those seem like tall tasks for folks portrayed as one-dimensional morons.

If you expected the members of the Democratic Party to boldly stand in the void, stabilize the union, and buttress the frayed nerves of our nation, you are no doubt disappointed. On the contrary, the rhetoric has ratcheted up a hundredfold. The disdain for the President has understandably increased to a thunderous level. But the vitriol and outright hatred for anything even remotely associated or perceived to be associated with Trump, Republicans, or conservative ideals is alarming.

Without a doubt, the United States of America is standing at a crossroads.

The unrelenting din of divisive remarks from every corner demands that we choose sides. Trump or Biden, red or blue, urban or rural, traditional or progressive, even paper or plastic, there are only two sides. One is right, and one is wrong. Choose wisely.

The reality is, as any Libertarian will tell you, there are more than two valid opinions on a given subject. So, how is it that our nation is so lost? Did we miss the left turn at Albuquerque? Who is responsible for the current situation?

The answer is not Donald J. Trump. Granted, he did pilot the country into some very dark waters. Still, Trump and his rise to popularity are merely symptoms, not the disease. Is it possible that we’re all part of the problem?

Comedian Rowan Atkinson thinks so. In a recent interview, he told the British weekly magazine Radio Times: “The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society.” He likens the cancel culture mentality to “the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn.”

With more Americans relying on social media to provide their news and information, we have unwittingly become cogs in the machine. We have allowed the sophisticated computer algorithms of Facebook to shape what we see and, ultimately, what we think. (Ironic, no?) We seem to blindly accept that a 280 character Tweet can correctly convey the nuances of a situation.

As Mr. Atkinson so aptly puts it, we have a “binary view of society.” It’s far easier to believe that we are in the majority. After all, our Facebook friends agree with us. If they don’t, we simply unfriend them. Problem solved.

Donald J. Trump, Bernie Sanders, and the “Squad” are simply the result of a narrow me-first view of the world. They are heroes or villains (depending on your point of view) of our own making. We’ve allowed ourselves to be seduced by the convenience of easy, often one-sided information, and the result is a digital form of tribalism that rivals the “Lord of the Flies.”

The storming of the Capitol building is the horrible result of digital tribalism unleashed. We’ve become the terrifying mindless robots of science fiction. The casualties are common; sense and decency.

It seems that Mr. Bean, of all people, has taken the “red pill” and can see the Matrix for what it is.

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