Can the US Survive the Challenge of Voters’ Subconscious, Media Mobs, Unrest, Change?

Can the US Survive the Challenge of Voters’ Subconscious, Media Mobs, Unrest, Change?

The world’s populations seem to be at an unusually strong level of unrest and anxiety. Why might that be happening, and can it be explained? Recent research has found that up to 95% of our conscious decisions actually originate in our subconscious minds. Has the “worldwide web” spawned a “mob-gathering” APP that is destroying democracies?

Implications of that finding are alarming for the expansion or even survival of democratic governance in many now-democratic nations. Looking closely at what is happening in the world—demands for change by voters whether or not it appears to be in their best economic or social interest—seems to validate that.

In many of the world’s democracies the populations are aging. This means less need for basic education and less support for it. Older populations put a greater burden on young workers, require more resources to maintain health, standards of living and other benefits, and too often support legislators and legislation who represent those interests. In addition, projections suggest that these benefits will be reduced or unavailable when young workers reach retirement age.

The “change” demanded by the dissatisfied in recent elections in Britain and the US snd elsewhere was accompanied by demands to “change” the way resources—read “tax money” is allocated. The Brexit vote to leave the European Union, and Donald Trump’s election in the US are not unique, witness the election or near election of so-called conservative candidates in Poland, Austria, Hungary, France and others) Implications of that finding are alarming for the future of democratic governance, or even its survival in now-democratic nations.

But the sources of discontent are real, and some of them are not irrelevant. Clearly, during crises governments must act quickly and decisively to avert serious disasters—economic, environmental, social, or military, When they do not, or cannot, problems grow worse or overwhelm whole populations. The causes and consequences of “destabilization” of the Middle East, though not well-enough explained to be understood by most Americans and Europeans, IS actually a major lesson that has undoubtedly seeped into the subconscious of millions of people.

Today’s instant reporting of events almost anywhere in the world is in itself unsettling to many people, though the “entertainment” value of it underlies much media reporting. In addition, there are the contributions of millions of “tweets,” facebook historians, and actual “real-time”video and audio reports, blogs and the media’s use of thousands of viewers’ comments. These immediate, unfiltered, and too often inaccurate, misleading and sensational responses often “rattle” the authorities. That makes very difficult rational reactions to complex situations. The results are bad decisions, over-reactions and bad outcomes for many otherwise manageable situations.

Is this “almost revolution,” like the revolutions of past eras, based on the “subconscious” 95% of the voters in democracies? Do these people subconsciously perceive the importance of immediate responses and realize that they cannot vote on everything? And, is that understanding why they sometimes install a “strong” leader? Of course they assume he/she will always “do the right thing” and save them from the “uncertainty” that today’s technology and rapid advances in science and communications have created.

In the United States, the fifty state governments and thousands of local entities have traditionally controlled political responses to economic and social problems. That stability is being undermined by the uncertainty of th subconscious generated by today’s technology and social media. Even today, the consequences of long-past events remain. Slavery has been abolished for over 150 years, yet the citizens descended from slaves are not yet fully-integrated. Over the past two centuries, millions of foreign immigrants have reached the US. They were not immediately integrated; it takes generations. And today’s influx of legal and illegal immigration has created anxiety among long-ago integrated citizens and legal immigrants, too. Both groups are concerned by the threat of ill-advised action by a government driven by the fears of voters.

This “subconscious” fear rises to the surface in ways that make it impossible for individuals to “rationalize” and make them part of a larger perspective. The evolution of “mob mentality” from its roots to the current internet version is the inevitable consequence of instant “mass media” communications. The “mob” need no longer assemble, it potentially exists, to be aroused in a few hours or days by incendiary postings, “fake news,” “tweets” by irresponsible politicians, and the machinations of hackers, both domestic or sponsored by criminal entities and foreign governments.

The “good” that instant communication provides is accompanied by the “evil” of misuse by those whose agendas are not those of the “majority” or those whose personal agendas are furthered by arousing the “mob” whose composition varies and whose actions are magnified, multiplied and enhanced by the “mainstream media.”

Experts on the uses of public opinion have not yet fully understood how this works, but there are many who have already recognized its uses, abuses, effects and consequences. They have not, however, suggested manageable ways to deal with the problems raised by the multitudes of “internet mobs.” Nor have they addressed how these “mobs” become many times more destructive through enhancement by further dissemination by commercial news media, pollsters and related “social media” internet sources.

Many voters seen to have turned to that familiar and too-often disastrous alternative to what has until recently protected them. Distrust of their elected and appointed political representatives causes their subconscious to demand a solution. That is, change things from what they are. Unfortunately, their subconscious mind does not provide HOW TO DO IT, and WHAT IS BEST FOR THEM. So, they demand a strong leader!

Today, two days before the inauguration of a new President, a majority of the American people “disapprove” of him. He was elected with three million fewer votes than his opponent. He takes office because of a 200-year-old anachronism in the nation’s Constitution that has thwarted election by majorities at least six times. Yet here, the “mob” is ineffectual.” That may be, perhaps MUST be, instructive to those who value democracy and fear that voters’ subconscious may destroy it.

Now, American democracy depends upon the integrity of a party whose new leader has exploited some of the worst instincts of the “internet mob,” and appeals to the “subconscious” of many who have little sense that it is controlling them. And the tenacity of a minority party who will need to be strong enough to survive the unknown activities of this unpredictable “leader” is as yet unknown.

Will our “traditional” institutions be sufficiently strong enough to preserve American democracy? Can the US face an uncertain Europe, military adventurism by non-democracies such as Russia, economically needy nations like China, armed revolutions resulting in displacement of millions of refugees in the Mid-east, and a troubling influx of illegal immigrants across our borders? We now have a democracy. Will we still have it in four years?

John H. Langer, JD, Ed.D. Retired Federal agency manger, former professor of education, public school administrator, and writer of a number of articles and publications on education, public affairs, substance abuse and social issues. In writing a book on attention and memory as it relates to education, this blog is helping to focus attention n current issues, and hopefully, add something useful as well.

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