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Journalists (and Academics) Did Not Do Enough

… and Metaeconomics gives an analytical system to help understand the point…

So, the US --- starting back in about 2015 --- almost went over the precipice from US Democracy to US Autocracy, and that precipice still lingers on the horizon. The message in one of the most essential information systems to maintaining the US (or any other) Democracy, the news cycle, has been and continues to be a big part of it. Ramos (2020), as a journalist, is being really tough on all journalists, looking back to that which was building prior to the 2016 election, and then in the years leading to the 2020 election:

We journalists should have been tougher on Mr. Trump, questioning his every lie and insult. … We should never again allow someone to create an alternative reality in order to seize the presidency.

The point is, the lies, distortion, outright propaganda have been (and still are) drumming the flames of US Autocracy in an alternative reality, a Fantasyland, for several years. Several cable news networks are especially remiss in not addressing it. In fact, some are working to maximize profits from it, encouraging the drumming on the road to a US Autocracy in a Fantasyland that somehow would Make America (Fantasyland Version --- Filled With Conspiracy --- of It) Great Again. And, in terms of the 2020 election, the result could have been devastating: As Ramos (2020) makes clear, journalists got too wrapped up in “covering” the balderdash, giving equal time and attention to the unhinged as compared to the hinged, when the focus needed to be on continually pointing to the distortion in the unhinged.

As Ramos (2020) describes it:

--- the media’s obsessive coverage of Mr. Trump … over time normalized his rude, abusive and xenophobic behavior. Some members of the press seemed fascinated by the Trump phenomenon; others wrongly thought that he would soon change his ways. The prevailing attitude was something along the lines of “That’s just the way Trump is, and we have to cover him no matter what he says.” … journalists sought constant access to Mr. Trump during the campaign, and the media aired — sometimes without any criticism or context — many of his most mind-boggling comments.

Dangerous. Why? Mr. Trump and enablers in cable news; enabling/self-interest/arrogance of self-love only politicians; and social media were building a distorted other-interest. It became too widely shared --- repeated so often that people started to believe it, even if a total distortion --- an alternative reality in the shared other-interest of an Autocracy not a Democracy. Repetition led to belief in that alternative reality. A distorted shared other-interest was formed, and has become almost cult-like: Kool-aid, anyone?

By highlighting the reality (made clear in Behavioral Economic Science) that each person has a dual interest, Metaeconomics demonstrates that the content of the shared other-interest must be given attention and carefully considered. The shared other-interest holds both Science (solid, scientific method based information) & Ethics (doing the reasonable thing, that which everyone can go along with, as the US Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution, as well as the US Bill-of-Rights, points to so doing). The alternative reality which came to form the other-interest of the supporters was being given credence by journalists just from the sheer coverage of it, turning it into common conversation as though it was reality. The alternative reality was both Anti-science&Unethical.

Far too many people, largely Without Thinking it seems (like Make America Think Again), supported the move to an alternative reality based US Autocracy (as in an Authoritarian Dictatorship with a Fascist twist). Would a US Autocracy be better than a US Democracy? Definitely not, at least not in the economic realm, as Metaeconomics based empirical analysis clearly confirms. It would not make the economy great again.

Metaeconomics makes clear the shared other-interest in a true US Democracy --- the most fundamental part being that every person, not just a favored few in the Autocracy, is endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights --- is essential to achieving economic efficiency, peace, and happiness. A US Autocracy violates that fundamental proposition by definition and action. A US Autocracy will be economically inefficient: So, it is very much about the economy, as the politicians often say. A US Autocracy would bring economic inefficiency, chaos and unhappiness.

And, as Metaeconomics clarifies, the only path to the best economy is through the humane liberalism of a true Capitalism&Democracy, which has been known for almost 300 years. It goes back to the Enlightenment thinkers like Adam Smith. But, one has to read both of his books, jointly, not just the Ego (Wealth of Nations) book: The Empathy (Moral/Ethical Sentiments) book is essential reading, too, and it must be integrated, as in Ego&Empathy, Wealth&Ethics.

So, as a reminder, Metaeconomics clarifies that the shared other-interest evolves through the empathy-based evolution of the moral and ethical system that gives the overall framework for that which is in the shared other-interest. Empathy --- because it is the starting point on the way to an ethic --- is essential. Ego will destroy, and, ego based self-arrogance is common in Autocracies.

Authoritarians have huge Egos, also tend to be quite Hedonistic and Narcissistic, and, the Huge Ego leaves no room for Empathy: It will double destroy, including destroying the person with the Ego, and everything touched (family, community, business, state, and, yes, the entire US Democracy). A Democracy is about finding good balance in Ego&Empathy, Self&Other, with the Other including everyone --- as noted earlier, the most fundamental feature of a Democracy --- not just the favored few (wealthy, powerful, some favored race, or other narrowly defined group) in an Autocracy. Empathy (and Ethics), please.

Academics too --- especially as tenured academics who are protected from the politicians, I know, from experience when a politically appointed water management board came after me one time, years ago --- have also been too quiet. The anti-science framing of the most recent Administration should have been called out even more regularly and forcibly than it was so called. Lies and distortions on trivial things, even though outrageous, as long as they do not hurt people or the Spaceship on which we travel, well, maybe they can just be allowed to fly-by. It is not worth the effort to comment.

Distortions on matters of consensus science (e.g. on the capacity of the Spaceship to hold and process more greenhouse gases, with that overload of the capacity leading to drastic climate change, including severe weather events leading to an Iowa derecho and California wild-fires): Not. Distortions on the role of well-fitted masks to substantively reduce the probability (the N95 masks suggests up to 95%, crude, but in the ball-park estimate) of spreading he virus (Mandate N95, with an Opt-out provision, masks please): Not. Scientists need to be actively engaging, explaining, informing the conversation.

On just these two matters alone: How many $billion and lives would have been saved with an investigative journalist and science based frame, and more engagement to at least slow-down the Alternative Reality, the Fantasyland, replacing it with Reality in Factualand? A lot.

The journalists and the academics play a substantive role in lighting the darkness of misinformation on the way to substantive, factual information in the light, so essential to a Democracy. The Autocrat and enablers (including the outrageous social media interactions) need to be in sight of reasoned thinkers and researchers (including the investigative journalists) early on, and continual attention paid, well-before a cult of believers emerges around the Autocratic emperor who has no clothes. And, then, stay vigilant and engaged.

Ramos, J. What I Learned from My Brush With Trump. New York: New York Times, Opinion Section, Digital Edition, December 4, 2020.

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