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We're Anomic-- And That's Probably A Bad Thing

"Mo Brooks: 'The Kind Of Sacrifice We Have To Make'" by Nancy Ohanian

Because it was a strength in high school-- I knew more than the teacher and she would let me teach the class while she went out for a smoke-- I started college majoring in history. But the department was too conservative and I quickly switched to political science. They were a bunch of namby-pamby liberals and I soon discovered the sociology department, the most radical bunch on campus. And among my favorite sociologists were the great 19th Century French intellectual Émile Durkheim and contemporary American sociology giant Robert Merton (who died in 2003), whose works on societal deviance and on collapsing social cohesion I ate up; they were my kind of guys. I discovered the concept of anomie through Durkheim and Merton, not really suspecting, even as the country was being torn apart by the war against Vietnam that just over 4 decades later, the U.S. would be in the midst of a full blown anomic crisis triggered by a prototypical-fascist who managed to capture one of the tradition political parties and somehow slip into the White House.

Basically, anomie is a shattering of social bonds within a society caused by a breakdown or rejection of common values and behavior. The give-away is a kind of normlessness. One common cause is a relatively rapid disintegration of shared moral or religious values and the resultant wide rejection of social controls. Sound familiar? In college, my favorite novelists were all dealing with anomie on the individual level: Dostoyevsky first and foremost, but also Jean Genet and Albert Camus.

OK, now let's look at the brand new Gallup poll, which shows that trust in politicians is sinking and trust in media is sinking. This morning, Justin McCarthy wrote that "Americans' lack of confidence in government may be related, in part, to a waning trust in the elected decision-makers who are ultimately responsible for how government functions, along with the voters who put them in office. Less than half of U.S. adults (44%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in people who hold or are running for public office, rivaling the record low of 42% from 2016. Meanwhile, a small majority (55%) express a similar level of confidence in the judgments of the American people under the democratic system, the lowest Gallup has measured to date but not meaningfully different from 56% readings in 2016 and 2020."

Can you imagine someone feeling confident in the political class after 4 years of Trump and with political figures like Marjorie Traitor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks (pictured above), Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn and Lauren Boebert on the news and roaming the halls of Congress?

On top of that, Gallup found that "Confidence in the American people to make judgments under the democratic system has declined across all party identification groups over the past two decades."

Americans' confidence in institutions, government and its agencies has suffered over the past year, but these ratings are also low from a long-term perspective. These collective findings reflect a larger cynicism toward governmental institutions and the figures who represent and direct them-- as well as the U.S. voters who put them in decision-making roles.
Republicans and independents, in particular, have become even less trusting of politicians over the past 13 years, creating a great deal of distance between them and their Democratic counterparts.
Most U.S. adults remain trusting of the American people's judgments, but this majority has gotten slimmer over time and is on track to dip below the 50% mark later this decade if the trend continues-- possibly creating a crisis for overall confidence in the U.S. democratic system.

Megan Brenan handled the media aspect. "Americans' trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly," she wrote, "has edged down four percentage points since last year to 36%, making this year's reading the second lowest in Gallup's trend. In all, 7% of U.S. adults say they have 'a great deal' and 29% 'a fair amount' of trust and confidence in newspapers, television and radio news reporting-- which, combined, is four points above the 32% record low in 2016, amid the divisive presidential election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In addition, 29% of the public currently registers 'not very much' trust and 34% have 'none at all.'"

Republicans have almost no trust in media at all. 68% of Democrats, 31% of Democrats but just 11% of Republicans say they trust media at all. She concluded that "Just as Americans' trust in the three branches of government is faltering, so too is their confidence in the fourth estate-- the media. Confidence in the media among Republicans over the past five years is at unprecedented lows. After a brief recovery in trust among Democrats and independents early in the Trump administration, their trust has fallen off a little in recent years. Democratic trust remains well above where it was before Trump came into office and made attacks on the media a core message of his presidency."

For the GOP and their corporate backers... mission accomplished. Full blown fascism is likely the next step.

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